Going Deep: Are Dinelson Lamet’s Strikeouts Worth It?
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
Oh Dinelson Lamet, how I want to love you. The young 25-year-old Dominican rookie burst onto the fantasy baseball radar last season with his sparkly 10.94 K/9. Lamet came into the 2017 season barely cracking the back-end of the Padres organizational Top-10 prospects lists. He made his debut for the Padres on May 5th versus the Mets and looked sharp. He struck out 8 batters in 5 innings of work while giving up just three hits and one run. It was only the Mets, but Lamet showed promise that had a lot of owners intrigued.
From there, Lamet’s season was a roller coaster that I could not seem to figure out how to quit. He finished the first half with an ugly 5.93 ERA (4.89 FIP/ 4.02 xFIP) but struck out batters at a 30.9% clip and maintained an adequate 8.4% walk rate. Lamet was giving up an alarming (to say it lightly) 2.2 HR/9 in the 1st half. Flash Forward to the end of the season and the 25-year-old was showing improvements. Over, the second half he improved his ERA to 3.80 (4.04 FIP/4.30 xFIP) and held opposing batters to a .197/.310/.338 slash. While Lamet’s ERA improved tremendously in the 2nd half, it was followed by more questions marks. His walk rate jumped to 12.7% and his strikeout rate dropped to a (still good) 27.4%.
At this point, Lamet is merely a two-pitch pitcher. He threw his fastball or slider an amazing 94.5% of the time. There are talks this spring training he has been working on his Curveball and changeup. In his most recent spring training start versus the Diamondbacks on Monday, Padres Manager Andy Green estimated Lamet threw 10 pitches that were his developing Curveball or Change-up. Green has remarked on Lamet’s Curveball saying “To me, it’s just commanding the curveball. Drop it in when you can. It’s going to be a separator for him.”
Outside of a developing his curveball, Lamet will blow a 95+ MPH Fastball by you if you aren’t prepared. He threw it 51.23% of the time last season and it features a slight backspin which induces more fly-balls than average. Hitters saw his fastball well hitting .262/.369/.554 against it, the .292 ISO is concerning along with the high 19.1 HR/FB rate.
His slider is thrown typically around 85 MPH and had a max velocity of 90.92 MPH. His slider moves to the glove side and induces a high ground-ball rate and high whiff percentage. Hitters were less successful against his Slider than his Fastball. They hit .137/.213/.236 versus it, with a 39.77 Whiff/Swing rate (24th highest among sliders)
His changeup was thrown sparingly (5.55%) and thrown hard when used with an average velocity of 90.22 MPH (93.22 Max Velo). His 13.3 SwStrk% against his changeup was good, but the .333/.400/.611 slash against was poor. His change-up usage vanished as the season went on, from 8.7% in June to 0.00% in September.
You know why you are here, and I know why you are here. You saw that near 11 K/9 and were intrigued. The young Padres starter can miss bats, and that will not change. His 11.8 SwStrk rate was the 24th highest among pitchers with 100+ innings, and his devastating slider got swings and misses on 18.2% of his sliders. His K/9 will continue to be elevated and he dropped his ERA to 3.8 in the 2nd half while keeping a 10+ K/9.
xStats backs up a bunch of Lamet’s results. He produced a solid bbFIP of 3.85, not elite but not poor either. You may look at his BABIP of .261 and think regression! But, he produced a poorer BABIP than his xBABIP of 0.258 expected based on his batted ball data (Exit Velocity/Launch Angle). Lamet held Batters to a BAA of a measly .207 which was the 9th lowest among players with 100+ innings. This low average put him in rarified air, ahead of the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, and Justin Verlander. The best part of his low batting average against? xStats has Lamet’s xBAA at 0.208 and agrees that Lamet excelled at keeping batters off the base paths.
In the unstable starting pitching market, it is nice to see that Lamet has a rotation spot locked up. The 25-year-old will see starts every 5 days this season, and there is value in that consistency. He won’t be on an innings limit this season and with his strikeout upside, you could add 160-180 strikeouts to your team.
So how can a player with all of these skills still have an ADP of 205? Well, the young right-hander still has serious problems in his profile. To start, he has extreme splits due to his two-pitch nature. He dominated right-handed batters last season, holding them to a .154 BAA and an elite .239 wOBA (30 points better than Chris Sale). Lefties fared much better versus the 25-year-old, slugging .502 against him and a hefty .364 wOBA. Lamet is working to combat this worrying split but developing his changeup further or adding a curveball.
While in the Padres farm system, Lamet was given a 40 grade on his command and it’s not hard to see why. His 11.10% walk-rate was the 8th worst in the league last season (among SP with 100 IP) and his F-Strike rate was below average at only 56.1% (4.2% below average). A lot of the success against his four-seam fastball can be attributed to Padres SP failing to hit his spot. This could be the make-or-break aspect of Lamet’s profile. If he never learns to command his pitches and get ahead of batters we may continue to see Lamet fail to progress as a pitcher.
The Verdict: Buy
Lamet’s ADP of 205 is too cheap to pass up based on the upside he posses. If he successfully develops his third pitch we may be looking at the Robbie Ray of the 2018 season.