Selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the sixth round of the 2012 draft out of the University of Washington, Jake Lamb made an immediate impact during his professional debut in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, batting .329/.390/.539 with 36 extra-base hits (nine home runs) in 315 plate appearances.
As a result of his overwhelming success, the Diamondbacks assigned Lamb to High-A Visalia for the 2013 season, bypassing the Low-A level in the process. Unfazed by the more advanced competition, the 23-year-old continued to rake in the hitter-friendly California League, posting a .287/.415/.558 batting line with eight home runs and 43-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his first 37 games.
Lamb suffered a broken hamate bone in his right wrist June 1 that sidelined him for roughly two months, but thankfully the injury didn’t impact his performance following his return to Visalia in early August. In fact, August was actually Lamb’s most productive month of the season, as he batted .351/.461/.606 with five home runs and 23 RBI in 25 games.
Overall, Lamb played in 64 games last year for Visalia and posted a .303/.424/.558 batting line with 20 doubles, 13 home runs and a 70-48 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 283 plate appearances.
Lamb possesses more strength than his 6’2”, 200-pound build suggests, as he’s a legit plus defender at third base with excellent range and above-average arm strength, as well as the agility and athleticism to stick at the position long term.
At the dish, he has a smooth and compact left-handed swing, with a mature approach that caters to his strong on-base skills. He consistently works deep counts and projects for average or better hit tool at maturity. Lamb also stands out for his ability to hit same-side pitching over the last two seasons, evidenced by his career .290/.414/.427 (.407 BABIP) batting line against left-handers in 162 plate appearances.
While Lamb’s bat and glove both profile favorably at the highest level, it’s difficult to envision him becoming an everyday player without developing more consistent over-the-fence pop. However, the 23-year-old did take a big step forward last year in that department—albeit in the California League—as 13 of his 70 hits left the yard. Also, of those 13 home runs, only five were hit to his pull side, which suggests he has considerable untapped power.
After his strong showing in the Arizona Fall League (.802 OPS in 21 games), Lamb should begin the 2014 season at Double-A Mobile but likely spend the entire year there so as to gain experience against more age-appropriate competition. However, he will have an opportunity to improve his stock this spring in major league camp. As arguably the fourth-best third baseman in the organization, he’ll see decent playing time once exhibition games begin.
Lamb should continue to make progress at the plate next season in Double-A if he can stay healthy. And if everything goes as planned, then there’s a realistic chance he’ll receive his first taste of the major leagues the following year.
Video courtesy of MLB Advanced Media, MLB.com