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Southern notes: Lamb fierce under pressure
BayBears' third baseman on a tear with runners in scoring position
05/27/2014 10:00 AM ET
Jake Lamb, the Diamondbacks' No. 6 prospect, is batting .458 with two outs and runners in scoring position. (Jason Wise/MLB.com)

Jake Lamb wasn't aware of the dramatic difference in his splits until Mobile manager Andy Green pointed it out.

The Arizona Diamondbacks' No. 6 prospect has been fairly ordinary at the plate so far this season without runners in scoring position. But when the stakes are raised, something's clicking.

Lamb was batting .367 with teammates at second or third, going 18-for-49 with nine extra-base hits and 28 RBIs. Best yet, most of the damage had come with two outs. He was hitting .458 in those situations.

"I don't sit at a computer and look at my stats, so I didn't know," Lamb said. "It surprised me. In college, it was exactly the opposite. I struggled with runners on."

Arizona's No. 6 pick in the 2012 Draft out of the University of Washington certainly doesn't now.

"I used to put too much pressure on myself," Lamb said. "Now I try to look at it as just another at-bat."

This doesn't mean the native of Seattle is completely pleased with his work at the plate.

"I'm trying to even up those numbers," Lamb said, hoping for more consistency.

The 23-year-old got off to a slow start with the BayBears, batting under .200 for the first three weeks. But his average and production have been on a steady climb since moving from third to fifth in the BayBears' batting order.

Lamb's average was up to .287 through 48 games, and he was fourth in the Southern League with 33 RBIs. The left-handed hitter was tied for the league lead with 16 doubles and also had a triple and six home runs.

Thanks to 16 walks, his on-base percentage was .364 and he had a .494 slugging mark.

Not bad for someone who plays in one of toughest ballparks for hitters in the Southern League, if not all of Double-A. Hank Aaron Stadium may be named for a hitting great, but it is where balls go to die.

"The first few weeks, I let it get to me a little bit," Lamb admitted. "It was a big difference from the California League."

Lamb, who is also a plus fielder with a strong arm, batted .303 with Class A Advanced Visalia last year, but he was limited to 64 games because of a broken hamate bone.

He made up for some of the lost time in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .299 in 21 games with the Salt River Rafters. Then he got a little Cactus League experience as a non-roster spring invitee with the D-backs, hitting a home run.

"Playing in the Fall League and facing better pitching helped my confidence," Lamb said. "Then Spring Training gave me a chance to see the way Major Leaguers go about things. Martin Prado never stopped working."

Lamb may someday replace Prado at third base in Arizona, but he isn't getting ahead of himself. He's still adjusting to the humid South and having fun winning games with the BayBears, who lead the Southern League's South Division.

Green was also Lamb's manager his first season, when he hit .329 in the Rookie Pioneer League.

"He's great to play for," Lamb said. "You learn something every day."

Lamb is part of a potent middle of the lineup that includes outfielder David Peralta in the third spot and first baseman Jon Griffin at cleanup.

Lamb didn't get to hit with runners in scoring position much recently in a series at Tennessee. Griffin cleaned the bases with a four-homer game and ended up going deep in five consecutive at-bats.

"That was amazing," Lamb said. "He really put on a show."

In brief

League leader: Mississippi shortstop Elmer Reyes has been sizzling at the plate ever since spending the first two weeks of the season on the disabled list. He was hitting .346 and took over the lead in the Southern League batting race as soon as he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Reyes, a 23-year-old native of Nicaragua, had 15 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs in 34 games. He hit .285 with Lynchburg of the Class A Advanced Carolina League last season.

Up and away: Hitters no longer have to worry about two of the Southern League's top left-handed pitchers. Jacksonville's Andrew Heaney and Mobile's Andrew Chafin were promoted to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, with Heaney going to New Orleans and Chafin to Reno. Heaney, Miami's No. 1 prospect, was 4-2 with a 2.35 ERA in nine games for Jacksonville, striking out 52 in 53 2/3 innings while walking just 13. Chafin, Arizona's No. 12 prospect, was 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA in nine games for Mobile with 41 strikeouts and 19 walks in 55 innings.

DL'd again: Tennessee outfielder Jorge Soler went back on the disabled list, this time with a strain of his right hamstring, and he was joined by right-hander Pierce Johnson, who made his second trip to the DL with a strained calf. That left the Smokies again without the Chicago Cubs' No. 5 and No. 7 prospects, respectively. Soler has played in only seven games but has seven doubles, seven RBIs and a .333 average. Johnson was 1-1 with a 4.39 ERA in seven outings.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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