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D-backs Prospect Alek Thomas Working To Add Final Touches At Triple-A



LAS VEGASAlek Thomas is almost ready for the majors. He knows it. The D-backs know it. There is just one final thing to polish up before he’s ready for the call.

Thomas, the No. 31 prospect on the BA Top 100, is back with Triple-A Reno to start the 2022 season. He hit .369/.434/.658 with 11 doubles, four triples and eight home runs in a scorching 34-game stint with the Aces to end last year and spent most of this spring in big league camp. A second-round pick in 2018 out of Mount Carmel High in Chicago, Thomas led the D-backs minor league system in hits, runs, extra-base hits, batting average and total bases a year ago and is the best defensive outfielder in the organization.

Thomas’ performance is unimpeachable, and he has little left to prove from a production standpoint. The last step in his development, and what the D-backs are looking for before they promote him, is to improve the consistency of his approach.

“He had a lot of success last year here and I think we’re just continuing to look for him to improve the approach,” D-backs farm director Josh Barfield said. “He made huge strides last year and he’s been a performer everywhere he’s been, but I think just tightening up those at-bats and consistency, I think that’ll just be the next step for him to be ready to go up to the big leagues and have success there.”

Thomas, 21, has been a bit of a free swinger at times, although his natural feel for contact has prevented that from resulting in an elevated strikeout rate. By his own admission he can be overly aggressive, as he was in his first at-bat of the 2022 season when he chased a low slider from Las Vegas lefthander Zach Logue for a strikeout.

He didn’t let that inauspicious start knock him off course. He finished the season opener 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI and added a double in the second game of the year on Wednesday night.

“Right now trying to control the zone and look for pitches in my zone and not try to be overly aggressive, but selectively aggressive,” Thomas said. “That’s what I’m working on here and continuing to play my game.”

When Thomas does that, he impacts the ball. The son of former White Sox strength and conditioning coach Allen Thomas, he has progressively added muscle throughout his 5-foot-11 frame and has become noticeably bigger and stronger in his upper body than in years past. The added strength already has him posting some of the highest exit velocities in the D-backs system. His double off Las Vegas righthander Parker Dunshee on Wednesday left his bat at 100.3 mph, according to Statcast.

At the same time, his consistency remains a work in progress. In addition to his two singles and double over his first two games when he found pitches he could drive, he also rolled over two soft grounders on pitches in on his hands and chased a fastball well outside for a soft tapper back to the pitcher.

“I think it’s just consistently hunting his pitch,” Barfield said. “He shows the ability to do that. It’s just doing it consistently. And against lefties, you get up to the big leagues, if you show that you’re willing to go outside the zone, they’re going to keep pitching you that way, so just being ready for that. He’s been really willing to do it and (be) open. Everything we’ve thrown at this guy he’s been able to do, so I expect this to be the same.”

In many ways, that’s the last step for Thomas. His defense in center field is major league ready, and Barfield highlighted his instincts on the bases as another weapon that is ready to help the D-backs immediately.

Once Thomas hones his approach and demonstrates he can maintain it consistently, he’ll be on his way to Chase Field.

“Just trying to find that fine line,” Thomas said. “Try to do that, and hopefully at some point I’ll get the call.”

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