Arizona Diamondbacks: Jake Lamb Seems the Incumbent at Third

Jake Lamb (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
Jake Lamb (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports) /

Jake Lamb of the Arizona Diamondbacks should return at third base this season.

Coming into spring training, Jake Lamb returning at third base for the Arizona Diamondbacks appears a given. Appearing in 151 of the 162 contests a year ago, Lamb’s numbers at the plate and in the field seems to warrant a return.

A closer look suggests Lamb could be on a bubble with another team. The swing would fall for greater offensive production, but numbers do indicate that Lamb could also be a defensive liability. Then again, a winter of off-season preparation and a spring of steady reps could make Lamb as a clear asset.

From an offensive standpoint, Lamb put up strong numbers in certain areas and marginal in others. Overall, the Seattle, Wash. native slammed 29 homers and knocked in 91 runs. By any reasonable measure, that’s a very good offensive season.

Then again, Lamb hit .249 and struck out 154 times in 523 plate appearance. That averages out to 3.3 Ks per plate appearance. No question here that Lamb needs to cut on those strikeouts. When he puts the ball in play, Lamb is regarded as a potent threat.

Offensively, Lamb placed fourth in the National League in triples (with nine) and tied for ninth in extra-base hits (69). Among NL third basemen, Lamb was tied for second in homers, third in slugging percentage, tied for third in RBIs and fourth on On-Base-Percentage.

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All of which would put a smile on any manager’s face.

Regarding his defensive play, concerns arise.

Among NL third basemen, Lamb committed 20 errors, and that was second most in the league. Only Eugenio Suarez of the Reds committed more errors at third (23). Of those who played third in 140 or more games, Lamb’s fielding percentage was the second lowest in the league (.945). Again, only Suarez of the Reds (.942) had a lower fielding percentage.

It’s doubtful Lamb would be platooned against right-handed pitching. Phil Gosselin could likely split time with Lamb at the hot corner.

For his part, Gosselin is coming off a strong season and regarded as a valuable player off the bench. Former Arizona manager Chip Hale once called Gosselin, “a truly good, professional hitter,” and numbers prove the point.

A .277 hitter a year ago, Gosselin topped the majors and set an Arizona franchise records in pinch-hit appearances (83) and pinch hits (20). As well, the native of West Chester, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, proved to be a versatile player. Of the 122 games in which he appeared, Gosselin played 35 games at second, 10 at third, six at first base, two in left field and one in right field.

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Given Lamb’s offensive production from last season, it’s unlikely manager Torey Lovullo would compromise his time at third. Then again, general manager Mike Hazen and Lovullo have been quiet this off-season and continue to hold their cards close to the vest.