The Arizona Diamondbacks were hoping Jake Lamb would take hold of the starting third base job last season.
He was just 24 years old and, if capable, would be able to lock down that position for years to come.
Things looked great early on for him, as he batted .414 with one home run, nine RBI and six walks in 10 games in April, but a stress reaction in his left foot sidelined him for about a month and a half and, when he returned to the field, did not come back with the same success.
In all, Lamb hit .263 with six home runs and 34 RBI. It’s a far cry from the pace he was on to start the season, and not at all where the young player wants to be.
“It was honestly a big learning experience,” Lamb told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday of battling back from injury and then struggling. “Everything was going great — I was off to a great start and then out of nowhere this foot thing came up and I think it was just I expected to, when I got back from injury, to go where I left off, and that’s really hard to do — especially at the level we play at.”
Lamb said he felt great all throughout his rehab and then in the minor league games he played in before getting back to the majors, which led to his expectations being a bit too high for how he’d play when he rejoined the D-backs.
“And I didn’t do it,” he said. “I started hearing people talk about it and people were asking me about it and I let that get to me a little bit, which I’ve never done in my career. I’m usually good at blocking that type of stuff out, but it kind of got to me a little bit.”
While not necessarily an elite prospect, Lamb was always productive in the minor leagues. In four seasons in Arizona’s farm system, he batted .321 with 37 home runs and 195 RBI, with an on-base percentage of .408 and an OPS of .960.
With just 476 big league at-bats under his belt there is still plenty of learning Lamb can do, and he said last year helped teach him that there will be ups and downs over the course of a 162-game season. While a disappointing season, he said it “no doubt” will lead to him being a better player going forward.
Even without his bat, Lamb has still proven to be a pretty solid defender at third, which is something that cannot be discounted when evaluating the player. Had he appeared in enough games at the position, his .973 fielding percentage would have ranked second among qualified players at third base, and his range is comparable to that of Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, who is someone Lamb said he follows.
At any rate, Lamb said he’s aware of the perception that he’s an elite defender, but added his only goal is to keep improving.
“But it’s always cool when people say that or bring up the stats or something like that, it’s cool to hear sometimes.”
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