With the struggles that the Houston Astros had in the bullpen last season, it is easy to want to look outside the organization for reinforcements. This certainly makes sense, given that the Astros bullpen had the worst ERA in baseball at 4.80 last year. Expecting those same pitchers to improve may be a bit of a risky proposition.
However, there may have been hope on the horizon for the Astros to bring in internal reinforcements. Mitchell Lambson, a 19th round selection back in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft, appears to be on the cusp of being able to perform at the major league level.
Last season, splitting 2014 between the Lancaster JetHawks and the Corpus Christi Hooks, Lambson posted a 4-2 record with a 2.14 ERA and a 1.006 WHiP. In his 54.2 innings of work, Lambson struck out 63 batters while walking only nine. That seven to one strikeout to walk rate was the best amongst Astros minor league pitchers with a minimum of 30 innings, if Brett Oberholtzer is taken out of the equation.
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Selected to take part in the Arizona Fall League, Mitchell Lambson continued his impressive season. Facing off against some of the top prospects in the minors, Lambson posted a 1.26 ERA and a 0.907 WHiP. While Lambson’s walk rate increased, as he walked seven batters in 14.1 innings, he also struck out 17 hitters. However, as a tradeoff, Lambson allowed just under four hits per nine innings during his time in the AFL, compared to the 7.6 per nine that he gave up during his 2014 minor league season.
There is one caveat to Lambson being able to help the Astros going forward – he was left off the 40 man roster and is available in the Rule V Draft. Considering the number of teams, including the Astros, that need bullpen help, he may not remain a part of the organization for long. Given his strikeout numbers, and his control throughout his minor league career, it is fairly surprising that the lefty was not added to the 40 man roster. A lefty reliever that has struck out 10.2 batters per nine innings and has a 4.52 K/BB rate? That seems like it would have been worth protecting.
With luck, Mitchell Lambson will be able to slide through the draft, allowing the Astros to keep a player that may well be a fit in their bullpen, either later in the 2015 season or in 2016. As a lefty with a power arm, Lambson could be a key piece to the Astros bullpen. Otherwise, if Lambson is selected in the Rule V Draft, the Astros may have missed out on adding a truly valuable piece to their bullpen.