#5 John Lamb
Acquired: Drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 Amateur Draft
From: La Palma, CA
John Lamb fell into the Royals in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, due to an elbow injury caused by a car accident in his senior year of high school. The Royals happily snatched him up and paid him $165,000 to keep him away from college.
In Lamb's first professional season the Royals started him slow and worked him in short season ball the entire year. The following year, the Royals gave Lamb a shot at Low-A Burlington. It didn't take long for Lamb, to become one of the top prospects in baseball. In 2011, Lamb advanced across three levels garnering consideration for Minor League Player of the year prior to his rough finish in the Texas League (even then posting a 2.00 K:BB).
In 2011, many believed that John Lamb would make his Major League debut at some point in the season. However, the injury bug bit John again and he entered the season with a strained oblique. Despite that the Royals elected to not play it safe with Lamb, and instead allow him to gut through the ailment. It is my belief that as a result Lamb overcompensated in some way and caused the injury that ultimately ended his season.
Eventually, Lamb underwent Tommy John surgery. I'd much rather it be an elbow injury than a shoulder. Today Tommy John carries a roughly 90% full recovery rate. Often pitchers actually increase velocity post surgery. Lamb for instance had suffered a severe dip in velocity in 2011. In 2010, Lamb's fastball routinely sat in the low to mid 90s. In 2011, he struggled to hit 90 mph.
But this is why I am so excited about the guy. Throughout 2009 and 2010, Royals prospect aficionados heard all about Lamb's moxie. We heard time and time again that the guy possessed poise beyond his year's and just knew how to pitch. What I learned in 2011, was that despite not having his best stuff, Lamb got by on exactly the aforementioned things. He kept the ball down and kept runs off the board.
Baseball America lists John Lamb's upside as that of a #2 or #3 starter. In their definitions of #1 and #2 both posses two plus pitches and an average third pitch. The difference is that an ace has plus-plus command and plus makeup as opposed to being average in both regards. We know Lamb's change is plus, if the velocity returns he'll have a second plus offering. I'm also convinced as ever that he has plus make up. If the command comes around as the Royals predict, his upside is that of a rotation head.
Picture taken from KCRoyals.com.