Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Lambert was a first round selection of the St. Louis Cardinals following his 2004 collegiate season at Boston College; and joins the Tigers to complete the Mike Maroth trade. Prior to joining the BC baseball team, Lambert was a standout hockey player in New Hampshire, and started his play in the Big East as a very raw and inexperienced baseball player. As a freshman for the Eagles, Lambert notched a 9-3 record with a 2.76 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning. He was the first pitcher in league history to be named both the Pitcher of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the same season, while also becoming only the second freshman to garner Pitcher of the Year honors (Charles Nagy was the first). In addition to those lofty honors, Lambert was named to multiple All-American teams, and the All-Northeast Region 1st Team.
Chris followed up his inaugural success by posting an 8-2 record in his second tour through the Big East, and garnered ABCA All-American Third Team, ABCA Northeast Region First Team, ECAC All-Star, and NCBWA District I Player of the Year honors along the way. Lambert followed up his excellent sophomore season by playing for the Chatham A's in the Cape Cod League and finished the summer with a 2.12 ERA and taking home the League's John Claffey New England Top Prospect Award. His success dipped slightly as a junior, posting only a 6-4 record and 3.04 ERA for an Eagles team that went 32-27. Despite his slight statistical downturn, Lambert was named the Big East's Co-Pitcher of the Year. He left the Eagles as the school's career leader in strikeouts and ERA.
The first round draft choice showed amazing promise for most of his first two seasons, notching a 2.58 ERA in nine starts for Peoria during his debut in the Midwest League, and a 7-1 mark with a 2.63 ERA for Palm Beach to start the 2005 season. His promotion to AA did not go smoothly, as he was knocked around to the tune of a 6.35 ERA in 18 starts for Springfield. Also during his 2005 season, he represented the St. Louis Cardinals in the annual Futures Game at All-Star weekend. A return to Springfield in 2006 garnered slightly better results, as he went 10-9 with a 5.30/1.57 line in 23 starts. The Cardinals opted to have Lambert return to Springfield for one more try in 2007, and the results were promising with a 3.42 ERA in only five starts before he was promoted to AAA-Memphis. Working in a relief role for most of his time with Memphis, Lambert struggled to a 7.49 ERA before the trade to Detroit.
Lambert's once explosive fastball has disappeared since joining the pro ranks. Once praised for a 92-94 mph heater with outstanding late life, his velocity had dipped to the 87-89 range at the close of last season. Through diligent work with pitching coach Dyar Miller, his velocity had crept back into the 89-91 range throughout much of his time at AAA. He struggles to locate his fastball throughout the zone, and even has frequent bouts with his ability to throw strikes in general.
His curveball and change-up are both positive pitches; working a tight overhand curve that is a solid above-average pitch. His change-up has worked as a plus pitch in the past but his command of the pitch has wavered this season. When he is working with good feel of his off-speed pitches, Lambert can be a devastating pitcher.
Chris is a good athlete with a solid understanding of his defensive responsibilities on the mound. He fields his position well and moves well throughout the middle of the diamond. The largest detractor in Lambert's game is his confidence and demeanor on the mound. He has trouble maintaining a belief in his ability and will often look defeated on the mound when things are not going his way.
Despite not particularly liking the nuances of the bullpen while at Memphis, Lambert's likely future role at the Major League level is as a reliever. He has the raw stuff to become a very good bullpen option, but he must maintain a certain swagger when he steps on the mound, no matter how things are going around him.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG AA
Chris has fatigued in each of his professional campaigns, and there are some questions about his ability to remain strong deep into a season. A move to the bullpen could help him remain stronger and more likely to help his team down the stretch.
Look for Lambert to play an integral role in Toledo's push for another International League crown. He will likely have the opportunity to win a roster spot in Detroit next spring, but he will be considered a bit of a long shot. Physically he is very close to being ready for the next level, but mentally he must overcome some inadequacies before he is likely to get a serious shot in Detroit.
If he doesn't break camp with the big club next spring, he will likely work from the Toledo rotation until he either forces the issue with his performance or the Tigers are in need of additional arms. Lambert's potential is still there, and while he may never develop into the frontline starter he was once projected as, he still has the ability to contribute to a contending team at the big league level.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.