By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
TAHNAJ Thomas had his second consecutive career high outing in as many appearances for the Bristol Pirates against the Pulaski Yankees.
The 20-year-old, 6’4” right hander struck out eight batters in a pitcher’s duel, but the Pirates suffered a 2-0 loss to the Yankees on Saturday at Calfee Park in Pulaski, West Virginia.
Thomas pitched five innings and surrendered just three hits and one earned run, but ultimately fell to 0-3 on the season as the Pirates continue to struggle in the Appalachian League standings.
He has now recorded 20 strikeouts over his last 14 2/3 innings of work, and he now leads the Pirates with 21 strikeouts on the season.
Thomas struggled in his season debut in a 15-1 loss to the Burlington Royals on June 18. He recorded only one out in his Bristol debut, allowed four runs - two earned - on one hit and two walks to earn the loss.
After being limited to 1 2/3 innings over his first two starts, Thomas threw five innings for the Pirates, allowing three unearned runs on four hits with a season-high five strikeouts in a win over the Kingston Mets on July 1.
Thomas made his first home start in a 9-3 win over the Yankees on July 7. He allowed two runs on five hits and one walk over four and 2/3 innings. He also set a then career-high with seven strikeouts.
Thomas is currently the No.16 ranked player in the Pirates’ organisation and No.5 among pitchers, according to MLB Pipeline.
The Appalachian League is comprised of teams in the regions of Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia and Tennessee. The league’s season starts in June and concludes in September. Along with the Pioneer League, the Appalachian League is classified as rookie level but is slightly higher than the Gulf Coast and Arizona Leagues.
Last season, Thomas appeared in eight games (six starts) in the Arizona Rookie League, recording a 4.58 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 27 strikeouts in 19.2 innings. He was assigned to the AZL Indians 1 in the Arizona Rookie League.
“Very much a raw project, he threw just 58 total innings in two pro summers before he was sent to the Pirates,” his MLB Pipeline analysis said. “At 6-foot-4, Thomas is an extremely athletic and projectable right-hander who has a long way to go before fulfilling his potential, considerable as it might be. His fastball in 2018 clocked in the 92-96 mph range with life up in the zone and it’s much more control over command with it right now -- he’s around the strike zone with it, but not putting it where he wants it at all times. His low-80s slider flashes plus with good biting action to it. He hasn’t shown much of a changeup, showing one around 85-87 mph the few times he’s thrown it, another area of focus as he moves forward.
Thomas is the epitome of a long-range project, but the feel for his stuff and his athleticism give him a chance to eventually get there as a starting pitcher.”