2022 Fantasy Baseball Player Outlook: Lane Thomas

Mike Kurland recaps Washington Nationals Lane Thomas’ 2021 while looking forward into expectations for 2022.

Lane Thomas was a very helpful player down the stretch of the 2021 fantasy baseball season. After being acquired by the Washington Nationals, he went on to have success in the second half. Was this to be expected? Will we see him continue said success in 2022? The idea is to answer these questions (and more) as we get through this look into his profile. 

Let’s see what the data tells us. Oh, and if I miss anything, please let me know. 

2021 Review

Lane Thomas began with the St. Louis Cardinals and ended up being traded to the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline. Before being traded he had just 58 plate appearances and posted just two runs, two stolen bases with a triple slash of .104/.259/.125. Not exactly awe-inspiring. He did fare better in Triple-A while in St. Louis but regardless the Cardinals had no path to playing time and traded him to the Nationals by the deadline. 

After a small stint in the Nationals farm system, he was called up on August 15th and went on to finish the season hitting .270/.364/.489 with a wOBA of 365 and a wRC+ of 127 in 45 games with the Nationals. This is accompanied by seven home runs and four stolen bases. Thomas even hit at the top of the order starting on August 21st. Here’s how he fared as the leadoff hitter:

Essentially he was a fantasy darling to finish the 2021 season. The question isn’t how useful and helpful he was for fantasy managers but if he can carry this great finish into the 2022 season. 

Plate Discipline 

Leading off for an MLB team requires good on-base skills. Since 2019 he often posted walk rates between 9%-10%. His OBP isn’t anything to write home over but if he can limit the strikeouts while walking around that 10% clip it can be serviceable.

What can assist his OBP and keep him atop the order is the plate discipline. Lane thomas lacks swing-and-miss (21.1% Whiff/Swing compared to league average 25.9%) and pairs it with a lack of chasing pitches outside the zone. 

2019 League Avg.31.6%68.5%47.0%62.7%84.9%76.2%41.8%60.9%11.1%
2020 League Avg.30.6%67.8%45.9%61.4%84.2%75.3%41.2%59.9%11.3%
2021 League Avg.31.3%68.9%47.2%62.4%84.6%76.1%42.1%60.6%11.2%

In every stop at the MLB level, he has had above-average contact rates, above-average O-Swing%, and above-average swinging strike rate. What all this means is Thomas has a good and patient eye at the plate. What stands out even further is not only has he been able to have good plate discipline over the years but we saw improvements in the quality of contact as well in 2021. He set career-high marks in:

  • Max EV: 109.1 MPH
  • Hard Hit%: 45.7%
  • Sweet Spot%: 31.7%
  • xwOBAcon: .360

These are not elite nor are they anything special necessarily but it is possibly a sign of him improving as a hitter and showing there is a little power to his game and he’s able to utilize his good plate discipline while simultaneously improving the quality of contact. Unfortunately, it’s all small sample sizes but at least he’s trending upward. 

Cause For Concern?

Just a reminder that everything at the MLB level with Lane Thomas is a small sample, however, the splits in the said small sample are very noticeable. 

vs LHP9715.519.6.3541.039.443.437174
vs RHP25112.

There’s no way to ignore the glaring issues he’s had against RHP. Yet the plate discipline is still strong while striking out a league-average rate while walking at an above-average clip. Not to mention the career .208 BABIP against them. There’s some bad luck going on here. However, could this lead to a platoon if the overall numbers aren’t corrected? Absolutely.

During his run with the Nationals, he hit .215/.299/.415 with a .308 wOBA and 90wRC+ against RHP. Still had the great plate discipline (25.2% K% and 10.9% BB%) and yet again just a .250 BABIP against them. We truly need a larger sample here. There’s good plate discipline and bad BABIP luck and there’s a chance we see it correct. Only time will tell. 

2022 Outlook

There is upside here and some power and speed potential. He stole six bases last year in just 77 games and has multiple minor league seasons with double-digit steals totals. This comes with sprint speed in the 93rd percentile. Then you factor in opportunity:

  • Potential to continue leading off – A path to plate appearances that allows him to accumulate numbers. 
  • Great lineup protection atop the order

Put all this together and pair it with where he’s going in drafts (DC ADP of 268/69th OF since December 1st). There are risks given the splits but the skill set and upside outweigh it in my opinion and given the current acquisition cost I’d be hard-pressed to pass on Lane Thomas for the 2022 season. 

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