I was literally in the middle of writing a “John Lamb, 2016 Fantasy Prospect Sleeper” post, when news broke that LHP John Lamb, Cincinnati Reds, will likely be out until mid-April after undergoing off-season back surgery last December. He was originally expected to be ready by Opening Day, but it was recently revealed he is behind schedule, and mid-to-late April is now the more likely return date.
This certainly puts a major damper on Lamb’s 2016 fantasy value. Cincinnati does not have a shortage of young starting pitcher options they can now turn to, and there is no guarantee Lamb’s rotation spot will be waiting for him when he returns. The door is open for Michael Lorenzen, Tony Cingrani, Brandon Finnegan, Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, or Amir Garrett to grab hold of that final rotation spot before Lamb can even get healthy. Lamb might have to wait for an injury to regain his spot.
This also raises some doubts about his overall future fantasy value. Lamb has an ugly injury history to begin with. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011, he didn’t fully recover until last season. In 2013, his once dominant fastball barely cracked the mid 80’s. In 2014, he built himself back up to the point where he was hitting the low 90’s, and then in 2015, he was hitting 95 MPH on occasion. He put up a pitching line of 2.67/1.17/117 in 111.1 IP at Triple-A last year. He struggled in his major league debut, especially with the long ball, but there were some positive signs. He struck out 58 batters in 49.2 IP, and his 4.16 FIP looked much better than his 5.80 ERA. He pitched a career high of 161 innings, and had seemingly put his injury problems behind him. Except, as we just found out, he didn’t.
Lamb still has a bright future, but this definitely is a cold reality check that we can’t ignore his serious injury red flags. For 2016, his value plummets, and looks more like a good waiver add. In Dynasty Leagues, his value doesn’t drastically change, but I would move him down a few slots.
By Michael Halpern