I always had issues with the expression, “Stay in your lane.” What if someone is driving in the fast lane and going super slow? Should they stay in their lane? NO! As bizarro Beyonce would sing, “To the right, to the right.” That said, the expression has tons of merit. If driving slow, stay in the right lanes and let others pass on the left. If you see three of four lanes littered with trucks, staying in the one without them would be most prudent. Which brings me to Lane Thomas of the Washington Nationals. He’s been added in 11.4% of ESPN leagues over the past week and, since joining the Nationals, has a .293/.383/.515 slash with a .222 ISO in 115 plate appearances. Should we continue to stay in this Lane?

Thomas is 26 years old, 6 feet, and 185 pounds. He bats from the right side and patrols the outfield.

Thomas signed with the Blue Jays out of high school in 2014 and spent three seasons with the organization. He was traded to the Cardinals in 2017 then shipped to the Nationals in 2021.

Throughout his minor league career, he showed a penchant for taking walks but the strikeout rate would often be in the mid-20% range. The batting average was all over the map while he did display some pop. He stole 17 bases in 81 games with Toronto and went 21/13 in 435 plate appearances with the Cardinals.

He spent the majority of this season with the Cardinals being a pinch hitter, pinch runner, or fourth outfielder. When he was traded to the Nationals, he filled the same fourth-outfielder role but then Victor Robles got sent down to Triple-A and Thomas took over centerfield and leadoff duties. The results have been great. In addition to the slash I wrote in the intro, Thomas has four home runs, 18 runs, 16 RBI, and two stolen bases while posting a 13% walk rate and 20.9% strikeout rate in 115 plate appearances.

We always love those power/speed guys. Let’s see if this is for real.

The BABIP is .347 so he’s experienced some luck. He often had a high BABIP in the minors so it’s not out of the question that he maintains this number. That said, most of the projection systems have him projected for a .300-ish number. That would put his batting average in the .250 range.

The Statcast numbers are very impressive. The average exit velocity is 92.1 mph with a max of 109.1. The launch angle is 13.4 degrees, the barrel rate is 7.9%, and the hard-hit rate is 47.4%.

The GB/FB ratio is 1.07 and the line drive rate is 21.2%. He’s pulling the ball 46.1% of the time and going oppo 18.4%. The HR/FB rate is 13.8%, which is fine and doesn’t indicate flukiness in that department.

The plate discipline numbers are muy fantastico. He only chases 25.5% of pitches outside the zone. The contact rate in the zone is 90.9% while the overall contact rate is 83.4%. The swinging-strike rate is only 6.7%. If he qualified, the O-Swing% of 25.5% would place him in the top 20. The contact rate in the zone would be good for top 30. The SwStr% of 6.7% would be good for 15th-best.

Too bad my name isn’t Mikey because Mikey likes it!

Let’s go to the splits. Against left-handed pitching, Thomas is Albert Pujols as the slash is .439/.566/.659 with a .220 ISO. The walk rate is 22.6% while the strikeout rate is 13.2%. Against righties?

Shaggy? Scooby? Ruh Roh.

The strikeout rate is 28.3% while the walk rate decreases to 10.8%. The slash is .151/.242/.283 with a .132 ISO.

Man, what a buzzkill. That said, the sample size has been relatively small as it’s been 53 plate appearances against lefties and 120 against righties.

There’s a lot to like with Thomas. The plate discipline, lack of swing and miss, order in the lineup, and confidence in the organization to give him the playing time. That said, he has experienced some good fortune and the splits are somewhat concerning since right-handed pitching is more prevalent than lefties.

He could experience some regression but as long as the Cardinals keep sending him out there in the leadoff role, the power/speed combo is too juicy to ignore. He’s still relatively young and only has 257 MLB plate appearances to his name. With his batting eye and plate discipline, it’s not out of the question that he figures out right-handed pitching. If he doesn’t and gets benched, it’s an easy drop. The risk/reward is too favorable.

VERDICT

 

 

  1. Laura Holt

    Laura Holt says:
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    First of all, stop trying to put a Perts jinx on me with a congratulatory-type comment on my post yesterday with two and a half weeks of the season left! Second of all, this is a great post! Third of all, can you believe out of all of the millions of baseball players in the world (ok, slight exaggeration), you and I chose the same guy as our lede this week? This is starting to get weird… are we actually the same person?

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Haha, he’s out of ideas for other ways to stop you, and I don’t blame him

      • Son

        Son says:
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        The Laura train is clocking 300mph and I’m about to jump right into it as my last act of defiance

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Run over and won’t even feel a bump

          • Son

            Son says:
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            Your truth cuts deep

    • Son

      Son says:
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      Gotta pull out all the stops! Stop trying to reverse jinx the jinx. Seriously, though, I think you got it since I’m tapped out at pitching.

      Laura, get out of my head!!!

      • Laura Holt

        Laura Holt says:
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        Well too late for that hopefully! BTW, Mr. Thomas with another great game today… maybe he’s a Razzball reader!

        • Son

          Son says:
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          Well, your Lane headline and lede did come out before mine so I think he’s trying to get on your good side. Mr. Holt better go buy some flowers tonight or something. I saw you picked him up in perts as well. Oh, by the way, you’re welcome for Freddy Peralta. I’m such a dummy. Thinking upon things now, I should’ve tried to trade all my pitchers for bats to keep up with you on offense, then just stream the rest. Lesson learned. I like how you worked the perts. Taking notes.

          • Laura Holt

            Laura Holt says:
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            Hmm, my team is having a minor implosion already today… some might say it’s because I was relying on Kyle Finnegan as my #1 closer; I say it’s all because of your sneaky curse! And it’s gonna take a lot more than one start from Peralta for you to repay me for handing you Tatis in the draft… quite possibly the dumbest decision of my fantasy baseball year.

            • Son

              Son says:
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              Ha! Yeah, I’ve been thinking about the Betts over Tatis decision since you made it. Which makes your run that much more impressive. That’s a true testament to your skills and acumen. You are the Queen at Razzball. I shall be the jester

  2. Harley Earl says:
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    Good stuff. But one issue, final paragraph says if the Cardinals keep sending him out there to bat in the leadoff role. Oooops. He’s not on the Cardinals any more. Still, like your analogy and totally agree. Lane has been good to me the past month. I’ll ride it out and see what happens. I think he’s got a good chance to succeed.

    BTW, I saw Lane about 15 times in Memphis. He always reminded me of Tommy Edman. Just my two cents.

    • Son

      Son says:
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      Good catch. Obvious error.

      Nice! Not a bad comp. How many minor league games you go to?

      • Harley Earl says:
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        I go to Memphis around 15 to 20 games a season. Going to watch Dakota Hudson make a rehab start tonight.

        I’ve seen tons of great players over there: Springer, Story, Rizzo, Bryant, Bellanger, Franmil Reyes, Julio Urias, Jack Flaherty, Verdugo, Javier Baez, Dustin May, Max Muncy, and many many more plus all the Cardinal prospects. Some guys jump right out as clear studs like Springer did. Other guys like Matt Carpenter are more difficult to determine how good they’re going to be. But it’s really neat to watch guys and get their autograph occasionally before they become big stars.

        • Son

          Son says:
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          That’s awesome. I like going to minor league games. I’ve been to a few out in Rancho Cucamonga and the one out in Coney Island.

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