Updated: Dec 16, 2018
Prospect #11: OF, Lane Thomas
Previously Unranked in the preseason, but keeps 12th overall ranking from July reranking
Acquired from Toronto for International bonus pool funds
THE QUICK WRITE UP
Man, am I torn on Lane Thomas. Maybe that's because I feel like there are two versions of Thomas.
The first version is a potential major league starting center fielder with a bat and an approach at the plate that would look good at the top of the order. We saw this version of him at the start of the season. That version of Lane Thomas is a stud and he's a lot of fun to watch. He hits for power and drives the ball to all parts of the field. He beats out infield singles and he can get to any ball in the outfield.
With that version of Lane Thomas comes another version of Lane Thomas. That version of Thomas is a player that looks as uncomfortable as you'll see in the batters box. He'll often take pitches right down the middle in hitters counts and check swing at everything else thrown to him. His position with his hands is usually inconsistent during this time. This version of Thomas is also shaky in the outfield. The best way to describe this version of Lane Thomas is "shaky and indecisive." We've seen this version of Lane Thomas more often than not since the first month of the season.
Thomas would be a top 15 prospect in the organization if he was more the first version that I mentioned than the second version. I love this swing and, for a smaller player especially, it's has the ability to truly be a driving tool. Yes, this ball is put on a tee for him, but he hits the damn thing over the scoreboard:
Thomas is still only 22-years-old and he's coming off of a 2017 in which he missed a large part of the season. It's probably been a whirlwind for the young man, as well, coming for Toronto to St. Louis and not getting much of a chance to play last year because of injury. He's going to need to bury the indecisive version of himself and let the sure version of himself take the lead if he is going to move up this list.
*UPDATED ON 8/23/2018*
After busting on to the AAA scene, Thomas has cooled off. I've still been impressed with what he's been doing, but the struggles that he's had over the last 10 days goes to show you how difficult of a jump AA to AAA can be. Thomas is going to be fine and he's going to be fun to watch. Let's just hope that these last 10 days haven't been the older, less "Sure" version of Thomas taking hold.
WHY TO GET EXCITED
Lane Thomas has the most surprising amount of power in the organization.
His swing is simple and quick and through the zone, lightning fast.
There is no wasted motion in his swing.
At the very moment that this is being written between 7/21/2018 and 8/4/2018, there isn't a hotter prospect in the organization. Not even JAG.
When he is zoned in and confident, he's nothing short of a top of the order dynamo with the potential to really make a major league impact.
Thomas takes walks. I always use 8% as the acceptable low and Thomas has almost always been above that mark.
With most hitters, I like to see that they are using all parts of the field. With Thomas, I'm glad to see that he is pulling the ball more. That change in approach has made him a better hitter with more applicable power.
While he isn't exactly fast, he is quick. He gets a good first step in center and he is quick around the bases. He might be best suited for a corner spot as I believe that he would really excel in a corner.
At 22-years-old, Thomas is right where I like to see a prospect age-wise at AAA. That he is producing and developing while there is a very good sign.
WHY TO BE CAUTIOUS
When Thomas isn't dialed in, he is a liability. He'll take half-swings and let pitchers get the better of him in hitters counts.
He's a weird outfielder, as well. Often times he is solid in center, but he gets bad routes on balls hit over his head. I'd like to see the coaching staff adjust him and have him started deep in center. He has the speed to make up for the deeper start. That's not to take away from his abilities in the corner of the outfield, which appear to be well above average.
He's never had a season in which his strike out rate was below 20% and this season it's right at 23%.
His stats and AA success have been aided greatly by a red-hot first month of the season. Since May 1st he's hit 244/330/411/741 in 270 at-bats.
When playing center field, he really struggles with line drives hit over his head. It's the roughest play for a center fielder to make and it's a play that he struggles with.
Thomas is a terrible base burglar. He gets terrible reads off of pitcher's pickoff moves.
Thomas is prone to long periods of mental lapses. I can't help but think that the only thing that keeps Lane Thomas back is Lane Thomas.
Before we get into what he could be or what he could look like, I want to say that Thomas is poised for an Oscar Mercado-esque assignment to the Arizona Fall League. It'll be a perfect chance for him to hone some of his deficiencies. Speaking of Mercado, hopefully we are talking about Thomas a year from now in the same way that we are talking about Mercado now. Thomas ultimate, 5% chance-ceiling is probably something similar to Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera. His most likely ceiling, the 20% chance variety, is something closer to Arizona outfielder David Peralta.