Jake Lamb is (maybe) the D-backs’ next Paul Goldschmidt

Jul 5, 2016, 12:36 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks pinch-hitter Jake Lamb follows the flight of his RBI-single off Colorado Rocki...
Arizona Diamondbacks pinch-hitter Jake Lamb follows the flight of his RBI-single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Chad Qualls in the eighth inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 25, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

It took him a little while, but Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb may have discovered his own wealth of potential.

In fact, Lamb has played so well in 2016, the case could be made that he’s catching up to his teammate, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

In 2016, the 25-year-old is hitting .290 – as is Goldschmidt – and is leading the D-backs with 59 RBI, 19 home runs, 19 doubles, six triples, and a .974 OPS. In those categories, respectively, Goldschmidt ranks second, second, third, sixth and second on the D-backs.

What’s most impressive? Not only is Lamb second in the major leagues with a .609 slugging percentage behind only Boston’s David Ortiz, 11 of his 19 home runs were either go-ahead or game-tying.

Granted, Goldschmidt isn’t having a career year. After hitting .312 with 52 home runs and making two starts in the All-Star game over the last two years, Goldschmidt has regressed slightly in 2016. There is no doubt that Goldschmidt is still the far superior player, and has proved himself much further than Lamb has.

Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no room for discussion.

Lamb’s professional career started with three fruitful seasons in the minor leagues. He hit .321 with 37 home runs and 195 RBI in 247 minor league games. In 2014, he was the MVP of the Double-A Southern League, as was Goldschmidt in 2011.

Through 225 career games, Lamb is hitting .267 with 29 home runs and 104 RBI. Through Goldschmidt’s first 225 games (he now has played 704), his average was at .278 with 34 home runs and 132 RBI. Those numbers have a healthy lead over Lamb, but it’s not huge. Also, Goldschmidt got off to a much better start to his career than Lamb did. In other words, if Lamb can keep up the production he’s showing now, he could make up for that lost ground.

Lamb made his major league debut in Aug. 2014, and went on to play 37 games that year, hitting just .230 with four home runs. He saw nearly triple that playing time in 2015, improving only slightly to .263 with six home runs in 107 games (he was hitting .414 through 10 games before missing 42 games with a fractured foot).

Lamb is now playing his first season in which he’s been fully healthy (so far) and can boast previous major league experience. In doing so, he’s been red hot.

There are two glaring areas in particular where Lamb’s production falls behind Goldschmidt: stolen bases and defense. The former is a measurement of what some see as an unnecessary risk, the latter is a highly important but often-unnoticed part of a player’s game. Lamb’s .962 career fielding percentage and zero Gold Gloves are a far cry from Goldschmidt’s .996 and two; in that respect, Lamb has a lot left to prove.

It could be that Lamb is just on a hot streak. Or, it could be that he’s proving that the D-backs can eventually boast a trio of Goldschmidt, Lamb and A.J. Pollock that will be both respected and feared around the league. What we know for sure is that this season, Lamb has been the D-backs’ most productive (and clutch) offensive weapon, and appears to have tapped into the talent that once made him one of the team’s most highly-touted prospects.

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