Life in the Fast Lane
Lane Thomas (WSH): 1-2, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB.
Lane Thomas has been one of the biggest fantasy surprises of the 2023 season. He was pretty average last season hitting 17 dingers and stealing eight bags with a 97 wRC+, but there was nothing screaming breakout. We have almost wrapped the 2023 season and he’s on pace for a 25/20 season with over 175 combined runs and RBI while batting over .270. That is an excellent fantasy player.
However, this is a tale of two halves. Up until the end of June, Thomas was one of the best hitters in the league. He was slashing .302/.351/.514 with 14 dingers and seven steals over 342 plate appearances. His BABIP was close to .400 despite the 41% hard hit rate and close to 50% ground ball rate. That average was due to drop.
From July on, Thomas is slashing .234/.277/.413 with an 82 wRC+ and a .278 BABIP. He is hitting the ball slightly less hard (38%) but has also started hitting the ball on the ground less, increasing his line drive rate and fly ball rate. Because of that he still produced with 13 doubles and 11 homers in 292 plate appearances. He also upped his steals swiping 12 while only getting caught once. This half still paces out to be a 20/20 season with 80/80 runs and RBI as someone at the top of the order despite the .277 OBP.
He’s still been an excellent fantasy player and should ultimately balance out both sides of these halves to somewhere in the middle while still producing the fantasy numbers we’re hoping for.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Wednesday
Corbin Carroll (ARI): 4-5, HR, 3 R, RBI, 2 SB.
Sure, we all know who this guy is and that he’s a rock star, but he crossed the 25/50 threshold with his home run and two steals. He is the first rookie ever to hit the 25/50 mark. This is a bit surprising as he only had 26 steals at the All Star break. That was 26 steals across 84 games. In just 61 games the rest of the way he has stolen 24! And he has a few games left to lift both totals even higher.
Nick Castellanos (PHI): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Castellanos not only launched his 26th and 27th home runs of the year, but he also made a game-saving throwout at the plate after making a catch in foul territory. Tie game, man on third, one out, he makes the catch deep in foul territory and guns out the would-be winning run at the plate. Obviously, that play greatly impacted everyone’s fantasy playoffs. Regardless, Casty has been on a tear these past couple weeks. He has five dingers in his last eight games while slashing .311/.367/.689 in his last 12. He has rebounded nicely fantasy-wise since last season.
Dominic Canzone (SEA): 2-3, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI.
Canzone completely annihilated the ball in his first at-bat. It was 112 mph off the bat traveling 448 feet. It was his sixth on the year as a utility outfielder and primary bat off the bench. It’s his rookie year and his results aren’t the greatest, but his peripherals aren’t that terrible. He’s striking out less than 20% of the time while hitting the ball hard over 42% of the time with a new Max EV of 112 mph. Despite the low K rate, he has an awful 43.6% O-Swing. That number may catch up to him, but his low BABIP may change things up at the same time.
Evan Carter (TEX): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Carter joined the Rangers on September 8th, after recently turning 21 years old. He’s a speedy outfielder with fine defensive abilities and an okay hit tool. So far he’s used his speed well with a high BABIP and line drive rate with a couple steals. He’s striking out at a rate of about 30% but is also walking nearly 20% of the time. He launched his second homer of the year in a high-scoring game yesterday, adding a solid double, and a short grounder he beat out.
Josh Jung (TEX): 3-5, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.
Jung fractured his thumb at the beginning of August and is now on his third game back. He is certainly looking back since he ripped three hard hits including one 408-foot blast in the fifth inning. After starting the year with a 119 wRC+ across 416 plate appearances, it was a big blow to have to sit out quite a long while, especially during a playoff push. He’s back and looking strong and should help any fantasy roster that still has him.
Luis García (WSH): 3-4, 2 2B, 4 R, BB.
The Nationals have quite the group of young hitters. Some have broken out strong like Thomas, Ruiz, and Abrams, but García hasn’t been the high-average bat many had hoped for. He even was demoted for about a month due to his struggles. His plate discipline is much stronger than last season, nearly doubling his walk rate and also cutting his K rate from over 20% to just 12.7%. However, the good contact is lacking significantly. He has a hard hit rate in the mid-30s and a 54% ground ball rate. He’s swinging at more strikes, and fewer balls, but is making much more contact (just not good contact).
Willi Castro (MIN): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, SB.
Willi Castro has been taking full advantage of the rules changes capturing his 32nd steal of the season. Not only has he stolen much more often (his previous career high was nine), he has only been caught five times, compared to four times in each of the last two seasons with much fewer attempts. He’s also added some recent pop. He completed the combo meal with his ninth dinger of the year, and fourth home run in his last 11 games. If you’ve been riding him for steals, these home runs have come precisely when needed.
Brandon Drury (LAA): 2-3, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Drury launched two dingers, one a 107 mph 381-foot towering shot and the other a tank of a 419-foot bomb. They were his 22nd and 23rd of the season. He now has nine in 171 plate appearances since coming back from his shoulder injury. It certainly looks like he has healed. Even with the injury, this season has shown that his breakout last year was not an entire fluke.
Zack Gelof (OAK): 2-4, HR, R, RBI, SB.
A’s rookie sensation Zack Gelof completed a combo meal in a losing battle against Seattle (did not intend that rhyme). He crushed a 105 mph dinger in the fourth, after swiping second in the first after a single. Zack is now 13/13 in 256 plate appearances with a 139 wRC+. He is hitting the ball reasonably hard (43% hard hit rate) but has a near 30% line drive rate which does not seem sustainable. Regardless, a 20/20 season does not seem out of reach next year if he plays all season.
Drew Waters (KC): 2-3, 2B, R, BB, 2 SB.
It took a little while, but Drew Waters finally started to rev his engines. From August 7th to this last game, Waters has stolen 10 bags while getting caught once. Before that stretch, he stole five bags and was caught three times after being called up at the end of May. He seems like he is getting more comfortable on the base paths and is using his speed appropriately. If steals are a desperate need for your team now, he is a worthy option.
Mark Vientos (NYM): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Vientos had a day, homering in his first and third at-bats. His second home run was a 417-foot blast for his seventh of the season. He has had a couple short stints in the majors this year, with this being his third after returning from the IL with a left wrist injury. He had a rough first two games back, but after August 29th, he is slashing .306/.348/.581 with five home runs in 66 plate appearances. He has big corner infield slugger potential and it seems like that is starting to show.
Tyrone Taylor (MIL): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
This is not déjà vu. Taylor had the exact same stat line as Vientos from yesterday. However, he homered in his second and fourth at-bats of the game. These were his eighth and ninth of the season piling on to his excellent September. Before yesterday’s game, he was slashing .296/.333/.519 for a 127 wRC+, much better than his season’s 78 wRC+. He spent a good amount of time in the minors this year after playing nearly a full season in 2022 due to his struggles at the plate. Hopefully, this month means things are turning a corner.
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)