Jim Thome is back in Philadelphia. Much to the delight of the Philadelphia faithful that pack Citizen’s Bank Park night after night. With Thome, and his 604 career home runs (8th of all time) back in town, Philly fans will have even more reason to attend Phillies games in 2012.
Thome is back to do a variety of things:
- Provide an early season replacement at first base for ailing Ryan Howard.
- Provide the Phillies with a power hitting left-handed bat off of the bench.
- Create great club atmosphere as one of the true “good guys” to ever play the game.
- Be re-united with the man he calls his “second father,” Charlie Manuel.
- Help the Phillies land good friend Michael Cuddyer to play left field in 2012.
- Get the ring that has eluded him in his sure Hall of Fame career.
No doubt, the move to acquire Thome is another in the Ruben Amaro Jr. legacy as the Phillies general manager with the midas touch.
But, is it a good move for fantasy baseball managers?
Thome can still play as evidenced by his 15 home runs in just 93 games and 277 at bats last year with Minnesota and Cleveland. The year before, Thome belted 25 round trippers in just 276 at bats with the Twins.
How valuable Thome is depends on how well he can play first base for a Phillies team whose ace starting pitchers rely on ground ball outs. Thome has not played the field since 2007, with the exception of a few innings last year as a token move to third base for the Indians where Thome was a huge part of the Cleveland baseball resurgence of the late 1990′s. The 41-year-old slugger has played a combined 28 innings in the field since 2005, but Thome indicated to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro that he believes he can play first base three to five times a month, if needed. No doubt, with Thome’s work ethic, however, he’s probably already fielding ground balls.
In his welcome interview yesterday at Citizen’s Bank Park, Thome indicated that “he may go down to Spring Training early” to work on his defense. No suprise there.
Thome will likely split the first base duties with right-handed hitting John Mayberry Jr. for the first two and half months of the 2012 season until Ryan Howard returns from his achilles heal surgery. That is, assuming that the Phillies do indeed pick up Thome teammate Michael Cuddyer as a free agent to play left field, thus making Mayberry Jr. the fourth outfielder and part-time first baseman. He will also be the obvious choice to insert into the lineup for inter-league away games where the DH will be used.
Even if Thome does get some starts at first base as anticipated, he will likely be removed in late innings for a pinch runner or in a double switch after getting his three or four at bats. He was used just 13 times last season as a pinch hitter and delivered 3 hits and 1 RBI, but pinch hitting and playing DH really aren’t that different.
2012 Fantasy Baseball Projection: Jim Thome — There is no question that the fantasy value for Thome is less given his move from the American League to the National League. Thome can still hit for power, however, as evidenced by his one home run per 13.8 at bats the past two seasons. Hitting in Citizen’s Bank Park is going to be easier for Thome than in cavernous Target Field so his power numbers should be helped there. In deeper leagues, we like Thome as a late round pick up for the first 2 1/2 months of the season until Ryan Howard returns. If your league allows weekly moves, he will also be a nice pickup in weeks when the Phillies play away inter-league games where the DH will be used. If Thome’s defense allows him to get 250 at bats and he maintains his home run ratio for the past two years, he is still capable of adding 18 home runs to his lofty career totals.