As the 2018 regular season comes to a close, the San Diego Padres enter the offseason with major question marks surrounding the future of the starting rotation. However, if healthy, Dinelson Lamet will most definitely be a part of these plans.
Dinelson Lamet. Remember him?
Before missing the entirety of the 2018 season due to damaging his UCL in his final spring training start, the previously unknown flamethrower Dinelson Lamet made his major league debut on May 25, 2017 on a cold, rainy night at Citi Field against the Mets– throwing five strong innings, allowing 1 run and striking out 8. Lamet’s encouraging start that night managed to get his career off to a fast and terrific start.
While 2017 wasn’t without its hiccups, Lamet’s debut season included some other memorable strikeout performances, including his second big league start against the Cubs, a start where he once again struck out 8 batters while only allowing one run. Additionally, later in the season, Lamet managed to strike out twelve Brewers and ten Dodgers.
For detailed outlook and analysis on Lamet’s first starts of 2017 see our article: https://www.eastvillagetimes.com/2017/05/framing-the-friars-dinelson-lamet-may-very-well-be-the-real-deal/
It is easy to forget about Lamet’s strikeout ability, especially since he missed the entirety of the 2018 season, but the numbers don’t lie. Lamet’s go-to strikeout pitch is his slider. Now, just for fun, let’s compare Lamet’s slider with some of the best sliders in the game. Specifically, pitchers such as Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, and Josh Hader come to mind.
|Batting Average Against (BAA)||Slider Usage (%)||Whiff Percentage (%)|
|Dinelson Lamet (2017)||.138||38.3%||40.2%|
|Chris Sale (2018)||.113||34.5%||44.4%|
|Max Scherzer (2018)||.195||16.3%||46.9%|
|Josh Hader (2018)||.138||20.7%||54.5%|
Credit: Baseball Savant
While I am not saying that Lamet is anywhere near these pitchers ability-wise at this point in his career, I think it’s interesting to note how the raw ability of Lamet’s slider is somewhat comparable to some of the best in the game.
With a slider this good, it’s easy to understand how Lamet’s 10.94 K/9 was also one of the best in baseball in 2017. In fact, Lamet’s K/9 led all rookie starting pitchers.
2017 Rookies K/9 Leaders (Min 70 IP)
With this amount of strikeout ability, I believe Lamet has serious potential. However, his tendency to give up the home run ball, his 4.25 BB/9, and his 4.57 ERA suggest that his stuff is far from polished, and losing a year of development only hurts his maturation process.
Barring any setbacks, Lamet is set to return from Injury sometime during the midway point of 2019. And of course, adding a high upside, largely unproven pitcher in Lamet isn’t going to bring about systemic change to the organization overnight. But after encouraging rookie seasons from Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer, the 2019 Padres rotation presents an arsenal of three intriguing young starters.
For Lamet to take the next step, I believe that he needs to further develop a third pitch. Throughout his rookie season, Lamet began developing his changeup, a pitch he only managed to throw 5.3% of the time. If he and pitching coach Darren Balsley can narrow in and focus on developing a changeup when Lamet returns from injury, we may see Lamet establish a firm foundation as one of the Padres most important starting pitchers moving forward. However, with an influx of pitching prospects approaching the major league level, Lamet may be moved to the bullpen if he remains a two pitch pitcher.
I think I can speak for many Padres fans when I say that Lamet getting injured right before the season began was a very deflating way to start the year. But with Lamet’s return fast approaching, it will be important for both fans and the Padres front office to remember his upside.