11. Peter Lambert (737 points, 38 ballots)
The Rockies took Peter Lambert with the 44th overall pick in the 2015 draft out of San Dimas High School (San Dimas high school football rules!) and put him on the development path that the prior year’s second rounder and fellow PuRP Ryan Castellani had followed. Namely, the Rockies have handled the righty very carefully to date, only allowing Lambert to eclipse five innings in one start this past July and never allowing his pitch count to go above 90.
After Lambert had a successful professional debut season for Grand Junction in 2015, the Rockies assigned the 19-year-old hurler to Low A Asheville where he was among the youngest players in the league—facing hitters that were on average 2.9 years older than him. In a tough environment, Lambert held his own in 126 innings spread over 26 starts.
Lambert's 3.93 ERA for the Tourists in 2016 year was even more impressive if you consider that over a point of that ERA can be traced to one dreadful outing. In all, 21 of Lambert's 26 starts have seen him allow three runs or fewer—and 10 of those starts saw him allow zero or one run. Overall, Lambert had a sterling 3.31 FIP for the Tourists that is complemented by a 1.25 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9.
That's pretty good for a prospect who might actually just be three children stacked on top of each other.
Baseball Prospectus placed Lambert 9th in the system, making them the high publication on him:
The Good: Lambert is a remarkably advanced arm for a 19-year-old ... Lambert already shows above-average fastball command, and the changeup is his best pitch. He’s confident enough with it to work backwards off the cambio, and it’s been an out pitch for him in the low minors. The fastball sits in the low 90s, but it plays up at present due to his ability to spot it down in the zone to both sides of the plate. His delivery is repeatable and balanced throughout, and there are no red flags regarding his ability to start.
The Bad: The overall arsenal is only average. He may lack a swing-and-miss pitch at higher levels. The body is still immature, but significant stuff gains are unlikely despite some physical projection remaining. He may be what he is. Present-day fastball/change combo will be too much for A-ball hitters, but command will need to make the stuff play up at higher levels. The slider can miss barrels, but won’t miss bats without more two-plane action. The curve is a loopy, show-me, steal a strike pitch that he casts.
The Risks: Lambert has the pitchability—and honestly the stuff as well—to not be too troubled by low minors hitters. There isn’t much projection in the stuff though, despite his still being a teenager, so the command will really have to be plus for this to work at higher levels. And there is the matter of being a pitcher and what not.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Lambert 14th in the system:
Lambert deploys average stuff with mature sequencing. He pitched well in the South Atlantic League this year at nearly three years younger than the average Sally Leaguer. He’ll sit 88-92 and touch 93 or 94 with plane, but very little horizontal movement, because of Lambert’s vertical arm slot. He’s able to command all of his pitches to both sides of the plate despite a little bit of a head whack. The delivery is simple and lacks explosion, but it works fine and allows Lambert to pound the strike zone.
While he deploys four pitches, the pitch with the most projection is the changeup. It’s already average and Lambert locates and sequences it beautifully, at times running it back onto the outside corner against right-handed hitters. He also has a low-80s fringe-average slider and a loopy, below-average curveball in his utility belt. Neither projects as a plus pitch, but they’re effective in concert with the rest of the repertoire.
Lambert’s body has very little projection. He’s a well-built 6-foot-2, but there isn’t room for much more. I don’t anticipate more velocity coming, and Lambert’s future will probably be heavily dictated by whether or not one of his breaking balls takes a step forward. He has an outside shot at plus-plus command as well. He profiles as more of a fifth starter.
Lambert has the potential for three solid or better pitches once he's fully developed. His curveball is his best present offering, a 79-82 mph breaker with depth, and his high-three-quarters arm slot helps him stay on top of it consistently. With little effort in his delivery, he sits at 88-93 mph and touches 95 with his fastball, which features good downhill plane and some life.
Lambert also demonstrates advanced feel for his tumbling changeup and isn't afraid to use it. He has sound mechanics and repeats them well, allowing him to throw strikes and work the bottom of the strike zone. He projects as a mid-rotation starter with the upside for more if he adds velocity as he gets stronger.
Finally, John Sickels of Minor League Ball put him 11th in the system:
Average fastball velocity at 89-93 MPH, can touch a bit higher at his best; mixes in curveball, slider, change-up; grades for all secondaries depend on your source, some say the curve and change-up are plus, some say they are below-average; all agree he throws strikes and is more mature than typical for his age; given youth could develop in several different ways although huge velocity gains unlikely given 6-2, 185 build.
To summarize: though Lambert is often paired with Castellani due to their similar minor league journeys, Lambert is a much more polished pitcher, though one with lower upside and who is a year farther away. He’s also someone who I’m worried about being able to get more advanced hitters out as he moves up the minor league ladder, especially in High A Lancaster, a tough pitching environment. That’s why Castellani ranks higher among the electorate.
With that said, Lambert is an advanced pitcher who was great as one of the youngest players in a hitting-friendly league. His plus command and mature feel for pitching mean he’s less likely to need a conversion to the bullpen, and he does still have time on his side. I anticipate Lambert being ready to contribute to the Rockies as rotation depth within three years. I ranked him 10th on my personal list and gave him a 50 FV as an average big league contributor, the first PuRP listed thus far to receive that grade.