If you were to give out grades for minor leaguers in the Royals system last year, John Lamb would earn an “incomplete”.
Following a dynamic 2010 performance, Lamb opened up in Double A at the ripe old age of 20 years old. A brief stint at Northwest Arkansas in 2010 resulted in seven starts and a 5.45 ERA, but considering that Lamb opened the year at Low A Burlington as a 19-year-old, his struggles in Double A aren’t surprising.
He performed much better in 2011, achieving a 3.09 ERA in 35 innings.
Fortunately, modern science has allowed the procedure to develop from a desperate attempt to continue a career (as it was its namesake underwent the procedure originally) to a surgery that has a 95% effectiveness rate. Usually, players are shut down for a year before they can come back and extensive throwing programs are involved to regain arm strength. Rehabilitation is still a lot of work.
Lamb’s no stranger to this situation. He lost his senior season in high school after fracturing his left elbow in a car accident (which is part of the reason why he was available for the Royals to take a shot at him in the fifth round of the 2008 draft). Lamb has a reputation of a tough player with great poise, and that probably helps him through the process. Lamb’s surgery was performed by the same doctor who did Stephen Strasburg’s and the rehab program is designed by the same doctor as well.
According to his father, James (who is active on Twitter with updates on John here and there), Lamb has arrived in Arizona and has been given the go-ahead to start throwing. He’s probably still out until at least July, however.
When healthy, Lamb relies on solid command and a mix of pitches to get hitters out. His fastball velocity stays in the low 90s, but he can change speeds with it and get movement, according to a scouting report from Adam Foster. His changeup is solid, but his curve is still a work in progress. He has a smooth delivery (as you can tell from the animated gifs).
Going into 2011, Lamb was Baseball America’s 18th overall prospect. His stock takes a hit with his injury, but he was never a pitcher who relied on a blazing fastball, so that shouldn’t be an issue going forward. With the increased arm strength, he might even gain a little speed. The 2012 season is basically going to focus on getting him back into the game, keeping him healthy and regaining stamina. At least Lamb made big strides in advancing to Double A in 2010, so it doesn’t derail his timetable to the majors that much. With the right rehab and performance, he could still end up as a late-2013 callup.