The 2017 San Diego Padres season had many surprises.
In a season where the team was supposed to lose 100 games easily, the Padres finished 71-91 and managed to finish out of the cellar in a very tough National League Western Division.
Arguably, one of the best things that came from the 2017 season was the emergence of Dinelson Lamet as a viable factor moving forward in the rotation.
The Padres had many young position players, but lacked quality arms at the higher minor league level to begin the 2017 season. Lamet was able to successfully transition to the majors, and that bodes well for young arms like Joey Lucchesi, Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and Enyel De Los Santos.
Lamet was a surprise to many as he had command issues throughout his minor league career. With bouts of wildness, he looked as though he would need plenty of seasoning at the minor league level. Instead, Lamet showed progression in the 2016 season by successfully making the jump from Lake Elsinore all the way to El Paso, going 12-10 on the year (combined) with a 3.00 ERA in 28 starts and 150 innings pitched. Lamet struck out 158 in that time, while walking 61, resulting in a 1.247 WHIP.
From the very beginning, the young man looked poised on the mound and has no trouble with confidence.
There is plenty to be excited about when it comes to Dinelson Lamet. Let’s explore his PNO (Positives-Negatives-Outlook) in an attempt to digest him as a player. At the age of 25, he has a very high ceiling. With that being said, he is still very young in his career and has some obstacles to overcome in order to enjoy long-term success.
His slider is one of the best pitches in all of major league baseball. Lamet is able to consistently get swing and misses from hitters with it, even when they expect the pitch. The tall Dominican pitcher is able to induce a lot of groundballs with the pitch as well. In fact he gets far more ground balls off the pitch than others who utilize a slider.
Hitters batted .137 off of Lamet’s slider last season in 182 at bats. They slugged .236 and put up a .099 ISO against his devastating slider. Compare that to the .252 average batters collected off his four-seamer, .350 average off his change, or the .308 average off his sinker, and you realize what a weapon the pitch truly was for him. Look for Lamet to continue to rack up the K’s as he grows as a pitcher.
From the very beginning, he has displayed ice water in his veins. That is a requirement to be a successful major league pitcher, as you cannot let anything distract you from your task at hand. Lamet has the ability to slow the game down and he has displayed that at a young age. Take a look at this video from his major league debut in New York against the Mets.
In the video, he mixed his pitches well and was able to hit both sides of the plate. The most important thing was that he showed no fear. He is described as a competitor by his teammates and has a lot of confidence while toeing the rubber.
Size & Durability
At 6′ 4″ and nearly 200 lbs, he has excellent size for a pitcher. Lamet has also shown durability in his brief career as he has thrown over 105 innings for the last three seasons, and gone over 150 in the past two seasons. He has made 81 starts in his professional career and logged in 408 innings. At a young age he has proven to be a workhorse of sorts.
You need a pitcher who can take the rock every fifth day, and Lamet has shown that early in his career. His mechanics are relatively clean so there are no red flags as far as potential arm troubles for this young man. He started his career late, so there are still many miles left on this pitcher. For a Padres team that requires innings, Lamet should very easily deliver that in 2018.
He is prone to wild streaks and has had trouble commanding his fastball in and out of the strike zone. Dinelson Lamet has always displayed control issues. He has walked 125 batters in his three minor league seasons (294 innings pitched) with the Padres. Lamet also recorded a sub 3.00 ERA during that span and struck out 328 batters, so you just have to live with the walks.
Moving forward, the wildness will be an issue. If he is wild in the strike zone, he has the propensity to get hit really hard. If he is unable to throw strikes early in the count, major league-type hitters will victimize him. Darren Balsley has his work cut out for him with Lamet as he will drive the coaching staff crazy with his inconsistency.
Need for a Third Pitch
His fastball reaches the upper 90’s and he has a devastating slider, but there is a definite need for a third pitch to keep hitters off-balance and to neutralize the lineup the third time around. Lamet has an average fastball velocity of 94.7 mph and a slider velocity of 86 mph, but his change is registering at 90.2 currently, and that just will not cut it. A four mile per hour difference is nothing, and it is no wonder that hitters hit .350 off the pitch.
There is hope he can develop the change. Perhaps a different grip or the mind of a different coach can trigger something in the young man. He doesn’t need a plus change. Just a serviceable third pitch to keep left-handed batters honest. He could still have success moving forward with his two-pitch repertoire, but it will be tough to have lasting success. Lamet does throw a four-seamer along with his sinker, so he is able to work the zone both up and down.
It is difficult to knock a player for being young, so I will take it easy on the Dominican hurler. Lamet started off his professional career late, as he signed with the Padres at the age of 21. He is not the typical international signing, who usually start performing at 17. Lamet is still very raw, and perhaps that is why he is having trouble understanding the subtle nuances of the game.
Instead of trying to throw the ball by everyone, he is slowing learning to pitch to contact and get early outs. Strikeouts are nice and very effective, but they take a toll on a young pitcher. Especially a young pitcher who has command issues. The inexperience will be brutal to watch moving forward, but hopefully the young man learns from the inevitable bumps he is going to take as a young major league pitcher.
The future is bright heading into 2018 for this young man. He will be penciled in at the top of the rotation somewhere. He has no innings limitations for next season and will be allowed to go deeper into ball games by Andy Green. If Lamet can progress even more under the Padres’ coaching staff, he could be a very special pitcher. His arm is fantastic and the slider is a flat-out nasty pitch.
The necessity for a third pitch is key for Dinelson Lamet. The four mph difference between his change and fastball will just not cut it. Typically a pitcher needs around an eight mph difference for the offering to be effective. Look for the Padres to emphasize a third pitch for Lamet. There is still plenty of time for him to gain knowledge and learn a new pitch. If he does develop a new weapon to his repertoire, then look out. He could be a dominant pitcher.