Tahnaj Thomas: New Pitching Mechanics Leads to Better Results in Return to Rotation

Photo Credit: WFMY News

 When looking at prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, one of the funnest to talk about has to be Tahnaj Thomas.

He comes from a rising hotbed for baseball players, the Bahamas, was a converted shortstop who turned to the mound, and has the toolset to warrant being one of the better young players in a very deep Pirates system.

In fact, when looking at current and future tools, Thomas is one of four players in the minors that have a potential 80-grade fastball according to Fangraphs. A grade of '60' is seen as having a plus tool, '70' as plus-plus, but 80 is saved for just the elite of skillsets.

That's what one of the most respectable sites on the Internet thinks about Tahnaj's fastball. It has the potential to be that special.

He just has to learn how to harness the pitch to use it to his advantage. Remember, Tahnaj switched from shortstop to pitcher after he went pro, meaning he is still learning how to pitch. He's still learning how to repeat his delivery and all the other nuances that come with pitching.

You can see the skillset there for Thomas, but you can also see the rawness that most would endure while learning the position - especially the control.

A struggle with his mechanics led to Thomas and the Pirates going back to the drawing board to try and rework things. In his June 24th start, the righty pitched just 2 2/3 innings, walking seven total batters. That gave him 14 free passes issued in his last three starts (8 1/3 innings). 

In fact, in his three starts before being shut down, Thomas failed to throw more than three innings and just 102-of-his-208 pitches were for strikes (49%).

It was time for a change, and after 23 days in between starts, Tahnaj made his return to the mound on Sunday for the Grasshoppers and while it was only four innings it was certainly the kind of step forward you'd want to see.

Thomas, 22, allowed six hits and one run across the four frames, punching out an additional four batters - but the key to his start was that he didn't walk a single hitter and 62.7% of his pitches went for strikes. A huge development over his previous three starts or even his season mark of 55%.

Here's a look at two separate clips of Tahnaj pitching. The video at the top was him on Sunday, and below it is from his June 17th start against Winston-Salem. Not only did he redo his footwork, but his delivery seems more deliberate and if you slow it down you'll see he's more square to home plate in the final stages of him throwing.

Not pictured as well is he added a semi-double leg kick in his wind almost like Tyler Anderson (easiest comparison seeing as he's on the Pirates) to try and throw off the hitter's timing. It wasn't a constant kick, but something he mixed in.

Here's the strikeout that Thomas recorded in the fourth inning on Sunday that includes his double kick he used to get the swing and miss to record the out. So despite the changes to his mechanics, it's good to see his fastball is just as deadly as ever.

If the changes that were made are able to stick, this could be huge for Tahnaj, and the Pirates. He's already ranked as one of the best prospects in the Pirates system, if he's able to stabilize his control, he could fly up the charts across all of baseball.

What did you think of Thomas' last start? Was it encouraging or is more needed to be seen from him? Lets us know what you think in the comment section below, subscribe to the site using the link at the top of the page and follow us on Twitter @SportBlogMurphy.

Also, follow me on Twitter AJ_Murfy.

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