Dinelson Lamet has made two starts in The Show. In those two starts he’s pitched 10 innings allowing three runs (all earned) on eight hits and three walks while striking out a whopping 16 batters. The surface stats are intriguing, and the underlying stats are quite good, too — more on them to come. Still, you can be forgiven if you know very little about Lamet.
The 24-year-old righty was not a highly celebrated international signing. The Padrres signed him with 10 other players as part of their 2014 international signing class. Lamet wasn’t even considered the top signing in that class, that distinction belonged to catcher Ricardo Rodriguez who signed for $800,000, per Ben Badler of Baseball America. Lamet was an unusual signing as an early-20’s prospect from the Dominican Republic. Dennis Lin of The San Diego Tribune wrote about Lamet in advance of his big-league debut against the Mets on May 25th, and his piece is a good read that I’d suggest checking out. In that piece, Lin mentions that that the Phillies attempted to sign Lamet in 2012, but a documentation issue prevented that from happening. That helps explain Lamet signing later than many of his prospect peers from the Dominican Republic.
Lamet pitched four innings in two appearances for the Dominican Summer League Padres in 2014 before piling up 105.1 innings in his stateside debut in 2015 at the full-season Single-A level. Last year, Lamet opened the year with a dozen starts at the High-A level before making 14 starts at the Double-A level and concluding the year with two starts in Triple-A. Across the three levels, the young righty made 28 starts spanning 150 innings and totaled a 3.00 ERA (3.38 FIP), 1.25 WHIP, 9.7% BB% and 25.1% K%.
He caught the eye of Carson Cistulli, who included him among his fringe five prospects not just once, but twice. Lamet also ranked 25th in Eric Longenhagen’s prospect rankings for the Padres entering this year, failed to crack Baseball Prospectus’s top-10 prospect list for the Padres, ranked ninth on Baseball America’s top-10 list of Friars’ prospects, he ranked eighth on John Sickels’ list for SB Nation, and he checked in 10th at MLB Pipeline. There wasn’t a top-10 prospect list for the Padres on 2080baseball.com, but they had the most glowing scouting report on Lamet in late April. Dave DeFreitas labeled his heater a 70-grade pitch. All of the off-season scouting reports mentioned his low to mid-90s fastball with 96 mph checking in as the upper end of his velo on the heater.
Well, Lamet’s ramped up the fastball velo this season — which might help explain why 2080 Baseball’s scouting report after this season started was the most enthusiastic. Among starting pitchers who’ve thrown a minimum of 10 innings this year, Lamet ranks tied for 10th in fourseam fastball average velocity sitting at 95.6 mph and topping out at 98.1 mph. The 24-year-old righty’s two-seam fastball’s average velocity of 94.8 mph ranks tied for the 12th highest among starters who’ve thrown a minimum of 10 innings this year and maxed out at 97.1 mph. He backs his fastballs with a slider that earned plus grades — or at least was described as flashing plus — in all of the off-season scouting reports, and it’s been a doozy.
The average velocity on his slider is 85.7 mph, and it’s generated a 24.2% SwStr% on the 62 he’s thrown. Batters have fished out of the zone on half of the sliders he’s thrown. His 44.12% Whf/Sw ranks tied for 16th out of 102 thrown a minimum of 50 times by a starting pitcher, according to Baseball Prospectus. It’s a bat-missing pitch that accounted for 10 of his 18 whiffs on 96 total pitches against the Cubs on Tuesday night, per Brooks Baseball.
The changeup was largely scrutinized in scouting reports entering the year. His average velocity of 90.2 mph doesn’t give it the optimal velocity separation from his fastballs, but he’s managed to induce a 16.1% SwStr% with it. He’s also been comfortable enough with the pitch to use it 15.1% of the time in his two starts. The sample of 26 is small — too small to set a minimum pitch limit on Baseball Prospectus’s PITCHf/x leaderboard, in fact — but he ranks 16th out of 212 in Whf/Sw (45.45%) with his changeup. It’s too early to disregard the scouting reports labeling it a below average pitch in need of refinement, but the results using it have at least been promising.
Lamet’s high-octane arsenal has helped him rack up a 15.1% SwStr% that ranks fifth among starters who’ve thrown a minimum of 10 innings. His command and control have been a problem in the minors as evidenced by his walk rate last year and his 12.0% BB% in eight starts in Triple-A this year, but he’s done an above average job of pitching in the zone (54.1% Zone% compared to a league average of 45.2%) and getting ahead of hitters to start at-bats (66.7% F-Strike% compared to 60.0% league average). Again, it’s only two starts, so don’t disregard his prior command and control issues, but note he’s not nibbling under the bright MLB lights. Lamet has started in two of baseball’s more pitcher-friendly environments to start his big-league career pitching at Citi Field in his debut and at home in his second start. He’ll be challenged in his third start when he has to pitch at Chase Field against the Diamondbacks. Arizona ranks fourth in wRC+ (119) at home, and Chase Field is one of the highest run-scoring parks in the majors. I’d keep him glued to benches in most leagues, but I’d also advocate adding him in advance of that start in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers. He’s already owned in roughly half of CBS leagues, but he’s widely available at ESPN and Yahoo!. After a tough turn in Arizona on June 6th, Lamet should draw the Royals at home on June 11th if everyone remains on their normal schedule. Even a mediocre start in Arizona will drum up demand from streamers before his start against the Royals, hence my advice to nab and stash him now.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.