Rising From the Ashes

The Detroit Tigers minor league system is lacking in blue chip prospects, but the organization is having some luck with re-energized castoffs from other organizations, including Chris Lambert. He is not going to be the savior of the Tigers staff, but he has a chance to contribute at the Major League level, which is something that seemed unlikely even a year ago.

Lambert was originally drafted out of Boston College in the first round (19th overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004. He had a nice college career and pitched exceptionally well during his first year in the Cardinals system by posting an ERA below three, allowing fewer than nine hits per nine innings and by averaging one strikeout per inning. Things began to unravel, though, midway through the 2005 season when he hit Double-A and Lambert struggled mightily until 2008. He was obtained by the Tigers midway through the 2007 season for washed up Mike Maroth.

Now in Triple-A Toledo, Lambert currently has a 2.97 ERA in 14 starts and has allowed fewer than one hit per inning. He has also struck out 61 batters in 78.2 innings of work. The one downside is that he has been allowing more than one fly ball for every ground ball out, although only four balls have left the yard.

When he was drafted, Lambert possessed a mid-90s fastball and knee-buckling curve ball, along with a developing change-up. His stuff is not what it used to be, but he is learning to be more of a pitcher and less of a thrower. He no longer projects as a potential No. 2 starter, but he could still develop into a workhorse at the back end of the Tigers rotation.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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