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We came in contact with a scout who saw John Lamb four times last season and offered up some detailed thoughts on the Royals' young pitching prospect. Before we get rolling, don't forget to check our sponsors to get your fill of sports information and, if betting is your thing, bet on sports in BetUS.
The 145th overall pick of the 2008 draft, Lamb received a favorable review from Perfect Game in 2007, praised for his easy, balanced delivery, velocity, ability to take a finesse approach to pitching and fastball movement. He did not pitch the summer he was drafted due to injuries caused by a car accident. Lamb's 2009 Rookie ball numbers were impressive, but his 2010 High-A performance is what really put him on the mainstream prospect radar.
Like the majority of starting pitchers, Lamb throws mostly fastballs. His four-seamer has late, arm-side run -- it's very good, natural movement -- and sits in the low-90s. He can crank it up to 94 MPH and will add and subtract velocity based on if he's trying to get movement or blow a hitter away. His two-seamer has some boring and sinking action and will range from 87 MPH to the low-90s. But his four-seamer moves enough that he doesn't need to throw many two-seamers. Lamb gets ahead in the count regularly by attacking hitters with his fastball. He has excellent fastball command. It's a plus pitch.
He throws his 77-81 MPH changeup with excellent deception. Consistently able to pound the bottom of the zone, he releases the pitch on a good, downhill plane. He has good changeup command. It's also a plus offering.
Here's the weakness and the primary reason his strikeout rate took a tumble from High-A to Double-A. Lamb lacks feel for his breaking ball. What he has now is a show pitch that's below-average. Slurvey without the tight, hard rotation needed to put advanced hitters away, it's a slow sweeping pitch that he has trouble locating. Hitters have time to identify it and react as it floats in.
One of the only critiques Perfect Game had about Lamb back in 2007 was that he could benefit from a harder breaking ball. He didn't start throwing his curveball until he was 16 and this pitch has improved drastically over the past two years. There's reason to hold out hope that it could become an average pitch some day. But it's not a given that he'll be able to learn to snap off a better curveball.
That said, what he has now is a usable offering, as you can see from the top left GIF below. It's not as if it's so bad that he's going to be limited to being a two-pitch pitcher. Lamb has just performed and impressed scouts enough to get looked at under the microscope. And his breaking ball is an element of his game that he'll need to improve upon in order to become a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Check out the second GIF below (going clockwise). I believe Lamb was trying to throw a curveball with more horizontal movement than normal. Note how he drops his arm slot from the 3/4 that he uses to throw the curveball in the top left GIF to near sidearm. The scout I spoke with brought up that he thought Lamb should consider adding a cut fastball. Perhaps Lamb could benefit from repetitions from a consistent arm slot. It's possible that he could learn to cut his fastball well enough to make his other offerings play up and get more swing-throughs.
Very competitive, Lamb has an advanced understanding of the game and the drive and passion to succeed. He maintains outstanding poise on the mound, level-headed and unfazed by the stresses that can come with pitching.
I haven't seen Lamb live, but the scout I talked to said his delivery is very easy and he repeats it well. I like the drive he gets off the rubber and his long stride. He does have some hyperabduction as he drives toward the plate, but he gets his throwing arm up into the driveline prior to footplant. There are pitchers with cleaner mechanics than Lamb. Based on what I see in the GIFs below, I don't consider him an above-average or below-average risk going forward. He's in the middle for me.
If you haven't read our stuff before, know that we're all about video and providing visual evidence to supplement our reports. The GIFs below were created from video shot by Lamb's father on March 25, 2010. The upper left one is his curveball. The one to the upper right is a curve from a lower arm slot. The bottom one is his fastball.
Lamb is already well on his way toward becoming at least an average MLB starter. I love the movement on his fastball and that he pitches aggressively with it. His command of two plus pitches (FB and CH) paired with his advanced understanding of pitching make him a near lock to pitch in the big leagues, so long as he can stay healthy. If he can continue to improve his curveball, he could surface as a top-of-the-rotation starter. He'll likely be inside the top 30 when we release our 2011 top 100 prospect list next week.
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