Feb 24, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher John Lamb poses for a portrait during photo day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Maturation of John Lamb

When looking ahead at the Royals starting rotation in 2015, it is easy to envision that Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer will play prominent roles. Jason Vargas will likely be in the second or third starter spot, depending on the development of Ventura and Duffy. Jeremy Guthrie will be in the rotation as well, filling all five spots. As Alan said a couple of weeks ago, the Royals rotation for 2015 may already be established.

The one problem with predicting the future is that things can change dramatically. While that projecting rotation is likely to be what the Royals send out in 2015, other pitchers could step in and force themselves into the rotation. Alan listed Aaron Crow, Donnie Joseph and Chris Dwyer as pitchers that could force their way into the rotation, but there may be another pitcher that could enter the conversation. That pitcher is none other than former top prospect John Lamb.

Feb 21, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher John Lamb (38) poses for a picture during photo day at the Royals Spring Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Lamb looked as though he was on the cusp of being the pitcher the Royals envisioned, putting together a 10-7 record with a 2.38 ERA combined over three stops in 2010. Then, after eight solid starts for Northwest Arkansas, Lamb injured his elbow, undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2011.

His comeback from the surgery has been less than successful. Instead of being the dominant pitcher that he was, John Lamb became extremely hittable, getting pummeled in the minors over the past two seasons. Even more alarming, the velocity on his fastball decreased by approximately ten miles per hour. It was fair to wonder if Lamb would even be a back of the rotation starter.

Yet, there may be hope for Lamb after all. He has started to work out, changing his diet and improving his nutrition. Back when he was a highly touted prospect, Lamb said that he typically did nothing all winter.

“Poor eating habits to poor working out. I wouldn’t say I was a completely lazy human being or baseball player; I was more baseball-inclined,” Lamb said. “I would do anything on the baseball field you’d ask me to do and loved to do it. But when it came to weight-lifting or anything like that, I just never really grasped the importance.”

Perhaps this is the change that John Lamb needed. After getting roughed up at Wilmington last season to the tune of a 4-12 record and a 5.63 ERA, he may have finally realized that baseball is not as easy as he thought. Perhaps now, Lamb can regain at least a portion of the velocity that he lost, and get back to being the pitcher that the Royals envisioned. This wake up call could be the biggest step for Lamb, and a vital step in the maturation process.

Lamb is only going to 24 this year, so he still has plenty of time left to regain his status as a prospect. If he has a successful 2014 campaign, it may be possible that John Lamb can force his way into the discussion for the Royals rotation in 2015.

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