We continue Red Reporter's player-by-player look at the 2015 Cincinnati Reds. We'll profile every player who got time for the Reds this year, and will imagine their tenure with the Reds going forward.
By the Numbers
10 GS, 49.2 IP, 5.80 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 10.5 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 38% GB%
John Lamb got his first taste of big league action last year, and the back-of-baseball-card numbers aren't pretty. The ERA and WHIP are downright scary to look at, plus he went 1-5 in the W-L columns, though for one thing who cares, and for another thing, we are talking about a starter who had to play for the end-of-year 2015 Reds, so that's not very fair. Look a little deeper though, and there are reasons for optimism. The K-rate, for example, matches former rookie phenom Tony Cingrani in his breakout year, with a walk rate twice as good! But Lamb also has pitches he can throw besides a fastball, and even for strikes, so ostensibly he is not destined to follow the same career path as the oft-injured Cingrani. Which is good!
2015 in Review
Lamb didn't set the world on fire in his rookie campaign (though technically, he still has rookie eligibility next year by the skin of his teeth - missing the cutoff by a single out). But I mentioned some reasons for optimism, so let's delve into those. First, his very good K rates from his minor league career manifested as an excellent K rate in MLB. The walk rate was fine. One reason the ERA looks so bad is because Lamb gave up a bunch of hits, but one of the reasons he gave up so many hits is because the defense was sub-par by mid August and September and Lamb suffered a .376 BABIP. That's going to come way down. Another reason Lamb had such an unsightly ERA is because he was HR-prone. Unfortunately, that could continue going forward, because Lamb is a flyball pitcher. Hopefully it won't continue at the rate of 1.5 HR/9. However, several other pitchers have learned to greatly increase their groundballing ways in recent Reds years under Price and the subsequent pitching coaches, and perhaps Lamb can follow suit to some degree.
One of my favorite things to watch from Lamb was his changeup. He gets great separation on the velocity from his fastball and his changeup, and he sells the pitch well with his arm action. A lefty can get by with a 91 MPH fastball with a secondary pitch like that. His curveball (which is a very big, slow breaking version) and his cutter were his most effective pitches last year by results. With command and pitching feel, that's a good enough arsenal to compensate for a hittable fastball.
Lamb was a once-touted prospect who fell in general perception largely due to injury, not to poor performance at any level. I hope he gets the opportunity to showcase his talent in the rotation in 2016 because I think there's mid-rotation potential. There will be plenty of competition for that rotation spot, so he will probably have to perform decently in the preseason to win it. At 25 years old, now is his time to grab the opportunity or potentially see it pass him by. In that case, he still has value to the team in the form of rotation depth for injuries, or in the bullpen, especially since his service-time clock has barely even started. He has given us flashes of his ability, now he has to prove whether he can perform at that level consistently.
Chance of making 2016 Reds opening day roster: 70%