Exit Interview 2020: Lane Thomas

After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season.  They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post.  Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter.  This year, of course, was anything but typical.  So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative.  There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable.  As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!

Player: Lane Thomas

Season stats: 18 games, 40 PA, 5 R, 4 H, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 13 K, .111/.200/.250, 22 OPS+, -0.4 bWAR

Postseason stats: DNP

Statcast: .210 xwOBA, 4.3% barrel %, 91.0 exit velocity, 39.1% hard hit %

Best Statcast category: Sprint Speed (87th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Sprint Speed (87th percentile)

Hero/Goat: Goat 1


Overview: Recently, I’ve been watching the Mission: Impossible movies.  I saw the first one when it came out back in the ’90s but never saw any more, so I’ve been rectifying that.  (I’m through Ghost Protocol now.)  In those movies, it always seems like Tom Cruise is diving from an insane height and free-falling through the air until he’s suddenly stopped short.  It reminds me of how Lane Thomas’s standing in the organization and among the fans changed in 2020.

Coming into this season, there was a lot of intrigue around Thomas.  He’d had such a strong run in 2019 before getting injured, to the point where many were wondering why he wasn’t getting more playing time with the offensive struggles that the team was going through.  Part of the idea in letting Marcell Ozuna go was that Thomas, along with the other outfielders, would need the playing time and could probably come close to what Ozuna had done in St. Louis.  Thomas felt like a full package, offensively and defensively, and even though he’d probably been playing over his head in ’19, it was intriguing to see what he’d do with more time.

Turned out, between COVID keeping him out and him being demoted later in the year, Thomas saw four fewer PA in 2020 than he did in 2019.  Those plate appearances weren’t nearly as encouraging, either.  Of his four hits, three were for extra bases, but he also struck out 32.5% of the time.  The power was interesting but it wasn’t regular enough to get him in the field when the rest of his offensive game was such a struggle.  Defensively he had some lapses as well, including two throws into the infield with much less intensity than the situation demanded.  They would have stood out anyway but when the bat isn’t distracting from them, they were glaring miscues.

Outlook: With Dylan Carlson in the bigs and embedded into the outfield, the chances for Thomas to reclaim his former status would seem to be pretty slim.  Carlson, Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, and Dexter Fowler would seem to be the ones lined up to get the most playing time.  If the Cardinals were to make a trade this winter, Thomas would be a potential piece of that puzzle.  Especially given the success of former Cardinals as of late, some team might think they can tinker with him and get him back on the path that he was on before 2020 happened.  It just doesn’t look like St. Louis would be able to afford him that opportunity.

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