2018 Player Profile: Dinelson Lamet
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Dinelson Lamet has a live arm. A really live arm. That’s not the issue. The concern is the secondary stuff and the location. In search of another option, a third pitch to compliment his fastball/slider combo, Lamet is looking to add a curveball this season. Can he hone that pitch, and locate all three of his offerings, enough to take the next step this season?
25 years old
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 190 lbs
Position: Starting Pitcher
NOTE: LAMET HURT HIS ELBOW IN SPRING, AND REPORTS SUGGEST HE COULD MISS MOST IF NOT ALL OF APRIL. THIS NEWS BROKE AFTER THE BELOW ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN.
A+, AA, AAA
As a rookie, Lamet struck out 10.94 batters per nine innings. Amongst rookies, the only players who struck out more batters per nine in their first season, while throwing at least 100-innings, are: Kerry Wood (12.98), Dwight Gooden (11.39), Mark Prior (11.34) and Hideo Nomo (11.10). That’s some heady company. The fact that Dinelson accomplished that strikeout mark, when he really only has two pitches, is even more impressive. I’ll get back to that in a moment.
Lamet’s strikeout total of 10.94 per nine is a massive mark, though it’s hardly a surprising mark for a guy who posted an 11.4 K/9 rate in 10 starts at Triple-A. Lamet posted an 11.8 percent swinging strike rate with the Padres last season, another solid mark. Batters have been particularly at a loss when Lamet throws his slider. Last season he limited batters to a pathetic .141 batting average, a .239 SLG and a .098 Isolated Power mark on the hard-breaking ball. He also generated 86 strikeouts on the pitch in the 184 at-bats that ended on a slider. It’s pretty obvious why he threw the slider 40 percent of the time last season including a massive 54 percent of the time when he had two strikes on a batter. Simply put, batters have no shot when he gets ahead in the count and drops the slider in on them.
However, batters had success against his 4-seam fastball which Lamet threw his fastball 55 percent of the time in 2017. As we learn every year, there is more to getting batters out than throwing hard. Last season guys hit .260 on the fastball but it was the .552 SLG and 13 homers in the 192 at-bats that ended on the pitch that were the concern. The problem with the pitch was that batters knew it was coming. When Dinelson was behind in the count he threw the slider just 31 percent of the time. Batters could sit dead red any time they were ahead in the count, and also on the first pitch of an at-bat when Lamet threw his slider just 22 percent of the time. With only two pitches he could deploy, and one he only really trusted as a put away pitch, batters were simply able to approach Lamet as if he could only throw one pitch for a strike until he was ahead in the count. Given that he threw a first-pitch strike just 56.1 percent of the time, a number which ranked 124th out of 134 pitchers who threw at least 100-innings last season, he was behind in the count and forced to throw the heater far too often leading to all those base hits.
Goal #1 in 2018 should be for Lamet to throw more first-pitch strikes.
Goal #2 is to throw more strikes to avoid the walk that ate into his success last season.
Lamet walked 4.25 batters per nine innings last season. Given that he walked 3.8 batters per nine in the minors, it’s clear he has work to do in this regard. Amongst the 134 hurlers who threw 100-innings last season, Lamet’s 4.25 BB/9 rate was the 8th worst. The only one of the seven hurlers above him on the list who posted an ERA under 4.35 was Mike Clevinger at 3.11 (see his Player Profile). As noted, Lamet fell behind 1-0 too often last season which didn’t help him at all, and that was part of the reason that he finished 57th out of 134 pitchers with those 100-innings in terms of pitches thrown in the strike zone.
Goal #3 is to learn a new pitch.
This offseason and spring he’s been working on a curveball to give batters another look. The results have been mixed, but he continues to work diligently on the pitch. “I thought overall his stuff was good,” Padres manager Andy Green said after Lamet’s second Cactus League outing. “To me, it’s just command the curveball. Drop it in when you can. It’s going to be a separator for him. I think as he continues to grow comfortable with the curve it’s going to be a very effective pitch for him.” Here’s a video of one of the offerings this spring, and it has the look of being a nasty pitch.
Goal #4 is to utilize a better/different approach to improve his work against lefties.
The lack of a third pitch has limited his work against lefties substantially. He’s dominated righties but lefties have beat him around as if they were all all-star level performers. Here are the splits.
Lamet torched righties like a dragon breathing fire. When a lefty was at the plate, he was the charred human being left after the fire blast occurred. The curveball he’s working on isn’t likely to help much here as that pitch is more likely to be a benefit against righties. It is a new, or added wrinkle though, so there should still be some benefit against lefties. The biggest key is likely getting ahead in the count.
Goal #5 is to become more consistent by making quicker adjustments.
Lamet’s performance last season was, to put it kindly, up and down. Here are his month by month breakdowns which seem to suggest two things (1) he was a bit slow to adjust once hitters started to adjust to him and (2) there were time when he simply struggled to command his pitches.
The most obvious area to address is the walk. The first two months he was better than league average at 2.7 per nine, but the number exploded his last three months. No matter how good your stuff is, you cannot consistently get batters out walking five batters per nine innings. Again, it’s pretty simple. He needs to throw more strikes.
Goal #6 is to limit the home run more effectively.
Lamet allowed 1.42 homers per nine. The rate was 1.40 at home last season and 1.44 on the road last season. That’s a mark that has to come down. Has to. Guys that throw 4-seam fastballs often given up homers cause they at times live up in the zone. Just the nature of the beast. Second, he posted a 0.86 GB/FB ratio last season, a number that suggests he will be allowing homers, perhaps at a higher rate than the league average, even pitching frequently in San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles. That said, the 14.8 percent HR/FB ratio he posted last season is elevated (the league average was 13.7 percent last season). Unless he changes his approach dramatically, he’s at the whim of the homer-to-fly ball ratio to help him bring the homer rate down. Let’s hope he can get on top of the curveball, keep it down in the zone, and get ahead in the count. If he’s ahead in the count he can spot the fastball while turning to his off-speed stuff. It comes down to throwing strikes, and strike one.
We shouldn’t be looking at an innings limit this season with Lamet, well maybe if you’re looking at 200-innings, but he should have little trouble upping the innings into the 175 range with health. Here are the innings totals on a yearly basis.
2014: 4.0 innings
2015: 105.1 innings
2016: 150 innings
2017: 153.1 innings
AVERAGE DRAFT POSITION DATA
As of this writing, here is the ADP data for Lamet.
He’s gotta be good this season since I drafted him in Tout Wars. Duh. Lamet has a golden arm that misses bats and racks up strikeouts. He also struggles to throw strike one which can lead to more walks that anyone wants to see. The hope is that he will get ahead more this season which will allow him to utilize his impressive slider and the curveball he’s attempting to pick up this spring. The seeds of success are here. There might still be speedbumps in his development, but it also wouldn’t be shocking to see his game take a significant step in 2018.
10-Team Mixed: He’s a 6/7 starter here. With so many solid arms available in the reserve round or on waivers, you could make a strong case that taking him as your 6th arm is worth the risk.
12-Team Mixed: The power arm marks him as a 5th option here (he went in the 15th round in the recent SiriusXM Host Draft #1). It would be smart to have a solid group of ratio stable arms ahead of him in case he doesn’t show any improvement.
15-Team Mixed: In Tout Wars, a 15-team auction, I rostered Lamet for $6. I felt really good about that cost. In the 15-team mixed draft, Lamet went in the 13th round. Astute folks will pounce at that cost given the talent in his right arm.
NL-Only League: He’s got a power arm and will rack up strikeouts. He would seem to have a path to 175 innings, and has an ever-improving lineup to support him. The ratios need to be guarded, but the strikeout and win potential is legit.
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