It's time to reveal the top five of the midseason 2017 Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) list! The best of the best for a farm system that is down a little from this point last year due mostly to prospect graduations. Last week we revealed prospects 30-26, then prospects 25-21, prospects 20-16, prospects 15-11, and yesterday prospects 10-6. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 40 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc.
For each player on the PuRPs list, I'll include a link to individual stats (via Baseball-Reference), PuRPs voting stats, contract status (via Rockies Roster), a note on the 2017 season to date, and a scouting report from a national prospect writer. For what it's worth, I'll also include where I put each player on my personal ballot. All ages are as of the time the article was posted.
5. Peter Lambert (1,011 points, 40 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 11 — High Ballot 2, Mode Ballot 6
How did he enter the organization?
2015 2nd Round, San Dimas (CA) HS [Football Rules!]
Why did he make the PuRPs list?
After drafting him, the Rockies put Lambert on the development path that the prior year’s second rounder and fellow PuRP Ryan Castellani had followed. Namely, the Rockies handled the righty very carefully, rarely allowing Lambert to eclipse five innings and never allowing his pitch count to go above 90...until this year.
Last year, the Rockies assigned Lambert 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 with a 3.93 ERA (3.31 FIP), 1.25 WHIP, 7.7 K/9 rate, and 2.4 BB/9 rate.
This year, the 20-year-old righty hurler is again one of the youngest players in his league — this time the High A California League with Lancaster. Against players that are on average 3.1 years older in a tough pitching environment, Lambert has improved most of his key stats from last year. He’s thrown 116 innings in 20 starts, including five with over 90 pitches and 13 over five innings of work, and in that time he has a 3.80 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 rate, and 1.9 BB/9 rate. Lambert’s FIP has taken a step back (4.17), which is tied to a declining GB% (down 4% to 42%) and higher HR/FB% (up 4% to 10%).
What do the scouts say?
Before the year, Lambert was rated as a role 50 player with a 60 ceiling by 2080 Baseball, ranked 6th in the system ahead of Riley Pint and Kyle Freeland:
Lambert pitches in the low 90s with his fastball, regularly touching the 94-to-96 mph velo band, while showing comfort working both sides of the plate and driving the ball down in the zone. His upper-70s to low-80s curveball is an above-average offering at present, showing good shape and bite, and he can also turn over an above-average changeup with good tumble and a solid 8-to-12 mph velocity delta off the fastball.
Sturdily built, Lambert still has some physical projection left in his frame and should continue to see his physique tighten as the body matures. Given the progress the young righty has already made tightening and growing his arsenal, it’s possible there’s another half-grade jump to come across the board, which would put him at three above-average to plus offerings with an above-average command profile.
Baseball Prospectus was lower on Lambert, ranking him 9th in the system and giving him a likely role 40/OFP 50 projection. Their conclusion:
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.
Lambert has picked up more velocity as he has added upper-body strength, now working at 91-93 mph and hitting 96 with precocious command, good downhill plane and some sink. His low-80s curveball might give him his best chance at a plus offering, though it sometimes lacks consistency. He has made nice progress with his tumbling changeup and likes to use it.
With his ability to repeat his clean delivery and his high three-quarters arm slot, Lambert lives at the bottom of the strike zone. He could develop true plus command and emerge as a quality No. 3 starter. If he strengthens his lower half and adds more velocity, he could be better than that.
Here’s some video of Lambert from this year in Lancaster courtesy of the Prospect Pipeline:
When's he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he's there?
To summarize: though Lambert is often paired with Castellani due to their similar minor league journeys, Lambert is a much more polished pitcher. With that written, Lambert has lower upside and is a year farther away than Castellani. 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, but he’s allayed my fears somewhat with his performance this year in Lancaster. A repeat performance in Double A Hartford next year would really help set those concerns to rest.
With that said, Lambert is an advanced pitcher who has great two years in a row 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 two years, though 2020 is the most likely time. I ranked Lambert 6th on my personal list and gave him a 50 FV as an average big league contributor.
★ ★ ★
Stay tuned for our number four prospect for our midseason PuRPs list!