Prospect Notebook: Andrew Lambo’s 2011 Struggles

Once considered one of the top 50 prospects in all of baseball, Andrew Lambo’s value has been on the decline.

The outfielder was the top prospect in the Dodgers’ system and the 49th best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America, prior to the 2009 season. After struggling at the plate, and dealing with a suspension for recreational drug use, the Dodgers traded him away to the Pirates along with James McDonald in exchange for Octavio Dotel. Lambo had sporadic periods of success with the Pirates, but largely has struggled, to the point where he’s rarely mentioned among the top outfield depth in the upper levels.

“Those are always going to go up and down. One minute you’re going to be the man, the next minute you’re not. That’s just part of the game. That’s a part of baseball,” Lambo said about his fall from top prospect status. “You’ve got to continue to put up, and to be consistent, and I don’t think that in the past that I’ve been consistent. Not only offensive, just all around. That’s why, right now, when you grow, get a little older, you start to understand the importance of coming in with a fresh, new mentality. And I think that I’ve kind of dedicated the off-season and this Spring Training to having an aggressive-positive mindset of just executing and playing baseball, playing hard.”

One of the big things Lambo struggled with last year was his hitting against left-handers. The left-handed hitter hasn’t always struggled against southpaws. In the past he’s had some even splits, including some years where his numbers were better against left-handers. Of course his issues in 2011 weren’t just limited to struggling against left-handers.

“Last year, beginning, I couldn’t hit anybody,” Lambo said with a laugh. “Lefty or righty, I wasn’t going out there and really swinging it.”

He struggled at the start of the season, getting demoted from Triple-A to Double-A. His woes continued at the Double-A level until a strong finish to the season partially turned things around. Going forward, he says his approach will be the same, regardless of what side the pitcher throws from.

“I keep the same approach in general,” Lambo said. “Lefties and righties, my approach is still the same. Stay through the ball, stay middle.”

The 2012 season will mark the fifth year that Lambo has spent at the Double-A level. He arrived at the end of the year in 2008, played there in 2009 and 2010, and returned there in 2011, after being demoted from Triple-A.

“It’s a challenge, and you’ve got to either rise up, or you crumble,” Lambo said of the return to Double-A. “That’s the way I’m looking at it, and that’s the way I think you have to look at it overall.”

One advantage for the outfielder is his age. Despite spending so much time at the level, Lambo is only 23, and doesn’t turn 24 until August. But the Pirates’ outfield situation is getting more crowded by the day. Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, and Alex Presley will start the year in the majors, while Starling Marte and Robbie Grossman give the team two top prospects in the upper levels. That means Lambo is going to have to rebound quickly, or risk being further lost in the fold.

So far this spring his hitting has been mixed. I’ve seen him struggle against left-handers, but I also watched him homer off of lefty Nathan Baker last week. I’ve seen him hit right-handers hard at times, though not every time. The real test will come when the regular season rolls around.

HOWARD WORKS ON DEFENSE, RELENTLESS HITTING

Justin Howard was taken by the Pirates in the 24th round of the 2010 draft out of the University of New Mexico. The college senior went to West Virginia last year where he put up decent results, but nothing close to the numbers he put up in New Mexico. Howard hit for a .262 average in West Virginia, with a .762 OPS and six homers over 450 at-bats.

Howard worked on a mental approach to hitting over the off-season, taking a relentless approach at the plate, and never wavering.

“Last year in West Virginia I would kind of let the pitcher dictate my approach, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be,” Howard said about his 2011 season. “I need to control the game, I need to set my plan, what I’m going to do.”

Howard was mostly an outfielder in New Mexico, but also played some first base. He had a similar role in 2011, playing in the outfield at the start of the year, then getting more time at first base after Matt Curry moved up to Altoona. His 2012 season could be similar. He profiles as a guy who could start at Bradenton, although first base will be taken at the level by Alex Dickerson. That puts Howard in line to get more playing time in the outfield than it does at first base. Howard prepared for both in the off-season.

“I put a lot of emphasis on [defense] in the off-season, because I want to give my manager confidence in me to go ‘He can play first base, he can play left, he can play right.’ Just kind of put me wherever they want to and know I’m going to make that play for them,” Howard said.

He’s not a guy who profiles for a lot of power, despite a strong build. Howard does have a good bat and good hitting skills, so if he’s going to make it, he will need to return to his old hitting ways, putting up a high average and doing so on a consistent basis.

“You look at some of the guys, what separates the guys from Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues is all who can be consistent. Last year I wasn’t as consistent as I want to be, or I can be.”

OTHER NOTES

**Starling Marte is fast. He smacked a double off Joel Hanrahan today, and it wasn’t a sure double. The ball was hit to the gap in shallow left-center. Marte used his speed to beat out the throw to second base. On a similar hit later, Chase d’Arnaud could only manage a single and a wide turn, and d’Arnaud is also fast.

**Walker Gourley has had a few hard hit balls lately, getting a double today off Clayton Holmes.

**I’ve said before that Quincy Latimore might have some of the best power in the system. He showed that off today with a double off of Luis Heredia, and later crushed a home run against Holmes.

**I didn’t get stat lines for Holmes, Heredia, or Jake Burnette, but all three were mostly throwing in the low 90s while I was watching them. It was a very informal game. Burnette had a few really good pitches, throwing the ball down, and he showed some nice break on his off-speed pitches.

VIDEO OF THE DAY

A lot has been made in the past about how the Pirates don’t allow individual throwing programs for pitchers, and don’t allow pitchers to go beyond 120. This has been proven wrong on several occasions, most recently this Spring with Tim Alderson returning to his old long toss program.

Here is a video of Tim Alderson long tossing today, throwing to Rudy Owens, who is number 99. The video was taken with my phone, so it’s not the best quality, but you can get the idea of how far out Alderson is from the other guys around him.

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Utility Battle Heating Up During Final Week

Next Story »

Bedard Sharp in Bucs Loss to O’s

Latest Analysis

  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    2 hours ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    1 day ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    3 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    4 days ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    5 days ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    6 days ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    1 week ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    1 week ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Third Base Mathisen Luplow Joe

    Who’s on Third? In the Pirates’ Farm System, It Could Be Anyone

    1 week ago

    If you have ever played third base in your life — professional, college, high school, slow pitch softball — then the Pittsburgh Pirates might be contacting you ...

    Read More
  • Jason Creasy

    Another Pitcher to Watch From the Pirates’ 2011 Draft

    2 weeks ago

    The 2011 draft is shaping up to be a great class for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They picked first overall that year, so naturally you’d expect good things ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles

    More