The KC Royals rotation has pitched poorly through the first six weeks of the season with a 4.46 ERA (23rd in MLB). Rumors are flying that the Kansas City Royals are scouting other teams for pitching to help the rotation. Maybe the Royals shouldn’t be looking so hard. The solution could be at AAA Omaha in former top prospect John Lamb.
The 24-year-old John Lamb was once one of the most prized prospects in baseball. In 2011, Baseball Prospectus ranked Lamb the no. 11 prospect in MLB, while Baseball America considered him no. 18. However, he tore his ulnar collateral ligament early that season and struggled to recover his velocity.
This spring, however, four years after his injury, John Lamb finally got his fastball back. He lit up the radar gun in Surprise, Arizona at 93.74 mph this spring. Though he was sent down to AAA, Lamb has thrived in Omaha. Lamb has a 3-1 record, and a nifty 2.89 ERA.
More telling is that John Lamb is missing bats. After a K/9 rate of only 5.6 in 2013, Lamb improved to 8.5 in 2014. He is now at a 9.0 K/9 so far in 2015. Not only are the strikeouts up, his command has improved from a 4.4 BB/9 in 2014, to 3.3 BB/9 in 2015.
Lamb is also well-seasoned at the minor-league level. He has pitched seven years in the KC Royals system, including all of 2014 and five starts this season at AAA Omaha.
The KC Royals, however, first called up Aaron Brooks (who pitched May 15) when they needed pitching help. They then sent Brooks down after one relief appearance, and brought up 11-year major league veteran Joe Blanton on May 17 to take on a long-relief role. Blanton might be in Kansas City in part because he had an opt out clause in his contract if the KC Royals did not call him up by May 15.
If the KC Royals are looking for “inexpensive” rotation help, it seems to make more sense to first try John Lamb before seeking help on the trade market. I also prefer Lamb to a low-pedigree prospect like Brooks, who was only a 9th round pick with a bottom-of-the-rotation upside, or a pitcher like Blanton, who hasn’t put up a league-average season since 2009.
The KC Royals obviously will need rotation help if Danny Duffy (5.87 ERA), Yordano Ventura (5.36 ERA), Jeremy Guthrie (5.44 ERA), and Jason Vargas (5.26 ERA and currently on the disabled list) don’t start pitching better.
Long reliever Chris Yonng (0.74 ERA) could take one rotation spot, but more help will be needed to stabilize the KC Royals rotation if the incumbent starts fail to improve soon.
Why not bring up a guy like John Lamb that you once believed to have top-of-the-rotation potential?