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D-backs prospect Lamb enjoying AFL opportunity

Special to

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- D-backs infield prospect Jake Lamb rode the roller coaster during his second Minor League season in 2013.

Lamb played well at third base but was plagued by a broken hamate bone in his hand that kept him out of action for nearly a month.

Lamb, the No. 11 prospect  on the D-backs' Top 20 list, needed more at-bats and sensed that he would be getting them in the club's Arizona instructional league after the completion of the regular season.

The D-backs then told him that yes, he would be getting those at-bats, but he would be getting them in the Arizona Fall League, not the instructional league.

Most young players know that playing in the AFL can be a significant step in their career. Lamb was no different.

"I thought, 'Wow, this is an amazing opportunity.' I was pumped,'' said Lamb, sitting in the Salt River Rafters' clubhouse before a recent AFL game.

 "These are the top young players coming up in the game. It's great to be able to play with and against them and show people what I can do.''

Through the season's first five weeks, Lamb hit .292 with four doubles, one home run and seven RBIs in 17 games.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Lamb was Arizona's sixth-round Draft pick in 2012 out of the University of Washington. He hit .329 in 67 games for Missoula of the Pioneer League (Rookie) in 2012. In 2013, he hit .294 in five games with the Arizona Rookie League D-backs, then hit .303 with Visalia in the Class A Advanced California League. He helped Visalia reach the league championship series against San Jose, which won it in five games. He also had an on-base percentage of .424 with 48 walks.

Coming to the AFL, Lamb said, "You realize that first game that everybody is legit. There are few weaknesses.''

Lamb's hand is fine, for the most part, although he feels an occasional twinge on certain swings. He hits left-handed and broke the bone swinging the bat in a game with Visalia.

"It just popped,'' Lamb said.

The bone was surgically removed, which is common, and after some rehabilitation, it took him only about a game or two to return to his old self, he said.

Lamb has played third base most of his career and that is where he expects to stay. No position switches.

"I think [the D-backs] see me as a third baseman of the future, and if I am honest with myself, I say the same thing,'' he said. "I feel like I will be able to play at that [the Major League] level.

"I have got to keep improving, though. It's a constant battle.''

Defense is a big part of the equation. Lamb has made four errors in the AFL.

"Throwing over [to first base] is the easiest part. You have already caught the ball, which is the hardest part,'' he said. "There's no excuse for [errors], really.''

Lamb said much of the solution is footwork, being in the right position at the start of the at-bat, and knowing the hitters, although he admitted that part is difficult since he has not seen most of the hitters.

The Rafters' home games are at Salt River Fields, the Spring Training home of the D-backs. Does Lamb feel any more pressure to succeed, considering the fact the team's front-office personnel could be watching a lot of games?

"I don't really notice [the extra attention],'' he said. "I'm not a guy who looks up in the stands. I figure there will be plenty of bigger crowds down the road.

"The second you start worrying about being called up, your numbers can go down. You hear people say it all the time, 'Don't worry about it,' but it's true. You can't worry about the past. You can't worry about the future. You can only worry about the present and to be the best you can be.''

Don Ketchum is a contributor to

Arizona Diamondbacks