Prospect #20 – Andrew Lambo

Jan 17, 2012 by

Prospect #20 – Andrew Lambo

Andrew Lambo is, without a doubt, the forgotten man. Scan any news of prospects in the Pittsburgh system and you will be hard pressed to see his name mentioned anywhere. While Tony Sanchez, Stetson Allie and others are forgiven a bad season, Lambo has been more or less written off by evaluators and fans alike. There is no doubt that Lambo has failed to resurrect his elite prospect status, but I, for one, am not entirely convinced that he is DFA fodder quite yet.

Lambo was drafted by the Dodgers in the 4th round of the 2007 amateur draft out of Newbury Park HS. After terrific seasons in the GCL and the Midwest League in 2007-2008, Lambo was advanced all the way to Double A Chattanooga in the Southern League as a 20 year-old in 2009, which certainly did nothing to help his development. Lambo held his own, but everything fell apart in 2010 when he was suspended 50 games for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy. At that point, the Dodgers had seen enough, and included Lambo in the trade that brought James McDonald to the Pirates in return for Octavio Dotel.

 

PA HR BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wRC+
2008 -   A (19) 518 15 7.9 21.2 .288 .346 .488 130
2009 – AA (20) 541 11 7.2 17.6 .256 .311 .407   97
2010 – AA (21) 300   6 8.0 23.0 .272 .334 .397 100
2011 – AA (22) 286   8 9.1 20.6 .274 .345 .437 112

 

Lambo has always been a favorite of scouts even if the numbers never really supported their enthusiasm. He has a grooved left-handed swing with good bat speed, and was projected as a player who could have breakout power. But outside of 2008, he has never really had a big season in the minors, and has consistently had contact and plate discipline issues. But Lambo did leapfrog over the California League, costing him a chance to develop in a strong environment for offense. He flat lined repeating the AA level in 2010, missed time due to the suspension, and then changed organizations. Despite all of these setbacks, the Pirates moved him up to AAA Indianapolis to start 2011, a very ambitious placement that proved disastrous, mostly due to a ridiculous .228 BABIP.

There have been two players in the news lately who provide graphic evidence of the futility of rushing young prospects. Fernando Martinez just washed out of the Mets system, due to injuries, but also due to the absurd way that he was mishandled by the Mets’ previous front office. Likewise, Jose Iglesias is now considered to be a flop, when in actuality he was rushed off his feet by a Red Sox organization that has apparently been reading its own press clippings. In both of these cases, there was no need for these players to have been pushed so aggressively, other than to stroke the egos of their respective general managers. It could be argued that Lambo hasn’t been handled particularly well either; he probably hasn’t started a season at the appropriate level since 2008.

It is really a lack of context that has caused Lambo’s stock to plummet as far as it has. It is important to remember that if he had gone to college he would not have been eligible for the amateur draft until 2010, and may not have signed soon enough to play any ball that summer. Following this line of reasoning, if Lambo had started his professional career at age 22 with an initial struggle at AAA, followed by gradual improvement at AA culminating in a .792 OPS, including .908 during August, most fans would think he was a blue chip prospect on his way to greater things. Instead, Lambo, if he is remembered at all, is considered to be a dismal failure.

Lambo is not the shiny new toy anymore. He was left off of the 40-man roster and was eligible to be taken during the Rule 5 draft, but was not selected. This will only be his 23 year-old season; hopefully he will get untracked at Indianapolis at some point during the year, and provide the Pirates with another RF/1B option for 2013 and beyond. Lambo was supposed to be an excellent first baseman in high school before the Dodgers moved him to the outfield, so the Pirates should give him every chance to succeed at that position. I consider him to be extremely high risk at this point, but it is difficult to overemphasize how highly regarded he was earlier in his career, and it is at least possible that something finally clicked for him at the end of 2011. This will be a make or break season for Lambo, but given his power potential and the Pirates deficit in that area, he is worth another chance.

photo courtesy stidlundphotos

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