In 2020, Dinelson Lamet took the league by storm. Fans across baseball tuned in to all of his starts just to see the explosive fastball and frisbee slider. He was consistently putting out against his opposition. Now, Lamet finds himself in AAA El Paso as the team’s back-end of the pen arm. Is there any hope that he can return to his All-Star form as a starting pitcher, or is his future in the big leagues solidified to the end of a team’s bullpen?
The pitcher known as “El Flaco” was signed in 2014 by the San Diego Padres as an International Free Agent.
Lamet made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2015, ending the year with the Single-A Fort Wayne TinCaps, pitching to a 2.99 ERA that year. In 2016, we saw Lamet continue to climb through the Padres organization with an overall record of 12-10 and a 3.00 ERA. He made his MLB debut in May of 2017 when some of the issues started to occur.
After being named to the Opening Day roster for the Padres in 2018, Lamet injured the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow for the first time. He immediately underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2018 season.
As shown in the chart above, Lamet has consistently dealt with injuries in his throwing arm dating back to 2018.
His stellar 2020 season provided many glimpses of hope that the injuries were in his past as he was cruising through the first half of the season before experiencing discomfort in his right bicep late into September.
Lamet didn’t start his 2021 season until late April because of the same right bicep injury that lingered over from the prior season. In his first start, he was forced to exit due to a forearm injury that then kept him out a few more weeks. Lamet was put on the IL through the All-Star break with the injury.
When he did make his return, it was in the bullpen for the Friars. Should Lamet be able to work through the arm troubles, is this where he is destined to be?
Was 2020 Just a Mirage?
Dinelson Lamet was stellar in 2020. Even after being limited to only 69 innings, he posted a 2.09 ERA and an impressive 4.65 K/BB rate, striking out 34.8% of hitters faced that year.
His savant page was something to marvel at. Holding opponents to a .187 xBA, and limiting barrels to a career-low 7.3%, Lamet was must-see TV when he took the mound for the Padres that season. The most impressive fact would be that he did it while utilizing only two pitches 90.7% of the time.
In today’s game, must have been a saying about how a starting pitcher will not be able to succeed with only two pitches. While some have been able to find some success in small sample sizes, Lamet put that to rest easily with his fastball/slider combination.
Dinelson Lamet hitting 100 mph pic.twitter.com/0zZ3it8YWH
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) July 26, 2020
The arsenal was explosive. His ability to limit fly balls was a big reason why he was able to be successful. A 38.7/24.7/24.7 GB%/FB%/LD% split was below the MLB average that season. Even going back into 2019, Lamet’s slider led all of baseball (min. 100 pitches) with the top swinging-strike rate on his slider, sitting at 23.4%.
Dinelson Lamet, Wicked Slider…and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/1Z7r6IuvHV
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 23, 2022
What Does the Future Have in Store?
Coming into 2022, there were many question marks surrounding Lamet, and it wasn’t solely injury-based.
A true wild card entering the season, his role was unclear. Would he be in the Padres’ starting rotation even after all of the acquisitions made by the front office to bolster that part of their roster? Or were those moves done because they could no longer depend on the once bright spot of their starting five?
The majority figured that the right-hander entered this season in a battle for the closer’s job after they let Mark Melancon go in free agency.
After struggling in Spring Training, sporting a 7.71 ERA in 4.2 innings pitched, Lamet was not trusted with the closer’s role and was inevitably optioned on May 13th when the Padres first signed Robinson Canó.
Across two levels in the minors this season, Lamet has pitched 12.0 innings of relief with a 2.25 ERA. The velocity on his fastball, and slider, are both hovering around his career averages of 95.7 mph and 86.0 mph. The issue is with his execution of them. His inability to locate is causing him to get hit around.
The talent that Dinelson Lamet once possessed might not return as he opted not to undergo the knife the second time he found out about the tear in his UCL. Going forward, there is not much optimism as to whether he will have a clear role once he does get a chance to return to the majors.
During the spring, there were many rumors of the Padres interested in including him in a trade. As the Padres continue to try and build upon their championship aspirations, Lamet’s potential could be a chance that another team may be willing to take on. However, at this point in his career, it might be limited to a bullpen role.
Dinelson Lamet and his equal opportunity Slider.
The BAA (.108) and xwoba (.207) against Lamet's SL only tell part of the story of the pitch's success. This pitch does not discriminate based on batter handedness. #Thread pic.twitter.com/ow7Ok4t0Cu
— Carter Capps (@CarterCapps) September 2, 2020
He was once one of the more entertaining pitchers to watch on the mound. Today, he is mainly a distant memory to those who were able to witness the “filth” portrayed on the mound every fifth day of the 2020 season.
(Photos by Icon Sportswire) Adapted by Shawn Palmer (@PalmerDesigns_ on twitter)