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Changing Lanes

Breaking down the best hitting performances from yesterday's games.

Lane Thomas (WSH): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

After posting a .270/.364/.489 batting line with seven home runs and four steals in just 45 games with the Washington Nationals last year, Lane Thomas was a pretty popular breakout candidate for fantasy players to target later in drafts.

Through the season’s first two months, if you – like me – bought into the Thomas hype, things weren’t working out. He was stuck hitting in the bottom of the Nationals’ lineup and just simply wasn’t producing. In 137 plate appearances, he was hitting .195 with three home runs and just one stolen base.

Since the calendar flipped to June, something’s changed in Thomas; he looks like a brand new player. In 48 plate appearances, Thomas’ batting line is an otherworldly .395/.458/.744 with four home runs. He’s earned himself a promotion in the lineup, as he’s hit first or second for the Nats in every June contest in which he’s appeared.

Thomas kept the good times rolling with another stellar day at the plate on Monday, putting up a 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB performance in the Nationals’ 9-5 loss to the defending World Series champion Braves. He reached twice against Ian Anderson, walking in the third before singling in the fifth, and then launched a Dylan Lee curveball over the left-field wall in the sixth inning.

His two-week hot streak has been strong enough to make Thomas’ dismal start to the 2022 campaign seem like the distant past, as his overall numbers are looking much better now – a .322 wOBA and 105 wRC+.

Even with his season-long numbers bouncing back, Thomas’ resurgence hasn’t put him on many players’ fantasy radars. He’s rostered in just 13% of Yahoo! leagues and 7% of ESPN leagues.

The Nationals could use all the offensive help they can get, so Thomas should stick at the top of the order as long as he continues to produce anywhere near his current level. If you need batting average help with some power and stolen base upside, he could be a great addition. Plus, with Thomas hitting in front of Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Nelson Cruz, he could be a big boon to your team’s run totals.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:

José Abreu (CWS): 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB.

Don’t look now, but the 2020 AL MVP is on an absolute tear. He got off to a slow start to the year, but since May 17th has been one of the best hitters in the game, putting up a .344/.459/.622 line with six home runs and 16 RBI. In that 24-game stretch, he’s reached base in all but two contests. Abreu played a huge role for the White Sox yesterday, knocking in nearly half of his team’s runs in their 9-5 win in Detroit, and launching the day’s second-longest home run – a 444-foot blast to dead center.

Dylan Carlson (STL): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

The Cardinals rallied from a 5-0 deficit last night, scoring seven unanswered runs to come back and beat the Pirates. Carlson had one of the Redbirds’ biggest hits – a three-run, game-tying home run in the sixth inning. Overall, it’s been a bit of a disappointing season for Carlson. After posting a career-best 18 home runs and a 113 wRC+ in his age-22 season, he’s followed that up with a .255 batting average, three home runs, and just a 97 wRC+ through 170 plate appearances.

Paul Goldschmidt (STL): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB.

A seven-run comeback is a pretty good way to get more than one player mentioned in a Batter’s Box article. Goldschmidt followed up Carlson’s game-tying blast with one of his own, this time putting the Cardinals on top where they’d stay for the rest of the game. As a 34-year-old, Goldschmidt’s having the finest season of his already incredible career. His .335/.419/.598 batting line, .435 wOBA, and 188 wRC+ have him in the way-too-early discussion for his first MVP award.

Dansby Swanson (ATL): 2-4, HR, R, 4 RBI.

Swanson entered play yesterday as one of the top shortstops in baseball in terms of fWAR; his 2.6 mark placed him second in the league, trailing only Tommy Edman. The former first overall pick is having the best year of his career and seems destined to make his first career All-Star appearance. Swanson’s home run and four RBI day raised his season numbers to an impressive .292/.356/.460 with eight home runs, 36 RBI, and nine stolen bases.

Michael Chavis (PIT): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.

A fresh start is exactly what the doctor ordered for Chavis. After struggling through the better part of three seasons in Boston, Chavis found a new home in Pittsburgh. In his first full season as a Pirate, he’s been a strong producer at the plate, hitting .274/.308/.459. Chavis hit his sixth home run of the season against the Cardinals on Monday, with his two-hit performance raising his wRC+ to 111. After three straight seasons with a strikeout rate of at least 31.6%, Chavis has improved that mark to 27.8%. He’s rostered in less than 5% of both Yahoo! and ESPN fantasy leagues but has been good enough that he should be garnering interest in 12-team and deeper formats.

Marcell Ozuna (ATL): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Ozuna joined in on the Braves’ drubbing of Nationals’ starter Erasmo Ramírez on Monday night, hitting his 11th big fly of the year. Despite reaching double-digit home runs already, Ozuna’s 2022 has been underwhelming. His OBP has cratered to just .269 on the back of a 5.2% walk rate and 33.8% chase rate, both career-lows. The good news – when he hits the ball, he’s still hitting it incredibly hard. His barrel rate and exit velocities are in line with what we’ve come to expect from the 31-year-old outfielder.

Santiago Espinal (TOR): 2-5, R, 3 RBI.

Espinal has been one of my favorite players to watch so far this year. He knocked in three of Toronto’s 11 runs in their shellacking of Baltimore yesterday. While his line doesn’t jump off the page, it’s consistent production, and it’s been good enough to win him the Blue Jays’ starting second base job. Espinal’s posted a batting line of .290/.345/.443, good for a .342 wOBA, and 121 wRC+. He’s rostered in 54% and 42% of Yahoo! and ESPN fantasy leagues, respectively, and is worth a look if you need a fill-in at second or third base. He’s not going to blow you away with power, but he’s a good hitter who bounces all over one of baseball’s best lineups.

Ezequiel Duran (TEX): 2-4, 2B, R, RBI, SB.

The biggest question mark coming into the season for the Rangers was third base and none of what they tried in the season’s early going worked. Injuries and inconsistency led to a gaping hole in their lineup, and that forced their hand to call up Duran straight from Double-A. Fangraphs had him as the team’s fourth-best prospect and the 75th best in baseball. He’s lived up to the hype so far – in 37 plate appearances, he’s slashing .333/.351/.556 with two home runs. His stolen base in Monday’s game was the first of his career, and there should be more coming. In 45 games in Double-A this year, he had seven steals and seven home runs. He’s a power and speed threat who could be a difference-maker in deeper leagues. He’s a whole lot more fun to take a gamble on than an uninspiring veteran bat.

Marcus Semien (TEX): 3-4, BB, SB.

Semien reached base four times in the Rangers’ 5-3 win over the Astros on Monday, continuing a red hot stretch in which he’s hit .309/.390/.603 since May 28th. After signing a massive contract with Texas in the offseason, Semien’s ice-cold start was one of the biggest storylines in the season’s first two months, but no longer. He’s turned his first year as a Ranger around, and while the season-long numbers still aren’t where fantasy managers and Ranger fans want them to be, they’re trending in the right direction. He’s now up to an 85 wRC+ on the year, and with 11 stolen bases already, he’s on pace to shatter his previous career-high of 15.

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Mark Steubinger

Mark loves everything talking and writing about baseball - from fantasy leagues to the legitimate defensive prowess of Kyle Schwarber as a left fielder. Mark has a degree in Sports Communication from Bradley University and works in radio production. He lives in central Illinois where his TV is permanently tuned to Chicago Cubs games.

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