D-backs notes: Lamb’s power surge among season’s best developments

Jake Lamb's .592 slugging percentage is the third best in the major leagues -- behind only David Ortiz and Manny Machado.

Mark J. Rebilas/Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX — A disappointing first half of the 2016 season has not been without bright spots for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

At the top of the list would be the development of third baseman Jake Lamb.

Lamb blasted his 17th home run of the season on Wednesday, a three-run shot that upped his team-leading RBI total to 55. He’s got 40 extra-base hits, a .288 batting average and a .592 slugging percentage in 260 at-bats. 

For perspective, consider that in 350 at-bats last season (he missed a sizable chunk with ), he had six home runs, 26 extra-base hits, a .263 batting average and a .386 a slugging percentage. He’s upped his walk rate from 9.2 tp 10.2 percent, and while his striking rate is still higher than he’d like, it’s down from 24.9 to 24.1 percent.

"I feel good at the plate, swinging at the pitches I want to swing at, making hard contact, just trying to have quality at-bats," Lamb said.

Remember that a year ago in spring training, Lamb wasn’t assured a roster spot, let alone a starting position. The common sentiment was that the team wanted Yasmany Tomas to win the third base job.

Now, the 25-year-old Lamb is one of the building blocks of the roster, up there with Paul Goldschmidt and the injured A.J. Pollock. He ranks seventh among all third basemen in home runs, sixth in Wins Above Replacement, third in RBI and second in slugging — ahead of the likes of Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant. His slugging percentage is the third-highest in the major leagues — trailing only David Ortiz and Manny Machado.

"There’s a lot more there, so it’s exciting to see," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "He’s going to get better and better."

One area of development will be against left-handed pitchers. Hale has begun exposing him to more lefties, understanding that the only way he’s going to get more proficient is to get more opportunities.

He had only 45 at-bats against lefties a year ago, hitting .200 with one home run. He’s already gotten 51 at-bats this year, hitting .196 with three homers.

Lamb’s other challenge is with the glove. He made his 12th error on Wednesday, and fifth in his last seven games. He made just seven errors a year ago.

"He’s got to be consistent," Hale said. "This is a guy who has a chance to be one of the better third basemen in the league offensively and defensively. He’s a very, very good athlete, he’s a good third baseman, and he’s going through a rough time on defense. But he’s made some good plays also. Just have to keep working, keep teaching."

Bourn again

With Chris Owings, David Peralta and Socrates Brito on the disabled list, 33-year-old Michael Bourn has become virtually an every-day player in center field for the D-backs. He signed a minor-league contract in May as roster insurance, and Hale doesn’t want to think where they’d be without him.

"He’s just been playing his tail off for us," Hale said.

"We didn’t know the resiliency his body was going to have. He’s played at awful lot. We’ve pushed him pretty hard, and he’s responded. He’s been a real treat for us. A shot in the arm that we needed."

Bourn had four hits Wednesday to raise his average on .264 — one a pure hustle double on what appeared to be a routine single to right-center. He also made a nice defensive play, cutting off Cesar Hernandez’s double in the gap and delivering a perfect relay throw to Jean Segura, who nailed Freddy Galvis at the plate by a wide margin.

"I just take it one day at a time," Bourn said. "The more you get to play, I think the better you have a rhythm at playing."

Minor-league report

Left-handed pitcher Anthony Banda, who was promoted last week from Double-A Mobile to Triple-A Reno, was selected to play for Team USA in the All-Star Futures Game at Petco Park in San Diego.

Banda, 22, was 6-2 with a 2.12 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings for Mobile. He made his first start for Reno on Sunday, giving up six earned runs in five innings.

–Reno first baseman Kyle Jensen hit his 15th home run and drove in a pair of runs Tuesday for the Aces in a 15-12 win over El Paso. The RBI gave him a team-record 39 in the month of June, with one game to play, and upped his league-leading total to 71. He’s also hit 10 home runs in the month while batting .306.

Jensen was one of three Aces named to the PCL team on Thursday for the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 13 in Charlotte, N.C. He’ll be joined teammates Braden Shipley and Tuffy Gosewisch.

Shipley is 6-4 with a 3.81 ERA over 99 1/3 innings. Gosewisch is hitting .337 with seven home runs and 23 RBI while throwing out a PCL-leading 41.5 percent of attempted base stealers. 

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