By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
TAHNAJ Thomas became the second Bahamian baseball prospect to sign with one of the fastest rising sports agencies in America.
Ahead of a year when many pundits have predicted a breakout season in the minor leagues, Tahnaj Thomas joined the roster of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports.
In the offseason, the 21-year-old 6’5” right handed pitcher rose from No.15 to No.7 in the Pittsburgh Pirates organisation for the upcoming year.
Miami Marlins’ infielder Jazz Chisholm previously signed with the agency in 2018.
Roc Nation Sports, a sub-division of Roc Nation, was launched in spring 2013 by music mogul Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.
The organisation lists one of its chief objectives as “supporting athletes in the same way Roc Nation has been working alongside and advocating for artists in the music industry for years.”
According to its website Roc Nation Sports focuses on elevating athletes’ career on a global scale both on and off the field, including facilitating marketing and endorsement deals, community outreach, charitable tie-ins, media relations and brand strategy.
Roc Nation Sports’ roster includes premiere athletes such as Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors), Saquon Barkley (New York Giants), Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners), Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings), CC Sabathia (New York Yankees), Juju Smith-Schuster (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ndamukong Suh (Los Angeles Rams), Yoenis Cespedes (New York Mets), Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams), Wilson Chandler (Philadelphia 76ers), Danny Green (Toronto Raptors), Justise Winslow (Miami Heat), Willie Cauley-Stein (Sacramento Kings), CJ Prosise (Seattle Seahawks), Henry Ellenson (Detroit Pistons), Caris LeVert (Brooklyn Nets) and many others.
Thomas is on the roster of the club’s High-A affiliate - the Greensboro Grasshoppers.
Thomas told MiLB.com that he worked on developing new pitches this offseason at instructionals in Bradenton, Florida.
The 6’5” right hander said he intends to add his “slurve” and changeup to his 97-99 mph fastball to create a three pitch arsenal.
Last season with the Bristol Pirates, Thomas got the start on both opening day and in the regular season finale. He finished with a 2-3 win-loss record which also included 59 strikeouts - the most for any Bristol pitcher since 2012. In 12 starts, he pitched 48.1 innings with a 3.17 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.
“I’d say I just lost another opportunity to showcase myself in games,” he said to MiLB’s Sam Dykstra, “But honestly, I felt in 2020 since we did not have a season, I thought that it was an opportunity for me to learn myself and learn my body and really understand what I had to work on. Coming out of Spring Training, I felt really good. I felt pretty confident going into the year. I felt really healthy. But then in 2020, I felt since we did not have games, it really gave me the opportunity to break down some stuff mechanically and try to get myself in a better space to be more consistent and to be a better pitcher. I feel as if the opportunity presented itself and I took advantage of it.”
In 2018, Thomas was traded to the Pirates organisation from the Cleveland Indians alongside Erik Gonzalez and Dante Mendoza in exchange for Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff.
As a rookie he appeared in eight games (six starts) in the Rookie League and recorded a 4.58 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 27 strikeouts in 19.2 innings. The 19-year-old right-hander was assigned to the AZL Indians 1 in the Arizona Rookie League.