Imagine if you will, you’re a high school senior that is being scouted by major league baseball teams. You live in California where there are hot shot prospects around every corner. You’re minding your own business driving down a peaceful avenue, enjoying the sun and then BAM! You get in a car accident breaking your elbow on your throwing arm. Think your career is done or your going to be toiling in a less prestigious university? Not if your name is John Lamb. The Royals took a gamble in the fourth round and drafted a possible first round draft pick before the injury. Lamb throws an 88 to 93 mph fastball, a possible plus-curveball and a solid changeup. These pitches come from a compact delivery that is quite deceptive and easily repeatable. The best part, Baseball America said, “Scouts praise his veteran demeanor … [pitches like a veteran and don't get rattled easily].” He projects as a number three starter and John Sickel’s preseason prediction was that he was “poised for a breakthrough” during the 2010 season. This year, his stats are as follows (at Class Low-A he threw 40 IP, at Class High-A he threw 74 2/3 IP and at Class Doulbe-A he threw 33 IP):
2010 Stats: 9.7 K/9 | 2.7 BB/9 | 147 2/3 IP | 2.38 ERA | 2.73 FIP | 1.13 WHIP | .3 Hr/9 | 7.4 H/9 | .305 BABIP | 42 GB% | 12 LD% | 36.5 FB% | 3.2 Hr/FB%
Career Stats: 9.6 K/9 | 2.7 BB/9 | 216 1/3 IP | 2.83 ERA | 3.18 FIP | 1.13 WHIP | .5 Hr/9 | 7.4 H/9 | .293 BABIP | 41.7 GB% | 11.2 LD% | 37.9 FB% | 5.4 Hr/FB%
What a year for Royal farmhands. Lamb is being considered for Baseball America’s pitcher of the year. Although he didn’t perform well at Double-A (5.45 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 10.1 H/9, .5 Hr/9, 7.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, .345 BABIP), there is a lot to be excited about. Hitters weren’t making solid contact (12 LD%), he wasn’t aided by luck (.305 BABIP), the walks were kept in check (2.7 BB/9 for career and season), and his strikeouts are what top prospects should have. One the flip side, his home run per fly ball rate is quite low and without a higher groundball rate, we will see an increase in batted balls crossing the outfield fences. Expect him to be more of a fly ball pitcher than a ground ball pitcher. Could be 2011’s Kris Medlen. In dynasty leagues, he could be found on the cheap and could provide big upside if the hype doesn’t catch on.
Mesoraco shouldn’t be a familiar name, his production in the minors has been abysmal until this year and his hype has dropped considerably since drafted back in 2007. When he was drafted, he was considered a toolsy catcher, one who possessed a plus-bat, had great defensive potential and was quite the athlete. In Baseball America 2009, they ranked him the tenth overall Reds prospect. However, in all his minor league seasons prior to this year, he has battled at least a hand or wrist injury. Most of you know, a hitter with a bad hand or wrist spells disaster. Even throughout these injury plagued seasons, Mesoraco showed decent plate discipline and some raw power, too bad prior to 2010, not a single scout outside of the Reds organization thought of him beyond minor league depth (according to both John Sickels and Baseball America). How did he perform this year (Class High-A Carolina League(158 AB) Class Double-A 187 AB | Class Triple A (52 AB):
2010 Stats: .302/.377/.587 | 397 AB | 56 XBH | 26 Hr | .285 ISO | 3/3 SB/CS | 80:43 K:BB | .327 BABIP | 37.2 GB% | 16.5 LD% | 46.3 FB%
Career Stats: .261/.334/.444 | 1152 AB | 115 XBH | 44 Hr | .183 ISO | 7/7 SB/CS | 246:113 K:BB | .299 BABIP | 43.2 GB% | 15.6 LD% | 41.1 FB% |
John Sickels postseason review poured praises upon Mesoraco’s improvements calling them, “genuine,” and currently a “B+” graded prospect. Quite the improvement from his lowest grade – a “C.” The Carolina League is known to be a pitchers’ league, and the Southern League is the moderate Double-A league, thus, his numbers are legit minus a few slight realistic expectations. His age wasn’t necessarily out of line with his play level, but highly drafted prospects typically play a year or two above their age. The power was finally apparent – helps that he wasn’t battling hand/wrist injuries too – the two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio is fantastic and his luck (.327 BABIP) wasn’t outrageous. Still, a word of warning (ok, phrase of warning): small sample size. He’ll have to perform again in 2011 to sustain my interest. Even if he becomes the next Mike Napoli, a catcher that you can plug-and-play and not worry about it is a great luxury. Could even be the next J.P. Arencibia.