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Minor League Monday
On November 19th, 2021, the Oakland Athletics added Cody Thomas to their 40-man roster. After having a fantastic season in Triple-A in 2021, it was no surprise that the Athletics would want to save a potential star from being taken in the Rule 5 draft. However, in order to understand how impactful Cody Thomas can be for the A’s, we need to look back at his career overall.
Cody Thomas started his baseball career as a two-sport athlete in high school. Like many current former baseball players in the NFL, Thomas also played quarterback. His performance at quarterback was fantastic, resulting in him being a 4-star quarterback prospect. He would also play baseball at the same time, getting drafted by the Yankees in the 30th round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft. After weighing his options, Thomas decided to sign with the Oklahoma Sooners in 2013.
Thomas couldn’t play much as a freshman in either football or baseball in his first two years, being redshirted as a freshman and throwing only 66 passes as a quarterback and 13 plate appearances as an outfielder as a redshirt freshman. He would try to focus entirely on football in 2015, but would be beaten out by star quarterback Baker Mayfield and solid backup Trevor Knight. Realizing how far down the depth chart he had fallen, Thomas decided to go back entirely to baseball in 2016.
The former two-sport athlete would perform very well in 2016 for the sooners, hitting a .299/.354/.556 slash in 131 plate appearances. This performance led to him being drafted in the 13th round of the 2016 Amateur Draft by the Dodgers. Thomas would finish up 2016 playing in Rookie League for the Dodgers organization, hitting a great .297/.382/.621 slash across the Pioneer and Arizona Fall League. He would also win the Joe Bauman Home Run Award by having the most home runs (19) at this level.
Following his fantastic performance in Rookie League, Cody Thomas was called up to Single-A for the 2017 season. Thomas would underperform in 2017, hitting a .222/.293/.409 slash, and would make a somewhat lateral move to High-A for 2018. He would bounce back to form, hitting a .285/.355/.497 slash and being named a postseason All-Star for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.
With another fantastic performance in the minors, Thomas would be moved up again in 2019 to Double-A. Cody started off well for the Tulsa Drillers, making the mid-season All-Star team and hitting a .279/.351/.508 slash. Unfortunately, he would fall off quite a bit and finish the season with a .236/.308/.443 slash overall. He wouldn’t know it at the time, but this would be the last time that Thomas would play for the Dodgers organization.
After being called up for Spring Training in 2020 and hitting very well, Thomas wouldn’t appear in a single game for the organization during the shortened 2020 season. He did get injured briefly right before the season restarted, but was only put on the 10-day IL. As such, it seems that the Dodgers wanted to see a bit more out of Cody in 2020 with the Oklahoma City Dodgers (Triple-A) before bringing him up to the majors.
However, before they could really give Cody Thomas a test in Triple-A, they decided to capitalize his value and trade him to the Athletics along with aging reliever Adam Kolarek for utility infield prospect Sheldon Neuse and starting pitcher prospect Gus Varland. Overall, this was a decently equal trade, as Thomas and Neuse seem to have very similar batting approaches at different positions and the Kolarek for Varland portion was basically a typical prospect for veteran switch. Even looking back with hindsight in 2022, Neuse and Thomas played well in Triple-A while Kolarek and Varland underperform at their respective levels in 2021.
Going back to Cody Thomas specifically, he performed really well in 2021 for the Las Vegas Aviators. After hitting only .200 in the month of May, Thomas would explode in the remainder of the season, hitting a .289/.363/.665 slash in 245 plate appearances. During this season he would also win Triple-A Player of the Month for June and be named an Organization All-Star by MiLB.com.
When looking at Cody Thomas overall there are many things to be excited about. The first is his obvious hitting ability, consistently hitting over .800 OPS in the minors and hitting over 1.000 in 2021, a very promising sign. On top of this, his fielding doesn’t seem to be a hinderance either, being rated a 50 on Fangraph’s scouting report. The only real weakness of his game seems to be strikeouts, consistently getting around or above 150 Ks in a full season of play. While this is worrying, his AVG and OBP number seem to make this not too much of a concern, especially considering some top hitters are 50 Ks above him at the major league level.
Overall, Thomas is a very exciting outfield prospect for the Athletics. And, with Mark Canha, among others, being gone in free agency, we could see Cody in the majors very soon.
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