St. Louis Cardinals: Will 2020 be the year of Lane Thomas?

John Mozeliak recently said he saw St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Lane Thomas as an impact player in 2020. Could he establish himself in 2020.

Dylan Carlson, Randy Arozarena, Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, Adolis Garcia, and Justin Williams. Everyone seems to have a favorite young St. Louis Cardinals‘ outfielder they would like to see on Opening Day in 2020.

However, even if Dylan Carlson is now considered the top prospect in the Cardinals minor league system, it’s Lane Thomas who seems to be the young outfielder who opened more eyes in 2019.

Just ask Cardinals President of Baseball Operations Joh Mozeliak who expects Thomas to be an impact player in 2020.

“He’s part of that (outfield) group we’re trying to create an opportunity for,” Mozeliak said during a press briefing earlier this month.

“In the month of September, we missed him. He was someone who was coming into his own.”

No kidding. In just 38 at-bats in 2019, the 24-year-old hit a slash line of .316/.409/.684 with for homers and 12 RBIs. In addition, a closer look at his batting splits potentially shows a very well-balanced hitter.

Thomas’ right-handed vs left-handed splits show a BA of .296 vs .364, while his home vs away splits show a BA of .333 vs .286. He seems to prefer hitting in day games with a BA of .368 vs .263 at night.

Unfortunately, just when Lane Thomas seemed to be coming into his own as a major leaguer, he injured his wrist in late August.

The defense ain’t bad either

Lane Thomas’ defensive stats are, like his offensive stats, somewhat limited. He played only 25 games in the outfield in 2019, but what we see is promising.

Two defensive metrics used at Baseball Reference are RF/9 and RF/G. They basically measures range factor with putouts and assists by innings and games. With 0 considered average, Thomas had a 2.53 RF/9 and a 0.92. Comparatively, Harrison Bader’s  RF/9 is 2.51 and his RF/G is 2.15 over three seasons.

Other defensive metrics at Baseball Reference reflect similar comparisons between Bader and Thomas. Rtot, which reflects total fielding runs above average, and Rdrs, which reflects defensive runs saved above average,  Again with 0 being average, Thomas has a Rtot of 3 and a Rdrs of 1. Bader’s are more impressive with a Rtot of 11 and Rdrs of 35.

The point I’m trying to make here is not to determine who is the better defensive player between Thomas and Bader, but show how promising Lane Thomas’ defensive potential is, even with limited playing time.

Thomas’ defense, by the eye test and metrics, shows a player who could be a Gold-Glove-caliber outfielder. Center field appears to be his strongest position and if he can get the playing time, he could open enough eyes to make a case for a Gold Glove.

Finally

Of course, I admit, this all speculative. Lane Thomas will need to win an outfield spot in Spring Training. Although It looks like Marcell Ozuna is gone, there will be fierce competition between Bader, O’Neill, Arozarena, and Carlson. Also, the returning Dexter Fowler and Jose Martinez will be in the mix and could grab two of the outfield spots.

Next: Could the Cardinals be in on Dylan Bundy?

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I’m just excited to see what next year brings with this outfield. It will be an intriguing spring training to see who wins the outfield spots on Opening Day in Cincinnati. Nevertheless, I believe Lane Thomas could breakout in 2020.

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