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Rockies pitching prospect Peter Lambert is as polished as he is young

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Lambert ranks No. 4 on the pre-season 2018 PuRP list

Connor Farrell

4. Peter Lambert (878 points, 34 ballots)

When 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!), they put him on the same development path of the prior year’s second rounder and fellow PuRP Ryan Castellani. Namely, the Rockies handled the 20-year-old righty very carefully, barely allowing Lambert to eclipse five innings and never allowing his pitch count to go above 90 until 2017, his third professional season.

After Lambert had a successful professional debut season for Grand Junction in 2015, the Rockies assigned the 6’2” pitcher 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. 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 was complemented by a 1.25 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9.

In 2017, Lambert was again one of the youngest players in his league: this time the High A California League with Lancaster. Against players that were on average 3.1 years older in a tough pitching environment, Lambert improved most of his key stats from 2016. He threw 14213 innings in 26 starts, including five with over 90 pitches and 16 over five innings of work. In that time he had a 4.17 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 rate, and 1.9 BB/9 rate. Lambert’s FIP took a step back (4.41), which is tied to a declining GB% (down 4% to 42%) and higher HR/FB% (up 5% to 11%), the latter of which was expected given the extreme home-run nature of the parks he was pitching in.

Here’s some video of Lambert from a postseason start in September 2017 courtesy of Baseball Census:

Keith Law of ESPN.com is decidedly the top man on Lambert, ranking him 3rd in Colorado’s system and placing him #63 overall in his top 100 prospect list. Here’s a selection of Law’s take on Lambert:

Lambert is a four-pitch guy who’ll touch 94-95 mph but sits mostly at 90-91 mph on a fastball he throws for strikes. He’s very athletic with some projection left in his body, so those 94s and 95s on the fastball should become more frequent as he gets older. He also mixes in an above-average changeup, a curveball and a cutter with potential for all four of his pitches to be average or better.

He had a tremendous year pitching for Lancaster -- one of the worst pitchers’ parks in baseball -- as a 19-year-old and actually boosted his strikeout rate and cut his walk rate even with the promotion from low-A. If he stays healthy, he looks like a good bet for a No. 4 starter floor but given his feel for pitching and athleticism, I believe he’ll keep improving enough to become an above-average starter after a little time in the majors.

Baseball Prospectus was more bearish on Lambert, ranking him 7th in Colorado’s system with a 55 OFP and 50 Likely role tag. Here’s Wilson Karaman on Lambert:

The Good: Pitchability righty, thy name is Peter Lambert. Lambert leverages every centimeter of his frame in service of generating plane, with a tall “phone booth” delivery and straight over-the-top arm slot to create a difficult angle for hitters to adjust to. You can make the case for at least three 55 pitches, led by a fastball that plays above its 89-92 gun readings and a tumbling change. He boosted the velo on all of his secondaries as the season progressed, and it worked to create a tunneling nightmare for hitters. The spin in particular took nice steps forward, with a rare slider now more closely resembling a cutter and the curve gaining some bite with a few extra ticks. There’s some stiffness to his delivery, but he repeats it extremely well, and he commands all four pitches.

The Bad: Pitchability righty, thy name is Peter Lambert. The stuff has its limitations, and he lacks for a finishing pitch that projects to miss bats consistently at the highest level. He’s a bit of a short-strider who lacks oomph from his lower half, and the fastball in particular can flatten out in a hurry when he’s not fine with his command to the lower portions of the zone.

The Risks: There’s a standard cap to the ceiling on a profile like Lambert’s, but that said, rare is the 20-year-old who displays his polish and consistency en route to dominating in Lancaster, of all places. It bodes well for future utility at Coors, or anywhere really, and the associated risk here is less than your typical prep arm who can’t drink yet.

Lambert received above average grades on all the pitching tools from MLB.com, who had Lambert 5th in the system:

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.

To summarize: though Lambert is often paired with Castellani due to their similar minor league journeys, Lambert is a much more polished pitcher who has gotten better results through the same point in their careers. With that written, Lambert has lower upside and is a year farther away than Castellani, but that upside gap is starting to close.

Lambert is an advanced pitcher who has been 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, leading me to rank Lambert 5th on my personal list. I anticipate Lambert being ready to contribute to the Rockies as rotation depth within two years, though 2020 is the most likely time frame.