Today we continue our top five Purple Row Prospects (PuRPs) for the mid-season 2018. In case you missed it, here are prospects 30-26, prospects 25-21, prospects 20-16, prospects 15-11, and prospects 10-6. Garrett Hampson began the top five, Ryan Rolison was revealed as number four, and yesterday Colton Welker took the third position. As a reminder, in this edition of the PuRPs poll, 31 ballots were cast, with 30 points granted for a first place vote, 29 for second, etc.
2. Peter Lambert (893 points, 31 ballots) — Preseason Ranking: 5 — High Ballot 2, Mode Ballot 2
How did he enter the organization?
2015 2nd Round, San Dimas (CA) HS [Football Rules!]
Why did he make the PuRPs list?
Lambert has put together arguably the best campaign of a Rockies minor league pitcher this year across two levels. The 21-year-old righthander is already knocking down the door to the big leagues in AAA Albuquerque after pitching well at every minor league stop so far. After handling him with kid gloves his first few professional seasons, the Rockies have turned Lambert loose this season and he’s rewarded them with a breakout campaign that now has Lambert ranked among baseball’s best prospects.
Lambert started the year in Hartford, but it quickly became clear that the 6’2” hurler could handle the Eastern League just fine against competition that was 3.4 years older on average. In 15 starts with the Yard Goats, Lambert allowed two or fewer earned runs in 12 of them, including nine quality starts. Over 92 2⁄3 innings at the level, Lambert posted a sterling 2.23 ERA (3.04 FIP) paired with a 7.3 K/9 rate and 1.2 BB/9 rate.
Promoted to Albuquerque in late June, Lambert has spun two more quality starts among his four at the AAA level against Pacific Coast League hitters who are 5.6 years older on average. He has a 3.68 ERA (3.95 FIP) despite allowing a .386 BABIP so far with nine strikeouts and three walks in 22 innings pitched with the Isotopes. That’s an impressive year for a player who is the same age as many of the college juniors that were just drafted in this year’s MLB draft.
What do the scouts say?
Lambert is praised by scouts for his command of his arsenal and likelihood to remain in the starting rotation at the big league level.
Keith Law is the high man on Lambert, moving him all the way up to 39th in minor league baseball (2nd in the system) on Law’s mid-season top 50 update:
Lambert is a super competitor who fills the strike zone with four pitches, touching 4s and 5s but sitting in the low 90s, still showing some projection left to see his stuff improve but succeeding in double-A Hartford this year even with a lot of average offerings. He’s in Triple-A Albuquerque, one of the worst pitcher’s parks in organized baseball, right now, and has struggled with contact in his two outings there - but that park and division are unkind to nearly all pitchers. Since a three-walk outing on April 14th, he has walked eight batters in total in 94.1 innings
Lambert shows the potential for four pitches that could be at least solid. His fastball sits at 92-94 mph and peaks at 96, and he keeps it off barrels with sink, angle and very good command. His tumbling changeup may be his most consistent plus pitch, though his low-80s curveball can be even better than that at times.
Last year, Lambert added a slider that can reach the mid-80s and continues to improve as he throws it more. He repeats his clean delivery with efficiency and uses his high three-quarters arm slot to pound the bottom of the strike zone. He looks like a future No. 3 starter and perhaps more if he can get stronger and add more velocity.
Lambert receives grades of 50 or higher for all of his offerings with a 60 for the change-up and his control.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs offered a less enthusiastic take on Lambert in May when he ranked him 10th in the system as a 45 FV prospect:
Lambert was an advanced high-school pitcher who’d use his four-pitch mix like a multi-year veteran, running his changeup back across the outside corner against righties and throwing his breaking ball for strikes when he’d fall behind. These skills are useful when you have a fringe fastball, which will likely cap Lambert’s ceiling to that of a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.
Lambert is up to 8th in the system in their mid-season update, but he still carries that 45 FV tag.
Similarly bearish on Lambert pre-season was Baseball Prospectus, who ranked him 7th in Colorado’s system with a 55 OFP and 50 Likely role tag. Here’s Wilson Karaman on Lambert:
The Good: 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: 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.
Here’s some tape on Lambert courtesy of Baseball Census from last September:
When’s he going to get to the Rockies and how good will he be once he’s there?
Lambert is an advanced pitcher who has pitched well as one of the youngest players in his league at every level up to AAA. 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’d expect Lambert to start 2019 with Albuquerque again as the Rockies have the luxury of some good starting pitcher depth with more than five strong options at the big league level and therefore don’t need to start Lambert’s option years until they want to call him up to the Show. Then again, it’s not out of the question that Lambert could be an option as soon as this September if the need arises.
The floor has gotten higher with Lambert and the ceiling has risen a bit as well as the results have improved against upper level competition, which is why Lambert comfortably ranks second on this PuRPs list. I was one of the many to rank him 2nd, with a 55 FV as a #2/3 starter at the big league level.
★ ★ ★
The number one PuRP gets unveiled tomorrow. It’s exactly who you think it is, but please read anyway!