Heading into Thursday night action in Major League Baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks are tied atop the National League West Division standings with a 10-6 record.
This comes one year after a disheartening 69-93 campaign for the Dbacks. Last season found Arizona avoiding the division cellar by just a single game.
The biggest offensive contributor in the lineup thus far has been third baseman Jake Lamb. The 26-year old is now in his second season as a full-time starter.
A native of Seattle, Lamb was the Diamondbacks selection in the sixth round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Washington.
The 6’3″ lefty-swinging Lamb achieved success in the minor leagues between 2012-14. In doing so, he became a Top 100 Prospect as ranked by both MLB and Baseball America prior to the 2015 season.
LAMB REACHES THE BIG LEAGUES
Lamb made his big league debut on August 7, 2014 in a game at Chase Field against the Kansas City Royals. He went 1-4 and drove in a run that night, and stayed with Arizona for the last two months of the season. With the exception of a month-long stay on the DL early in the 2015 season, he has been up with the Dbacks ever since.
Last year, while the team struggled in his first full big league season, Lamb powered up. He clubbed 29 home runs and raked 31 doubles. Lamb also drove in 91 runs and scored 81 times.
Lamb has begun the 2017 campaign by taking his overall game to another level. Over his first 15 games and 65 plate appearances, he is hitting for a .304/385/.554 slash line. His counting numbers would project out to 30+ homers, 140+ RBI, and 120+ runs over a full season.
It is somewhat unlikely that he will maintain that RBI and Runs pace. But the 30+ homer power is for real. Lamb is emerging this year as an NL All-Star caliber player.
Lamb is also trying to take on more of a leadership role in the clubhouse. He was interviewed by Bob McManaman of The Arizona Republic late in spring training:
“I’m trying to bring a little more fun in the clubhouse in a smart way, in a respectful way. It’s good to be loose, you know. I think it’s really important to have a loose clubhouse. You play better.”
DBACKS APPEAR GREATLY IMPROVED IN 2017
Lamb and left fielder Yasmany Tomas have joined perennial MVP candidate first baseman Paul Goldschmidt as threats in the middle of the Dbacks batting order.
Center fielder A.J. Pollock is back and healthy. Arizona also features an underrated middle infield of Brandon Drury and Chris Owings. The overall lineup appears much more solidified and deep than a year ago.
On the mound, Zack Greinke heads a rotation in which each member has been improved over their 2016 performances. Lefties Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray, and righties Shelby Miller and Taijuan Walker, are all 27 years of age or younger.
The closer is 40-year old veteran Fernando Rodney. If he can hold up over the entire season, the bullpen may also prove to be greatly improved. A pair of youngsters have been keys to that improvement. Righty Archie Bradley and lefty Andrew Chafin have each gotten off to strong starts
The club also has a new man at the helm in manager Torey Lovullo. The former Boston Red Sox bench coach has long been considered as managerial material. His debut has gone as well as any Dbacks fan could hope to this point.
Can the Arizona Diamondbacks go from near the bottom of the division one year to a playoff team the next? The talent appears to be there.
If Lamb and the Dbacks keep up this pace, then the preseason favorite Dodgers and Giants may find themselves doing some unexpected chasing all summer long.