By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
Jake Lamb, Third baseman, Arizona Diamondbacks
2015 season (Majors): 107 G, 350 AB, .263 BA, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 3 SB, .716 OPS
The Diamondbacks were the surprise stars of free agency this winter, swooping in to land former Dodgers ace Zack Greinke to a plush six-year, $206.5 million contract. Not only that, but they traded last year’s No. 1 Draft pick Dansby Swanson and a few other notable players for former Braves ace Shelby Miller, and added shortstop Jean Segura and reliever Tyler Clippard. The moves bolster a team that had one of the more under-the-radar lineups in baseball last year, but one of the biggest impact moves for Arizona this year could be the breakout of third baseman Jake Lamb.
Aside from a foot injury that caused him to miss more than a month, Lamb put together a pretty solid season at third base last year as he fought off the buzz surrounding last year’s Cuban signing Yasmany Tomas. While Tomas’ defense, or lack thereof, expedited his move to the outfield, Lamb’s strong play made the move a no-brainer. Showing a good eye at the plate, Lamb posted a .331 OBP and 9.2 BB%. The high OBP was no surprise, as he got on base at a .408 clip in four Minor League seasons, and he should continue to do so in his second full year with Arizona.
The foot injury that cost Lamb time last year also seemed to zap some of his power. Lamb had a .233 ISO at Double-A in in 2014 and a 255 ISO at Class A Advanced the previous year. He hit 15 homers in 108 games in ‘14 to go along with 39 doubles, so with that power potential, it was clear Lamb didn’t seem to be at his strongest last year.
Despite the lack of homers, Lamb still managed strong line-drive and hard-hit ball rates last year, and kept his swinging-strike percentage at more-than respectable levels (9.8%, down from 12.5 in 37 MLB games the year before).
If there were doubts about his health entering the year, Lamb seemed to have put them to rest this spring. He hit .404/.521/.684 with three homers, 15 RBIs and five doubles in 24 spring games, so the power has appeared to have already returned. Hitting behind the underrated David Peralta, who enjoyed a breakout season of his own for the D-backs last year, and one of the best hitters in baseball, Paul Goldschmidt, Lamb should have plenty of RBI opportunities this year to go along with hit 15-20-homer potential.
The injury to leadoff man AJ Pollock is a big blow to the entire club, but the emergence of Lamb near the middle of the order should be a boon. At just 25 years old entering his third year in the bigs, Lamb appears ready to stake his claim as the third baseman of the future on an exciting D-backs squad.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.