Royals Option John Lamb, Reassign Seven Others to Minor League Camp

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Photo courtesy of: Minda Haas

The first round of Spring Training cuts have taken place, and John Lamb found himself among the casualties. The 24-year old southpaw was optioned to Triple-A Omaha, where he will hope to build on his successful 2014 campaign, in which he had a 3.97 ERA and 8.5 strikeouts per 9 in 138.1 innings of work.

The Royals also reassigned seven other players to minor league camp: top prospects Sean Manaea and Miguel Almonte, along with Scott Alexander, Christian Binford, Zane Evans, Cameron Gallagher, and Chris Dwyer.

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Lamb came into camp with a very small shot at heading north as one of the team’s lefty relievers, but with so many other strong contenders, the organization must have felt he would be better off remaining in a starting role. If the recent readings of his velocity are accurate, that could work out quite well.

According to Brooks Baseball, Lamb’s fastball is averaging better than 93 MPH this spring, well above where it’s been in the past few years.  In my viewings of him last season, he mostly sat 87-90 with his fastball, occasionally touching 92. For a left-handed pitcher, that’s plenty of velocity, as long as it’s commanded well. Lamb did walk 4.4 batters per 9 innings last year, so that could be something else to watch.

When Lamb was ranked among the top 20 prospects in the game, his fastball was consistently between 90 and 95 MPH, which is part of why he was ranked among the top 20 prospects in the game. Lefties who throw that hard tend to be pretty good.

We all know the story from there. In 2011, Lamb underwent Tommy John surgery, and suffered various setbacks during that recovery. In 2013, his fastball wasn’t even touching 90 MPH, and he had a 5.63 ERA in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League. Lamb went from highly-touted prep, to super prospect, to post-hype status, all before his 23rd birthday.

I spoke to Lamb last year, and he said that he had worked with Royals coaches on his mechanics, and that seemed to have a positive effect. He obviously still has work to do, but last year appeared to be a step in the right direction, and there are some encouraging signs this spring, if the velocity reports are legit.

Granted, the Pitchf/x equipment in Surprise might be hot, and even though Brooks tends to do a good job correcting it, Lamb may not actually be throwing that hard. Even if he does dip back down closer to 90 or 91, he should still be able to get Triple-A hitters out. And who knows? At 24, Lamb still has time to turn into a major leaguer, even if his ceiling is nothing compared to what it was four years ago.

As for the other cuts, Manaea is dealing with an abdominal strain, but should be ready to go in time for the regular season, where he’ll likely be a rotation mate in Northwest Arkansas with Almonte and possibly Binford. All three of them could see time in Kansas City before the year is done. Alexander and Dwyer will be in the Storm Chasers’ bullpen, while Evans and Gallagher should split the catching duties for the Naturals.

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