Don't Sleep on Jake Lamb in Fantasy Baseball

Despite an incredible first few months of 2016, a brutal second half from Jake Lamb appears to be suppressing his draft-day value. How should we view him moving forward?

It's February, which means it's mock draft season. Mock drafts can be good and they can be really bad.

The bad is when you join one and owners hop in for the first few rounds and immediately bounce out -- it's hard to learn much from that. When they are done well, though, one of the great things is you learn a lot before actual drafts. It allows you to have another data point to see how other people are thinking, in addition to something like NFBC Average Draft Position (ADP) data.

After recently participating in my first mock of 2017, there was something that stuck out: Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb, who slugged 29 homers, scored 81 runs and collected 91 RBI in 2016, is going pretty low.

NFBC actually has him as the 16th third baseman coming off the board with an ADP of 147.42 (13th round in a 12-team league). Why is this happening?

Third Base Is Stacked

Part of the reason why Lamb and many others at third base -- like Evan Longoria (12th third baseman) and Justin Turner (15th third baseman) -- are going much later than expected is because the position itself is so deep.

According to NFBC, there are 4 third baseman going within the top-12 picks, but they include Kris Bryant (the reigning NL MVP), Nolan Arenado (who has 40 homers and 130-plus RBI in each of the last two seasons), Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson.

This doesn't even take into account Kyle Seager (30 homers in 2016), youngsters Alex Bregman and Javier Baez (Baez played 62 games at third and qualifies at the position), and many others. There are tons of options, and it's easy to see how some guys can get ignored.

For Lamb, the most recent memories of last year's performance weren't great, and it's making people forget about how good he actually was before things went south.

Where His Breakout Season Got Derailed

Lamb absolutely hit the skids in the second half of last year, and it wasn't pretty.

Plate Appearances Average ISO Runs Home Runs RBI
265 .197 .184 32 9 30

He didn't miss a ton of time, but did suffer a hand injury that could've had something to do with such a tough stretch. While Lamb has struggled against left-handed pitching throughout his young career, he was downright atrocious in the second half of 2016.

Split vs. LHP Plate Appearances Average ISO Runs Home Runs RBI
Career 177 .169 .141 19 5 20
2nd Half 2016 57 .120 .100 4 0 2

These splits certainly indicate the 26-year-old could've found himself as part of a platoon this year, but manager Torey Lovullo said Lamb is expected to be an everyday player. That's good, because any platoon that would allow some plate appearances to slide Brandon Drury's way cuts into Lamb's counting stats and his overall value.

As bad as this stretch was, his monstrous first half shows us what kind of upside he has.

A Monster Start to 2016

Given how bad the year ended, it can be easy to forget that Lamb was nearly an All-Star. That candidacy ultimately fell short despite hitting 20 jacks and collecting 61 ribbies in the first half.

Those are already some pretty impressive numbers, but it's even more impressive when looking at how he compared to some of the league's best hitters prior to the All-Star break.

Hitter Plate Appearances OPS Average ISO Runs Home Runs RBI
D. Ortiz 343 1.107 .332 .349 42 22 72
J. Donaldson 405 1.017 .304 .295 80 23 63
A. Rizzo 373 1.006 .299 .292 54 21 63
M. Trout 386 .991 .322 .245 68 18 58
M. Carpenter 351 .988 .298 .270 56 14 53
D. Murphy 362 .985 .348 .250 53 17 66
J. Lamb 329 .983 .291 .322 49 20 61
K. Bryant 385 .962 .286 .292 73 25 65

It's obvious he was really good during the first few months of 2016, but he was an elite fantasy hitter, ranking as the seventh best with regard to OPS. It should also be noted that his Isolated Slugging Percentage (ISO) was the second best in all of baseball.

Don't Sleep on Lamb

Lamb's 2016 left fantasy baseball owners greedily wanting more -- his crazy first half had folks dreaming of an absurd season, and it seemed possible since he was socking the cover off the ball.

Then, that brutal second half happened, and whether or not injury played a role in his lack of production, the second-half swoon is a big reason why he's getting drafted so late.

Lamb's struggles against southpaws are well documented, and it's definitely something to keep an eye on, along with his health. That being said, there aren't too many players with this much upside going in the mid- to late-rounds. Assuming he shows his is 100% healthy this spring, he's a great value pick. Ignore him at your own risk.