St. Louis Cardinals: Five bold predictions for the 2020 season

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 26: A glove and cap on the steps of the St Louis Cardinals dugout during the spring training game against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on February 26, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. The Marlins defeated the Cardinals 8-7. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 26: A glove and cap on the steps of the St Louis Cardinals dugout during the spring training game against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on February 26, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. The Marlins defeated the Cardinals 8-7. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /
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JUPITER, FL – MARCH 05: Lane Thomas #35 of the St Louis Cardinals hits a three-run home run against the New York Mets in the fourth inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game on March 5, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. The game ended in a 7-7 tie. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FL – MARCH 05: Lane Thomas #35 of the St Louis Cardinals hits a three-run home run against the New York Mets in the fourth inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game on March 5, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. The game ended in a 7-7 tie. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

No. 1: Lane Thomas will have more plate appearances than Dexter Fowler or Dylan Carlson this year

Dexter Fowler will probably have the shortest leash in terms of playing time of any player on the team. Over his last 147 at-bats (including regular season, playoffs, and spring training) he has just 21 hits (.143 AVG).

His speed is declining, down almost a .5 ft/s since joining the Cardinals. Calling his fielding average would be the compliment of the year, as evident by his -6 Outs Above Average in 2019. He was in the bottom 7% of the league in exit velocity last season at just 85.2 mph, his lowest since Statcast started in 2015 (yes, even lower than his horrific 2018 season). His strikeout percentage in 2019 was the highest of his career.

Sorry, I’ll stop ragging on him… I actually do like him. He’s a great person and he’s undergone far too much criticism since he came to St. Louis.

That being said, Lane Thomas can do everything Dexter can do, except more athletically. No, Lane may not post his elite BB%, but just about everything else would basically be an instant upgrade.

Everybody is frothing at the mouth to see Dylan Carlson, but everyone just has to accept the fact that he’s not going to make the major league team out of camp, and for good reason (see here.) Thomas will likely be the first man up if Fowler starts the season cold, and there’s a very decent chance he runs with it.

In his incredibly limited time last year (44 PA), he put up a 1.093 OPS. None of his minor league seasons even come close to replicating that, but he’s shown he can hang with big leaguers to some extent.

Even if he isn’t putting up monstrous offensive numbers, he still is a great defender and has speed on the bases. He can be an all-around asset.