*Series Note: I will do baseball player report cards in the order of their number (from lowest, #2 Vaz, to highest, #99 Gonzo) over the next few months. Did I agree to this to mess with Tom for never finishing the basketball report cards? Yes. Did I expect him to then finish said basketball report cards, thus dooming me to do 43 of these? Also yes. Am I doing this because I suspect I will need to continually remind myself that baseball exists and will return during Vanderbilt feetball season? You make the call!
#8 Jr. OF Isaiah “I.T./Run Support” Thomas
.305/.361/.583 with 13 2B, 5 3B, 13 HR, 40 RBI, and 12-12 Stolen Bases in 59 games played (223 AB).
Going into the 2021 MLB Draft, most prospect ranking services had I.T. within the top 100 overall prospects, meaning the junior OF was expected to be taken in the first 5 rounds and signed for around $500K. When the draft ended and his name was never called, I was shocked to say the least. Players with I.T.’s type of power potential, who put up the type of stat line he did in 2021 playing in the best conference in baseball, just don’t make it back to campus for their senior seasons. This was more shocking than when Ethan “Chili P” Paul was gifted back to us for the 2019 championship season.
But here we are. There are, of course, some holes in Thomas’s game he can work on—namely plate discipline, i.e. cutting down on strikeouts, as he had 63 of them this year, to only 9 BBs—but again, his potential is immense. Oh, and to put it in perspective, I.T. only had the 5th most strikeouts amongst the regulars, trailing Carter Young (84), Parker Noland (77), Dom Keegan (74), and Jayson Gonzalez (69—nice).
The real shocker of a stat was the minuscule 9 BBs, which not only was last amongst the regulars by a country mile (even Jack Bulger, the on again off again DH, had 25), but was also eclipsed by 4 bench players. That absolutely has to improve. In all honesty, as I.T. is one of the few college baseball players to play with prescription glasses, I am of the opinion that even this hole is fixable with laser eye surgery (hint hint: this should be a priority in the offseason).
Is I.T. the type of player whose talent/potential/tools is so immense that scouts over-scrutinized him, and didn’t focus on what he was capable of doing? I’m going to go with yes. Of course, it also could have been an issue of I.T. and his advisors putting a $1 million + price tag on his name, and getting no bites. Let’s not over-speculate, though, as this is a Season Report Card, not a MLB Draft Postmortem.
So how did I.T.’s junior season go?
If you look at the stats, the answer is pretty pretty pretty good.
Run Support tied for the team lead in 3B, had the 2nd highest Slugging %, the 2nd most stolen bases, the 3rd best average on the team (amongst the starters), the 3rd most hits, the 3rd most HR, the 4th most runs, the 4th most 2Bs, and the 4th most RBI.
Beyond that, he was even better once the competition got stronger, as he slashed .321/.376/.643 in SEC play.
Again, color me confused by the MLB collectively passing on him, but with an offseason driven by spite, and (hopefully) focusing all but exclusively on plate discipline, the 2022 version of Isaiah Thomas could very well be on the Golden Spikes Watch List. I’m betting on him.