You know the cinematic technique where the dolly wheels in and the camera zooms out? It’s used in films to make the viewer feel uneasy. A classic example is in Jaws:
— One Perfect Shot (@OnePerfectShot) June 20, 2021
That was me. I was Roy Scheider when I started to discover Lane Thomas. He’s just a random outfielder on a not-that-great team. Dolly wheels in. He used to play for the Cards and all ex-Cards outfielders are great. Camera zooms out. Stands up on the beach and screams to the water. “Get Lane Thomas out of there! He’s worthwhile!” Runs to the water and throws Frank Schwindel out of the way, “I have to save real sleepers!” Pushes aside Ian Happ, “Please, Ian! Not this year! You’re a sleeper every gee-dee year! Yes, ‘gee-dee’ because this movie is PG!” Paddling into the water, “Lane! Grab my hand!” On the shores, the mayor calls out to panicked tourists, “There’s nothing to see here.” So, what can we expect from Lane Thomas for 2022 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
Psyche! Before we get into the Lane Thomas sleeper post, just wanted to announce that I’ve begun to roll out my 2022 fantasy baseball rankings on our Patreon. It’s an early Xmas miracle! Like opening a day on an advent calendar and there’s accidentally two chocolates. Anyway II, the Lane Thomas sleeper:
The team isn’t that good so Lane Thomas should play. Right now he’s plugged into the one-hole (ouch — plugging the one-hole is one, uh, hole you don’t want plugged), and even if the Nats go out and get someone, Lane Thomas should be fine for everyday playing time. Yadiel Hernandez would move out of the lineup before Lane Thomas, or at least he should. Thomas had a 14% walk rate last year. Where do the Cards get the nerve to give up on a leadoff guy with a 14% walk rate, I don’t know. Maybe why Shildt was like, “Fire me. Please. I triple dog dare you.” 14% walk rate would be top 12 in the majors, if he qualified. Joey Votto was only 14.4%! It’s good walks, and he had a 13+% walk rates in the minors, so it’s not out of nowhere. Spending more time than usual on walks in this post, because for a leadoff man, or a guy we want to be a leadoff man, it’s good to see. Dolly wheels in. Lane Thomas is the leadoff guy. Camera zooms out. Whoa.
Lane Thomas doesn’t have great power. OR DOES HE?! Damn, Mr. Reversal Question absolutely shocks me every time. He hit 21 homers in Double-A and 7 HRs last year in a half MLB season. His Launch Angle was 12.3 last year and 15.4 the year before. His fly ball rate was 38.7% and a 11.1% HR/FB. That’s not Nelson Cruz-type homers, even though Nelson Cruz had a similar fly ball rate. It’s Akil Baddoo-type home run levels, who also had similar fly ball numbers. That’s 18 homers, maybe 22 homers if he gets very lucky. That’s not zero homers either. In fact (Grey’s got more!), Steamer says if Lane Thomas gets 162 games, he will have 25 homers. No one can project anyone realistically for 162 games, but that shows he’s got some pop. Dolly wheels in. Lane Thomas could hit 25 homers. Camera zooms out. Whoa.
Lane Thomas has speed. He’s elite. He was in the 93rd percentile for Sprint Speed. That’s right. The Fast Lane Thomas. The Passing Lane Thomas. Rickey Henderson Sends Us Down Memory Lane Thomas. He stole 17 bags in one half year of the minors, and swiped six last year in half a year of the majors. He has more speed than power, but speed is more about want and I don’t know if he wants to steal bags. The Nats let Treat Urner steal, so maybe Lane can run too at his own volition. That would be nice. My guess is he doesn’t steal more than 25 bags, but if he walks enough (he does), he could shock the world. There’s risk here, but for his price in drafts, he might be pound-for-pound the best sleeper yet. For 2022, I’ll give Lane Thomas projections of 84/18/61/.256/21 in 561 ABs with a chance for much more, especially on speed.