Cincinnati Reds: Getting to Know John Lamb


Brandon Finnegan was the big name that the Cincinnati Reds got from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Johnny Cueto, but John Lamb could be the first of the trio of left-handed pitchers to make an impact at the major league level.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder was drafted by the Royals in the fifth round of the 2008 draft out of Laguna Hills High School (California) and quickly rose through the ranks of the organization’s farm system. Lamb went 5-3 with a 3.80 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in rookie ball during the 2009 season before a promotion to Low-A in 2010.

Lamb’s 2010 season got the attention of scouts everywhere. He started the season in Low-A Burlington and ended the year in Double-A Northwest Arkansas, posting a 2.38 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 159 strikeouts and 45 walks in 147.2 innings.

Before the 2011 season, Lamb was rated the No. 11 prospect in the game by Baseball America and No. 18 by Baseball Prospectus, lauded for his fastball-changeup combo and his command of the strike zone.

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Unfortunately, Lamb tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery after making just eight starts in 2011.

He worked his way back in late 2012, but he wasn’t the same, struggling to the tune of a 6.92 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 13 innings. Lamb spent the next year between High-A Wilmington and Triple-A Omaha, but things didn’t get any better for the southpaw, as he went 5-14 with a 5.80 ERA and saw his strikeout rate (7.1 K/9) drop to a career low.

Lamb bounced back a bit in 2014, but still couldn’t recapture his pre-surgery form. In 138.1 innings, he went 8-10 with a 3.97 ERA and 1.48 WHIP, walking a career-worst 4.4 batters per nine innings.

This year, Lamb has rejuvenated his career and it’s why the Reds traded for him. In 94.1 innings in Triple-A, Lamb is 9-1 with a 2.67 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. His strikeouts are on the rise again (up to 9.2 K/9 from 8.5 K/9 in 2014) and his walk numbers (2.8 BB/9) are back around his career average.

What’s led to his rebound season? According to Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, his fastball velocity is back.

"“For most of the next three seasons Lamb had to figure out how to succeed with significantly less arm speed. But this year some of that arm speed has come back. He now sits 88-93 mph, but he’ll touch 95 occasionally. More importantly he’s added a cutter that has quickly become a pitch that compensates for his still fringy curveball. His changeup isn’t as good as it was pre-injury but it’s an average offering as well.”"

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Watching Lamb’s development should be fascinating. At worst, he provides the organization with pitching depth and seven years of experience. At best, he continues to master his new pitch arsenal and becomes a stalwart in the middle of the Reds’ starting rotation. With the hardships Lamb has endured throughout his professional career, he’ll be an easy guy to root for.

For now, Lamb will report to Triple-A Louisville, but it may not be long until we see him pitching for Bryan Price‘s Reds.

Next: Getting to know Brandon Finnegan