Fantasy Baseball: Alek Thomas’ call-up worth the bet, even amid other disappointing prospect debuts

The Diamondbacks entered play Sunday with a surprising .500 record despite ranking 25th in runs per game, so they’re looking to give their offense a boost with the call-up of prospect outfielder Alek Thomas from Triple-A. Thomas, the local consensus No. 2 prospect was in the starting lineup for Sunday’s series finale against the Rockies, and he figures to have a starting spot locked up, so should he be viewed as a must-add for Fantasy heading into Week 6?

Definitely. Thomas entered the season as a 22-year-old who had already reached Triple-A for 34 games last season, and he continues his success over the first month of the season, ultimately hitting .332 / .404 / .592 in 58 games at the highest level of the minors. He has 12 homers and eight steals in those 58 games with a very reasonable 17.7% strikeout rate and 10.0% walk rate, so it’s not hard to see how his profile can translate for Fantasy.

If Thomas hits, he has the potential to be a five-category contributor for Fantasy, with above average pop and speed and enough bat control to hopefully avoid too many strikeouts. In an ideal outcome, he probably looks like Randy Arozarena from 2021, a 20-20 threat who does not hurt you with the batting average, though maybe something more like 2021 Andrew Benintendi (.276, 17 HR, 8 SB) might be a more reasonable expectation.

Of course, we’ve seen more talented prospects than Thomas struggle to take off in the majors, with the likes of Jo Adell and Jarred Kelenic serving as just the most prominent examples over the past few seasons – they certainly aren’t alone. Last season, rookies as a whole produced an 84 wRC + – 100 would be league average – and 2022 hasn’t been any better so far. The leap from the minors to the majors remains the toughest one prospects have to make, and Thomas has enough questions about his hit tool translating to pencil him in as an immediate difference maker.

However, given the current landscape in Fantasy, you can not really pencil anyone in as difference makers right now. That’s an exaggeration, but only a slight one – only 10 outfielders currently have an OPS north of .850 across the majors right now. That is partially because offense is down league-wide, but also because outfield just hasn’t been a great position – outside of the top 25 or so players in my rankings, I do not feel particularly confident in too many players.

This makes Thomas well worth the gamble. Maybe he goes the way of Adell or Kelenic (or Josh Lowe or Carter Kieboom or Nick Madrigal or Dylan Carlson or Cristian Pache or Joey Bart or… well, you get the point), but Thomas is talented enough to be worth betting on the upside here, especially in this offensive environment. He might flop, but I’m going to guess you’ve already got at least one player in your lineup flopping already. For waiver-wire runs this week, I would prioritize Thomas over Twins top shortstop prospect Royce Lewis, a similarly regarded prospect whose playing time could depend on how long Carlos Correa’s injury keeps him sidelined.

Thomas’ skill set makes him a must-add player in all five-outfielder leagues or leagues where steals hold extra value, and even in a 12-team, three-outfielder league, I think I’d try to find a spot for him on my bench. It may not work out, but, just like the Diamondbacks, your lineup probably needs a spark, and maybe Thomas can provide it.

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