If all goes according to plan for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Jake Lamb will claim the third base job this season and keep it for the foreseeable future.
The 25-year-old was one of the team’s better prospects during his time in the minor leagues, showing an ability to hit for average as well as power while playing solid defense at the hot corner.
Yet, his first two go-rounds at the MLB level did not go particularly well, as he hit just .230 with four home runs and 11 RBI in 126 at-bats in 2014 and then last season, after getting off to a torrid start before suffering a foot injury, finished with a .263 average along with six home runs and 34 RBI in 350 at-bats.
During spring training, Lamb explained how what he went through last season served as a learning experience with regards to handling adversity and bouncing back, believing he would return a better player in 2016.
He was not the only one to have that opinion, as last month MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg tabbed Lamb as a player who was primed to break out this season.
Well so far, so good.
Lamb is hitting .288 with two home runs and 10 RBI. He has notched five doubles, one triple and even stolen a base. His ninth-inning home run Monday night sent Arizona’s game with San Francisco into extra innings, where they won 9-7 in 11.
For the most part, he seems to be picking up where he left off before the injury last season, which is an exciting prospect for the D-backs.
Yet, according to Tony La Russa, Lamb’s surge is not really all that surprising given the kind of player he was billed as in the minor leagues.
“Jake was having a big year in Double-A when Andy Green was his manager,” La Russa said of Lamb back in 2014. That season, for Mobile, Lamb hit .318 with 14 home runs and 79 RBI in 439 at-bats. “When they talked about the fact that he would drive in the tough run.
For Mobile that season Lamb hit .318 with 14 home runs and 79 RBI in 439 at-bats.
“When they talked about the fact that he would drive in the tough run,” La Russa continued. “A left-hand hitter with power and a third baseman, plus defender, you say, ‘Wow, this a franchise kind of guy that you can build around.’ What Jake is doing, there is nothing that separates the production from the potential more than opportunities and at-bats.”
La Russa said Lamb quickly adjusts after making mistakes and has a strong connection with his hitting coaches, which should only help him as his career progresses.
While things are going well now, there will be stretches where he struggles. Quite simply, that’s baseball.
“We’re very excited about him,” La Russa said, before offering words of caution. “And here’s the reality that happens in all professional leagues: the study, the study, the study. The adjustments that the other side (makes). We’re going to come home and play Pittsburgh, well, they’re going to be watching tape on Jake and they’re going to try and do some things.
“And then if it works then he’s going to have to make adjustments to get to it or not swing at something, and he’s shown the kind of intelligence that goes with that talent.”