John Lamb - remember him? We'll he's doing some things statistically that look good in AAA, but does he have the tools to necessarily match?
The Royals are likely going need a 26th man for the upcoming doubleheader Friday. John Lamb hasn't pitched since July 9th so he'd be rested. Lamb was elected to the AAA All-Star game, but curiously was not among the nine pitchers that participated (including Royals great Louis Coleman) despite being arguably the best option for a starter. Lamb also happens to be on the 40-man roster already. The clouds, stars, planets, or whatever celestial/astronomical entity you want to use, have aligned.
Lamb has been excellent this year with a 2.68 ERA through 84 innings with an excellent 9.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. That's an increase in strikeouts by a bit, but a decrease in walks by 1.5 per 9.
Lamb has climbed the "Tommy John hill" that's sometimes a mountain for the past few seasons, waiting for velocity and command to return. The velocity seemed back in late last year and this year as Lamb was clocked as high as 96 MPH, but this year it seems the command has returned too.
Lamb was once the 11th best prospect in baseball (per Baseball Prospectus) so if you believe in past lives, maybe something still exists inside of Lamb from his pre-Tommy John glory.
There are concerns of course.
First, we need to remember that Lamb of course has had Tommy John surgery, and the best predictor of future injury is past injury.
Most importantly though we have to remember that his is just 84 innings. Lamb has spent part of 7 seasons in the minor leagues since his debut. He's pitched in AAA for 3 straight years as well. While this year is nice, Lamb still has 154 prior AAA innings where he walked nearly 4 1/2 batters per 9 and struck out 8.2 per 9. Maybe the command is fully back, but ~50% of his AAA innings have been worse than these past 84 innings.
Lamb isn't really old or young for AAA in a vacuum I suppose. He's old because was a high school draftee out of Laguna Hills (Rob Refsnyder of the Yankees, who just got called up, will beat Lamb as the first player from there to play in the MLB) and yet he's the age (just turned 25) of some college guys in AAA and the MLB. He's young though if you believe in development age as his surgery cost him half of 2011 and basically all of 2012. So in that sense he's maybe only 23ish. That's still not young for someone in AAA necessarily, but Lamb hit a giant road block with surgery.
This article is basically 500 words on being cautious about Lamb. He's probably going to get a chance in the majors league soon, something we all expected would have happened by now already if things went smoother than they did. However players have good stretches, and though Lamb's Tommy John can be an explanation for the previous cold stretches, we should remember that players often hit the proverbial wall in AAA where the tools and results don't always match up one way or the other. Fangraphs depth chart projections has Lamb with a 5+ ERA and FIP out of the bullpen, which you would expect a worst result out of the rotation.
I'm not quite on the side that thinks Lamb is ready, but I've been wrong way more often than I'd like and sometimes I'm okay with that.