KA’AI TOM, CORNER OUTFIELDER
|Born: May 29, 1994
Drafted: 5th Round, 154th Overall, 2015 (Indians)
How Acquired: Waiver Claim (from Athletics)
College: University of Kentucky
Agent: Meister Sports Management
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Tom bears a close similarity to Phillip Evans; he’s an undersized player who can hit but who lacks loud tools, leading to him being overlooked by scouts. When he was drafted, he wasn’t expected to hit for more than gap power. He has an average arm and, according to Statcast, slightly above-average speed. He’s played all three outfield positions in roughly equal amounts in the minors, but probably fits best in a corner. In the minors, Tom moved up slowly, putting up just solid numbers at most levels, until a very strong 2019 season drew attention. When Cleveland left him off the 40-man roster after the 2020 season, Oakland selected him in the Rule 5 draft. The Pirates claimed him early in the 2021 season when Oakland designated him for assignment.
Tom had a solid debut in short-season ball, showing more speed than expected.
In low A, Tom had an excellent month of May, but missed the rest of the season due to injury.
Tom moved up to high A and had just a solid season, although he showed more power. He stole a surprising number of bases.
Tom didn’t do especially well against AA pitching, and struggled to a .600 OPS against LHPs.
The Indians sent Tom back to AA and he hit much better, including good power. He moved up to AAA for the last two months of the season and continued to hit well, with even better power although with a high K rate. He had only a limited platoon split.
Tom didn’t play during the pandemic season. Cleveland did not add him to the 40-man roster and Oakland selected him in the Rule 5 draft.
The A’s kept Tom on the roster to start the season after he made a big showing in spring training. After he started out 1-for-16, though, the A’s designated him for assignment and the Pirates claimed him off waivers.
Tom is still subject to the Rule 5 restrictions, so the Pirates will have to keep him in the majors all season. Given the struggles of their center fielders and Gregory Polanco, it shouldn’t be hard for them to find Tom playing time.
UPDATE: Other than drawing walks, Tom had significant trouble at the plate with the Pirates, batting 152/308/261. Derek Shelton kept playing him most days anyway, but he eventually went on the injured list in early July with a lower back strain. In mid-August, after a rehab, the Pirates activated Tom and designated him for assignment. He cleared waivers and was assigned to Indianapolis, which evidently means that Cleveland declined when the Pirates offered him back. That doesn’t say much for Shelton’s insistence on keeping Tom in the lineup for so long.
|2021: Minor League Salary
|Signing Bonus: $250,000
MiLB Debut: 2015
MLB Debut: 4/1/2021
MiLB FA Eligible: 2022
MLB FA Eligible: 2026
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 12/10/2020 (since removed)
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 9, 2015: Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 5th round, 154th overall pick; signed on June 18.
December 10, 2020: Selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Oakland Athletics from the Cleveland Indians.
April 19, 2021: Designated for assignment by the Oakland Athletics.
April 21, 2021: Claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
August 16, 2021: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.