JUSTIN THOMAS
LEFT HANDED PITCHER
  Born: January 18, 1984
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 215
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Drafted: 4th Round, 113th Overall, 2003
How Acquired: Waiver Claim
College: Youngstown State University
Agent: N/A

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

The Pirates claimed Thomas off waivers shortly after the end of the 2009 season.  He has decent velocity for a lefty, throwing 88-92 with what Baseball America characterizes as good movement.  He relies very heavily on a slider, which may account for strong platoon splits throughout his career, and also throws a change.  The slider may also account for gradually increasing walk rates, as upper level hitters may be better at laying off sliders out of the strike zone.

2005
A-:  3-3-0, 3.81 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 59 IP, 3.1 BB/9, 7.3 K/9

Pitched as a starter and reliever in short season ball and posted decent numbers.

2006
A:  5-5-0, 3.10 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 61 IP, 2.5 BB/9, 7.5 K/9
A+:  9-4-0, 4.10 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 105.1 IP, 3.8 BB/9, 9.5 K/9

Made 11 starts in low A and had a good ERA that was a little better than his other numbers.  The Mariners moved him up to high A and he made 17 starts there.  Most of his numbers got a little worse there, but it was the high-offense California League, so in context his line there wasn’t bad.  He even increased his K rate sharply.

2007
AA:  4-9-0, 5.51 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 119.1 IP, 4.6 BB/9, 7.5 K/9

Still pitching as a starter, Thomas had trouble in AA, with a much higher walk rate and an opponents’ average of .308.

2008
AA:  7-7-0, 4.32 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 118.2 IP, 4.2 BB/9, 8.0 K/9
AAA:  2-1-1, 3.71 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 17 IP, 4.8 BB/9, 11.1 K/9
MLB:  0-1-0, 6.75 ERA, 2.75 WHIP, 4 IP, 4.5 BB/9, 4.5 K/9

Thomas stayed in AA for most of the season and pitched both as a starter and reliever.  He had a better season, but not an especially good one.  He pitched better in seven games in AAA, six as a reliever, fanning 21 in 17 innings.  He got a September callup and pitched in eight games.

2009
AAA:  2-4-6, 4.48 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 60.1 IP, 6.0 BB/9, 7.9 K/9

Thomas finally moved full-time to the bullpen, although the move didn’t pay any immediate dividends.  He had a lot of control problems.  The Pirates claimed him off waivers in the off-season, but outrighted him to AAA shortly afterward.

2010
AAA:  5-0-4, 2.48 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 54.1 IP, 1.7 BB/9, 8.4 K/9
MLB:  0-1-0, 6.23 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 13 IP, 3.5 BB/9, 3.5 K/9

Opened 2010 in AAA and dominated, showing dramatically improved control and allowing very few baserunners.  Thomas was deadly against LH batters, who hit only .118 against him, although RH hitters managed only .216.  The Pirates added him to the roster and called him up in late June, but seemed to have little interest in actually using him.  He got into only three games in eighteen days and allowed six earned runs over five innings.  The team optioned him back to AAA, but recalled him briefly in early August, then once again late in the month.  He pitched very sparingly in September.  He struggled during his time in the majors, although pitching so sparingly can’t have helped.  The Pirates outrighted Thomas to AAA after the season and he signed a minor league deal to return in 2011.

2011
AAA:  8-2-3, 3.89 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 7.7 K/9

Thomas spent the whole season in Indianapolis and had just a solid season.  He had another large platoon split, with left-handed batters posting a measly .466 OPS against him and right-handed batters .784.

Thomas seems like he’d be useful in the majors as a LOOGY, but the Pirates don’t like the idea of lefty specialists.  You wouldn’t want him facing right-handed batters, so it’s unlikely he has a future with them.  He’ll be eligible for minor league free agency in the off-season and may move on.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2011: Minor League Contract
2009: $400,000
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: $290,000
MiLB Debut: 2005
MLB Debut: 9/1/2008
MiLB FA Eligible: Eligible
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 6/24/2010 (Removed 11/3/2010)
Options Remaining: 1 (USED: 2009, 2010)
MLB Service Time: 0.085
TRANSACTIONS
June 7, 2005: Drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 4th round, 113th overall pick; signed on June 12.
September 1, 2008: Contract purchased by the Seattle Mariners.
October 29, 2009: Selected off of waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Seattle Mariners.
November 20, 2009: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
November 30, 2009: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
June 24, 2010: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
November 3, 2010: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
November 8, 2010: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates to a minor league contract.