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Washington Nationals’ 2023 Roster: Lane Thomas and his role…

A quick look at Lane Thomas and the Nats’ plans for their outfielder…

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Davey Martinez told reporters at the 2022 Winter Meetings outfielder Lane Thomas was one of several players on the roster in D.C. who’d sent the manager video of their offseason work as they got back at it in preparation for the 2023 campaign.

Washington’s 27-year-old outfielder, the Nationals’ skipper said, was hard at work on some of the things they asked him to focus on this winter.

“I’ve seen Lane Thomas already hitting on the field and working on trying to stay on the ball, hitting the ball into right-center field,” Martinez explained.

Thomas, he said, who played 142 games in the outfield in 2022 (73 in left, 56 out in center, and 43 in right), is preparing to play all over the outfield again in 2023.

“I told Lane to be ready to play everywhere,” Martinez said. “For right now, I think he did really well playing right field, but he’s a guy to me that could play all three and play them well.”

Thomas played mostly left and center field early in ‘22, but over the final few weeks of the season he was exclusively in right field.

At the plate last season, Thomas put up a .234/.301/.381 line against right-handed pitchers, and a .253/.302/.441 line against lefties, with 17 doubles and nine home runs in 346 plate appearances vs righties, and nine doubles and eight homers in 202 PAs vs left-handed pitchers.

He picked things up in the second half of his second season in D.C. after he was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline in 2021, putting up a .264/.330/.434 line in 64 games and 261 PAs after the All-Star break, following a .221/.275/.376 run in 82 games and 287 PAs in the first “half” of the schedule.

In the final month of the ‘22 campaign, he earned praise from GM Mike Rizzo, who’d acquired him from the Cards. He said Thomas was the kind of player you need for a rebooting/rebuilding/whatever ballclub.

“I think that some people kind of looked sideways at us when we said that Lane Thomas was a piece of the future,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies in early September. “We always say the next championship-caliber club, a guy like Lane Thomas should be a part of it, because he’s a good hitter, specifically against left-handed pitching, he’s really coming around against right-handed pitching, he can play good defense, and he runs the bases well, he’s really fast.

“That’s a piece of a championship-caliber club.”

His versatility, his manager noted at the end of the season as well, is one of his many virtues.

“He’s done well in all three outfield positions,” Martinez told reporters as the 2022 season came to an end.

“In right field he’s done exceptionally well. We saw him throwing. He comes and gets the ball really well. I think his first step definitely helped him out a lot. He’s getting better routes on the ball, which definitely helps him out as well, so but overall we’re still trying to get him aggressive out there, and he’s gotten a lot better this year. And I’m proud of him. Because he struggled in the beginning with everything and I’m proud of him working hard, and going out there and competing, and he’s done really well.”

The fact that he can plug him in at any of the three outfield position is a big plus to the manager.

“To me it’s the fact that he can do all three and do it fairly well,” Martinez explained. “And he’s learning. He’s really learning how to play. He’s been a lot more aggressive, which we like, in all aspects of his game. Even the baserunning, the base-stealing, I’ve seen a lot of improvement with him. So moving forward that’s awesome for us. I mean, he’s really starting to [come into his own], I think he is only scratching the surface, I really do. I don’t think he knows yet who he really can be.”

In a career-high 146 games played in the majors this past season, Thomas’s 26 doubles and 17 homers were career highs as well, and Martinez said he’s just scratching the surface of his power at the plate too.

“We know that the power numbers are there,” the manager said. “We know that he can play all three outfield positions and do really well out there, now it’s just a matter of him continuing to get better. Continuing to learn how to really get on base for us, and he’s showing — every year he’s showing improvement.”

“Since we’ve got him, his offensive numbers have been very impressive, and they’re going to get better ... I’m looking forward to having him back here, getting a little bit stronger this winter, and getting him back in Spring Training and being able to put him in different places.

“It doesn’t matter where I put him in the outfield, he just loves playing.”