Washington Nationals: Lane Thomas Showing No Signs Of Slowing Down
By Max Rayman
Lane Thomas was given a second chance to start and he hasn’t looked back.
Even though all eyes have been on Juan Soto, Lane Thomas has been the talk of the town. In fact, the Lane Train, the name for the Thomas bandwagon, has left the station. Don’t worry though, it is still accepting new members.
During the 2021 trade deadline, the Nationals were one of the busiest teams, shipping out eight players and effectively closing their contention window. Mike Rizzo acquired 12 prospects, including two that were ranked on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100. Overshadowed in all of the madness that occurred, was Washington swapping a struggling Jon Lester, for Thomas who had been relegated to the bench in St. Louis.
Since being called up by the Nats on August 15, all the 26-year old has done is hit. In fact, six games into his Nationals tenure, we wrote a piece about Thomas’s hot start. We wrote,
"“Acquired for Jon Lester from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline, Thomas has replaced Victor Robles, who is feeling under the weather, in center. Robles, who is quickly running out of chances in Washington, was put on notice by Thomas’s impressive weekend.”“However, it wasn’t just this weekend, with Thomas excelling since the day he was called up. Be it a small sample size, in 20 plate appearances, Thomas has an insane slash line of .600/.700/.867, with two RBIs, five walks, and an OPS of 1.567.”"
Since then, Thomas has fully supplanted Victor Robles who was optioned to AAA, as the team’s starting centerfielder. At the time, we also questioned if he could continue his torrid stretch or if he was another flash in the pan. While it is still too early to tell, Thomas has shown no intention of slowing down.
Coming up in the Cardinals farm system, Thomas had impressive pop and was seen as a future cornerstone. Unfortunately, once he was called up, he was unable to take advantage of the opportunity. In 58 plate appearances with the Cardinals to start this season, he hit a measly .104, with one RBI, and an OPS of .384. Thomas also struck out 17 times, while drawing 10 walks.
St. Louis didn’t have the patience to keep him in the lineup and he was relegated to the bench. His terrible start to the season made it easy for the Cardinals to cut ties. Their loss is the Nats gain because in 117 ABs with the team, he is hitting .308, with five homers, 22 RBIs, and an OPS of .936.
A change of scenery can do wonders for a player and Thomas has shown no indications of squandering his opportunity with the Nats. Over his 84 games with the Cardinals, Thomas collected 21 hits and 17 RBIs, but with Washington, he has 36 hits and 22 RBIs in only 31 games.
Since making his Nationals debut on August 15th, Thomas has become one of the hottest hitting outfielders in baseball. He is 11th amongst outfielders and 4th amongst centerfielders in wRC+ with 148.
Opposing pitchers have struggled to contain Thomas at the plate. Through 29 games with the Nats, Thomas has gone hitless in consecutive games just twice. To put it in perspective, that is the same amount as Fernando Tatis Jr. over his last 29 games.
MLB is full of players who were a flash in the pan, but it is very refreshing to see Thomas has yet to even stumble.