One of the more polarizing pitchers entering 2020 is likely the Padres’ Dinelson Lamet, who brings strikeout stuff but faces two key questions:
- Can he find his control (4.04 career BB/9)?
- Can he keep the ball in the ballpark (1.44 career HR/9)?
He’s thrown 187.1 innings in the Major Leagues (he missed 2018 due to Tommy John surgery) and has shown strikeout stuff (11.72 K/9 courtesy of a 12.7% SwStr%), but the other two numbers are key.
Obviously the missed time may have had an impact on his control in 2019, though that’s always been a problem facing him. He owns a minor league career 3.7 BB/9 and all the way back in 2016 it was something that was being mentioned. As per Baseball America at the time:
“Lamet’s control is fringe-average, but the overall quality of his stuff generates plenty of swings and misses and limits hard contact.”
So it’s fair to conclude that he his control is never going to be a strong asset, but what about limiting the home runs? You would think that pitching in San Diego would help, though a 36.8% groundball rate shows that it’s an issue that’s not suddenly going to disappear. He did start to throw his sinker more upon returning from his injury, and that’s intriguing:
- 2017 – 8.97%
- 2019 – 18.28%
While it didn’t change the results, it’s something that is worth monitoring to see what happens. It at least gives him another look, and developing a third pitch will be key in order to keep opposing pitchers off balance. Just look at the breakdown of usage from last year overall:
- Fastball (Sinker/Fourseam) – 54.7%
- Slider – 43.9%
- Changeup – 1.5%
As a two-pitch pitcher it’s going to be difficult to repeatedly work through lineups, and he gave up 5 HR when working through the lineup a third time (over a span of 15.1 IP). Familiarity is going to be key and figuring out another wrinkle could ultimately be the difference in a Top 40 starting pitcher or one who could be Top 20. If the price is right he’s going to be worth the gamble, but he’s not a pitcher to enter the year depending on as a high-level option.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball America, Baseball Reference
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