Welcome to the 2023 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2023. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 16, Peter Lambert: 0.5 rWAR
Ever since he entered the Colorado Rockies system in 2015, there was a strong belief from management that they had a viable big league arm in RHP Peter Lambert. The second-round selection out of San Dimas HS in California rose through the minor league ranks relatively quickly and was in the majors by 2019.
His rookie season was not overly impressive – making 19 starts with a 7.25 ERA over 89 ⅓ IP. But it showed the polish and talent the organization believed was there for the then-22-year-old Lambert, earmarking him as a future piece of the pitching equation for the Rockies.
Then, in June of 2020, Lambert went down a UCL tear and needed to undergo Tommy John surgery. He was back on the mound by August of 2021 and was able to pitch through the final month of the season, but compiled just 21 ⅔ innings in his first action since surgery.
It was expected that it was just a build-up for a full 2022 season. However, Lambert was still behind in his recovery process and managed just 8 ⅔ over four games before getting shut down in June.
With barely 30 innings compiled over the previous two seasons, Lambert was a major unknown heading into the 2023 season. He made it through Spring Training healthy and opened the regular season with Triple-A Albuquerque. After a respectable first month, Lambert was recalled to the majors for the first time since 2021.
Management was initially conservative with his innings, utilizing him out of the bullpen to help progress his development and give manager Bud Black an option for the long-relief role. But as the injuries piled up, the need for Lambert to take on a bigger role grew and by July he was in the starting rotation.
The transition paid off considerably for both Peter and the Rockies. After holding a 6.89 ERA in 31 ⅓ innings out of the bullpen, Lambert held the opposition to just one run over 14 innings during his first three starts.
He would pitch six innings or more in each of the next five starts and allow three runs or less in four of them. This stretch included his best performance of the season – a seven inning gem against the Chicago White Sox where permitted just one run on four hits while punching-out five.
Although his season ended on a tough note – getting shut down with right bicep tendonitis after a disappointing final performance against the San Francisco Giants – Lambert still showed Black and the Rockies organization plenty in his two months in the rotation.
With an overall strong performance in 2023 after two years away, Lambert has put himself back on the map and in the team’s rotation plans for 2024 and beyond.