by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
John Lamb has often been viewed as a pitcher who possesses upside, though the results would certainly have you fooled. Just look at the pitiful line he posted in 2016:
58 Strikeouts (7.46 K/9)
31 Walks (3.99 BB/9)
42.1% Groundball Rate
After being designated for assignment we knew a change of scenery was likely in his future, but yesterday it came to fruition as word trickled out that he had been dealt to Tampa Bay. Is that an ideal landing spot? Is there still a glimmer of upside? Let’s take a look:
Among his biggest issues was simple poor luck, as his .327 BABIP and 64.3% strand rate do not necessarily match up with his 21.8% line drive rate. It would be fair to expect an improvement in that regard, at least a little bit, but is that really enough?
He’s always shown solid strikeout stuff (8.6 K/9 in the minors) and control (3.1 BB/9 in the minors). Of course he wasn’t up to those levels last season, and didn’t show the highest upside either with an 8.2% SwStr% and 28.4% O-Swing%. Moving to the American League, can we really expect a dramatic improvement?
Then you have the home run issues, with a 1.80 HR/9 (courtesy of a 17.9% HR/FB). Obviously getting out of Great American Ballpark will help, but moving to a division with the Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees and Blue Jays? That certainly doesn’t seem like a beneficial move regardless of his home ballpark.
There are legitimate concerns regarding Lamb as a starting pitcher, but that’s where this could get interesting. Is it possible that Tampa Bay transitions him into a relief role? He’d certainly benefit in regards to his fastball, coming out for short stints. He also wasn’t quite as bad against left-handed hitters, with just 2 of his 14 HR coming against them (.382 SLG vs. .555 against RHP).
That said, the only way he holds value as a reliever is if he pushes his way into the closers role and that’s not likely going to happen. Could it? We’ve seen crazier things, but at this point it’s not something to bank on.
Not a closer + Poor starter = No thank you. Maybe there’s ultimate upside, but at this point it’s easy to ignore Lamb in all formats.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
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