First Pitch: Why Not Andrew Lambo?

Andrew Lambo hit his 27th homer of the year tonight. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Andrew Lambo hit his 27th homer of the year tonight. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Alex Presley was promoted today to replace Michael McKenry on the active roster. In the last two days the Pirates have replaced Travis Snider and McKenry with Presley and Tony Sanchez. The addition of Presley raised some questions of why Andrew Lambo wasn’t promoted.

Then Andrew Lambo hit his 27th homer of the year later in the evening, and those questions came up again.

I don’t know why the Pirates decided to bring up Presley instead of Lambo. However, I can think of a few pretty good reasons.

1. Andrew Lambo isn’t on the 40-man roster. There is an open spot on the 40-man roster, but that will probably be filled at the deadline. There’s the talk that the Pirates are front runners for Brian Wilson. Then there’s the possibility of adding a few players in trades. The deadline has been quiet so far, but Neal Huntington is always one of the most active GMs around this time of year. There are guys you can remove from the 40-man roster, so this issue isn’t a problem by itself. However…

2. The trade deadline is two days away. The Pirates could trade for a right-fielder tomorrow. Or Wednesday. If that happens, then whoever you’re bringing up is only up for 3-4 games. In Lambo’s case, what is the point of calling him up to the majors to play just 3-4 games before you add a right-fielder who will block him the rest of the year? And going back to number one, why clear a 40-man spot for a guy when you might only have him up for 3-4 games?

3. Andrew Lambo could be a trade chip. He doesn’t fit into the long-term plans for the Pirates, since Gregory Polanco is the future third outfielder to pair with Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. Lambo isn’t quite back to the pre-2009 prospect rankings, but I’ve heard from some scouts that he is being seen as a prospect again. It’s hard to ignore 27 homers in four months at the age of 24. It can only help if the Pirates leave Lambo in Triple-A to crush the hitting at that level, rather than bringing him up to potentially struggle for a few days in the majors. If the Pirates did deal Lambo, he probably wouldn’t be the center piece of a deal, but could be a good #2-3 piece.

Now if the Pirates don’t add a right-fielder in the next two days, the situation changes. Then the Pirates might want to turn to Lambo as a Plan B. He’s got a .287/.358/.599 line in 167 at-bats at the Triple-A level, with a 12.85 AB/HR ratio. That’s a pace for 43 homers in a 550 at-bat season. You could write off his numbers in Altoona because of all the time he spent there, but the fact that he’s now doing this in Triple-A is something different.

There are some downsides. Lambo is striking out around 30% of the time, although you’d take that with his power, just like you’d take the same from Pedro Alvarez. The question is, will the power carry over to the majors? He has also been streaky in Triple-A. He had an amazing month of June, then slumped for the first half of July. He has picked things back up lately, with a .324/.378/.735 line and four homers in 34 at-bats over his last ten games.

Tonight Lambo became the first person in the Pirates minor league system to hit 27 homers in a season since Pedro Alvarez did it in 2009. The impressive thing is that Alvarez had his homers in high-A/Double-A, while Lambo has his in Double-A/Triple-A. Lambo also needed 78 fewer at-bats. I don’t think that’s power you can ignore or write off. There should be a healthy level of skepticism, since Lambo has struggled a lot the previous few years. But we should also remember that this is a guy who was once one of the top 50 prospects in baseball.

We’ve certainly seen guys go elsewhere and suddenly have their power potential click. Jose Bautista, of course. Brandon Moss did it last year with Oakland, and has 38 homers in 560 at-bats over the last two years with their team. So why can’t Lambo be another guy to add to the list? Why shouldn’t his power be seen as legit?

Personally I think the Pirates should try for a right-field upgrade on the trade market. The problem is that the market doesn’t look that strong. Alex Rios is the best guy on the market, and his value doesn’t exactly come from the bat. Plus there seem to be some attitude/hustle issues. Nate Schierholtz isn’t an everyday player, and would require a platoon partner. Hunter Pence is a rental, hasn’t been hitting for the last two years, and the Giants want a big return.

If those guys don’t come at a ridiculous price, or if a better right field option comes on the market in the next two days, then the Pirates should consider making a move to upgrade that position. However, if neither of those things occur, I’d much rather see the Pirates pass on over-paying for the weak trade market options this year, and roll the dice with the in-house option. Lambo isn’t exactly a guaranteed upgrade, but he is a 24-year-old outfielder with 27 homers in 387 at-bats this year. So it’s not like he doesn’t have any appeal.

The Pirates are also a strong all-around team with very few weaknesses. Right field is one of the few weak areas on the team, and the Pirates have been winning all season even with this weak spot. So if Lambo doesn’t work out, it’s not like the Pirates will collapse because they’re suddenly not getting production from that spot. He can only help.

I haven’t been impressed with this trade market so far. The prices seem high, the players who are available don’t seem like a big upgrade, and the Pirates don’t seem like they need to make a big splash. So if they didn’t add anyone to fill that right field void at the deadline, that wouldn’t be an issue for me. As long as Andrew Lambo came up on August 1st.

Links and Notes

**Check out the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects podcast: P3 Episode 14: Previewing the Trade Deadline For the Pirates.

Prospects

**Prospect Watch: Lambo Hits His 27th Homer; Glasnow Continues His Dominance.

**Alex Dickerson Wins Another Eastern League Player of the Week Award.

**Minor League Schedule: Kingham, Pimentel and Holmes All Set For Tonight.

Pirates

**Pirates Open Five-Game Set with All-Around Dominance.

**Pirates Notebook: Bucs Return to PNC Park.

**Pirates Considered Strong Front Runners For Brian Wilson.

**Pirates Place McKenry on the DL, Recall Alex Presley.

Tim Williams

Author: 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.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.busch.98 Mark

    “He has also been streaky in Triple-A. He had an amazing month of June, then slumped for the first half of July.”

    Is it just me, or do I see ten times the amount of hitters being classified as “streaky” compared to “consistent”. I think even consistent hitters can have a down two weeks.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I think when it comes to the minors it’s more about learning a new level. Lambo was on fire in June, then it looked like the league was adjusting to him. Now it looks like he’s adjusting back.

      That’s pretty common across minor league baseball. Rarely do you have a guy come in and just dominate a level from start to finish with little to no drop off.

      • Skipperron

        Why is being streaky only a problem when it is certain players? If it is a player the media or the pirates have picked to be the next big thing, it is ok. But let it be a guy that is having a great year but is considered AAAA or just not exciting enough and it then becomes a problem

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          When I talk about a minor league player being streaky it’s more about that player being ready for a promotion. I said the same thing last June about Starling Marte when people were saying he should be up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.s.myers Robert S. Myers

    Hasnt Lambo played some 1b a little in his career. Could he be a poor mans GI Jones?

    • https://profiles.google.com/118211699793050813855 Nick Dominguez

      I think he would be an excellent option at first until Dickerson comes up, and it would allow us to move Jones while he still has value.

      • moose7195

        Yes, but what if Lambo isn’t as good as Jones, and we trade Jones? That leaves us with the bad end of the 1B platoon that can’t hit righties playing more regularly. Jones has played well since the break, and if he continues, its basically the same as adding an impact bat at the deadline.

  • https://www.facebook.com/frank.micko Frank Micko

    Waiting until he’s behind Cutch, Marte, and Polanco makes no sense when we have a division to win now.

  • timdwyer8

    Can Lambo play 1B?

  • csnumber23

    I have no interest in seeing Lambo in our lineup this year. If he came up, he would be over matched and not help us. No doubt in my mind. Look at what he has done the last 4 years(not much) and look at his strikeouts. We don’t need another strike out guy in our lineup, especially one with no MLB experience. I would much rather see them go all in now with Polanco if they couldn’t upgrade by trade. I know Polonco is so called further behind and at double A but I don’t think he would be over matched at all, just look at his plate discipline. There have been many players to jump straight from Double A to the majors in a race. Just last year Manny Machado did it when many said he wasn’t ready and he was almost 2 years younger than Polanco. If no trade upgrade, go with Polanco now!! I would bet a month salary that Polonco right now would give us more production than all our RF’s have this year.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

      If by plate discipline you mean he takes a lot of walks, then consider that while Polanco has been taking walks at a 11% pace this year, Lambo has a 10% walk rate. Like Tim said, if he is overmatched, so what, everybody else in RF this season has been also, but if he shows he can do it, then you have a big trade chip when Polanco is ready.

    • stickyweb

      Yup, Manny Machado did it. And Albert Pujols. So it happens once every 15 years. Or has there been somebody else that’s done it and even been average, let alone above average?

      • https://profiles.google.com/100508923100437214310 William Beckley

        I know the situation is a bit different, but I think Yasiel Puig has made the jump from AA to the majors pretty well.

        • stickyweb

          Never heard of him :-) Actually that’s a great one, why do you say the situation is a bit different?

          • https://profiles.google.com/100508923100437214310 William Beckley

            A bit different I think because of Puigs time in the Cuban National Series, which I imagine is somewhat akin to AAA quality, though that’s a guess.

      • https://profiles.google.com/112402176672885120423 Alex Henry

        Bryce Harper, Mike Trout

        • stickyweb

          Harper spent time at AAA before MLB, though not much at all. Trout skipped AAA, sucked for 40 games in MLB, then started the next year at AAA. I don’t think either fits the mold.

      • http://www.facebook.com/mark.busch.98 Mark

        The Marlins alone have had huge success promoting guys from AA: Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Fernandez. My preferences for Pirates’ RF after the trade deadline have been:

        Giancarlo > Polanco > Lambo > Presley/Tabata > Snider

        • stickyweb

          Good call on both of them Mark, not a day in AAA for either of them, not even on a rehab. I stand corrected. And Hanley didn’t even dominate at AA, though he did spend over a full season there. I love Polanco but just don’t see him as being ready yet, especially when Lambo’s doing what he’s doing. I agree with your progression except I’d have Lambo before Polanco (and wouldn’t even list Stanton since my odds on the Powerball are as good as the Bucs on him).

  • Blue Bomber

    Barring a trade, why not Presley? He has clearly out-played Snider in their time with the Pirates. He has a career .750 OPS vs RHP, he can run, he’s hit for more power, and he can field better than both Tabata and Snider. He’s not a star by any means, but he might be better than what we’ve been playing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ron.loreski Ron Loreski

      I completely agree. I know Presley isn’t Jacoby Ellsbury, but he’s shown just as much flash as Snider or Tabata have ever shown. If not more. I get the feeling Clint Hurdle isn’t a Presley fan, so he’s only brought up and used when absolutley neccesary.

  • Nuke Laloosh

    “We’ve certainly seen guys go elsewhere and suddenly have their power potential click. Jose Bautista, of course. Brandon Moss did it last year with Oakland, and has 38 homers in 560 at-bats over the last two years with their team. So why can’t Lambo be another guy to add to the list? Why shouldn’t his power be seen as legit?” Agree completely.

    Can the Pirates afford to let a guy with that kind of power slip away? This not only was a player who was considered a top prospect at one time, but has seemed to have matured in the last couple of years and is really coming into his own.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD

    I’d give Lambo/Tabata platoon a chance, before I would trade either one as part of a trade for a short term rental.

  • Nuke Laloosh

    I certainly would rather see Lambo than Snider out there. And watching Tabata out there is getting old as well.

  • TNBucs

    Why wouldn’t Lambo be part of the long-term plan at 1B? I know he’s been playing RF but that would seem to just be grooming him to replace Jones’ role with the team next season. And Dickerson provides depth if Lambo doesn’t work out.

  • benh444

    2 questions: why aren’t more people talking about marlon byrd as a potential option? he has an 883 ops against lefties and plays an above average right field. also, do you think we’ll see neil walker platooned the rest of this season with mercer and barmes both starting against lefties?

    • ThisIsTheYear

      Because Byrd is 1,000,000 years old having a career year. Screams for drop off in performance in the last months of the season.

      • benh444

        hes 35…his ba babip and obp are right around his career averages, the only things that are up are his power numbers…considering he plays in a great pitchers park i dont know that qualifies him for a huge regression

    • stickyweb

      Ben4, SSSSHHHHH! Keep it on the down low. It’s always the trades that aren’t talked about that get done. I think there’s a pretty high chance NH is working on a Byrd trade.

  • https://www.facebook.com/frank.micko Frank Micko

    Because we’ve seen Presley multiple times is why. What we haven’t seen is the guy crushing AAA pitching brought up.

  • http://www.smalawgroup.com Esquire

    I really like the idea of giving Lambo an opportunity in RF. Isn’t this exactly why Huntington traded for Snider last year? He wanted a young power bat with years of control.

    That sounds like Lambo to me. I understand that we are in the thick of a pennant race, but Lambo can’t be worse than the alternative. (Barring a trade)

    Also, we shouldn’t overlook the possibility of more trade pieces becoming available in August. The market will become more clear once teams accept they are out of the race. He could at least audition until then so we can see what we have in him.

    • stickyweb

      Esq, yeah the more you think about it, the more you see the similarities between Lambo and Snider. Both top prospects in the game at one point, both hadn’t realized their potential, both bought low by NH hoping to turn things around.

      Difference is Snider showed a flash in MLB, then dropped off the cliff, and hasn’t taken advantage of his near full time chance since the Bucs got him. How is a lefty with ANY power not getting an occasional HR at PNC? Even Presley gets them with his line drive swing.

      Lambo’s never had the chance, but why not now? The only reason is if they get a RF via trade, like Tim indicated. If that’s not done by Wednesday, they have to call up Lambo.

  • leadoff

    Lambo probably is only a little over a month away from coming to Pittsburgh, problem will be that when he does, I doubt if he plays anyway, Hurdle is a veteran manager, not a manager for kids, Huntington can bring up anyone he wants, Hurdle decides who gets on the grass. I Don’t look for Mercer to play much either as they go down the stretch.

    • stickyweb

      I think if Snider and Tabata keep stinking, Presley does what he did last year (i.e. stink) and they don’t trade for a RF option, NH will probably “suggest”, boss to subordinate, that Lambo gets a couple weeks to see what he can do.

  • leadoff

    One other thing that I see right or wrong, but I have said this many times, IMO, Lambo has the dreaded “Label” placed on him by management, Lambo’s label is a “Non Prospect”. When Huntington was asked about Lambo on Sunday, he did everything in his power to not address the question, something like a politician.

  • moose7195

    Lambo seems ready, but I wouldn’t put that much stock in Lambo helping this team immediately. The article compares him to Alvarez, and if that comparison holds, Lambo is going to struggle in the majors with a ton of Ks for a while. Many people expect this kid to impact the major league team positively, but how soon they forget the multitude of RFers that have destroyed AAA only to struggle in the majors. Snider destroyed AAA similarly to Lambo a few years back. Tabata hit well in AAA too. Presley OBPed a very poor 280 last year as an everyday starter, and he’s still hitting well in AAA. Don’t get me wrong, I think Lambo should have gotten the callup before Presley, but I’m not expecting the kid to come up and own RF. And any production from him at all is purely a bonus because this kid is a 24 yr old rookie. And there is definitely some flaws in a player thats taken 7 years to conquer the minor leagues.

    • stickyweb

      Snider’s AAA numbers were in Vegas, so they’re inflated. Tabata actually never hit that great in AAA, or any level of the minors for that matter. Presley’s the best example of hitting very well in AAA and not so much in MLB. But Lambo’s 3 years younger, so why not give him a chance.

      • moose7195

        Snider was still called up at the age of 20 so the Jays must of seen something beyond the inflation. Tabata still OPSed a decent 800 the year they called him up. And none of those guys have really turned into anything. And I said I’d like to see Lambo, I just don’t expect him to earn a job everyday in RF or 1B, but maybe the fact that the scouting report on him is new and relatively unproven could let him take advantage and start hot, but thats a best case scenario to me

        • stickyweb

          I know what you’re saying moose, but how bad do you think he’s gonna be if he can’t do better than what we have? Basically it comes down to beating out Presley cause Tabby and Snider have been so bad. I’d think he’s got a good chance of doing that.

          Now is he the answer long term? Obviously not, with Polanco lurking. But then Lambo could switch to 1B if he’s doing well enough at the plate and if they haven’t done anything to address that.

  • smurph

    I think Tim covered all the bases in this column. Why add Lambo to the 40-man, when there is a strong possibility that you add a player in the next two days, and then send him back down, but now he takes up a spot on the 40-man? Doesn’t make any sense. Indy’s season will end soon, and rosters expand Sept. 1. If he keeps hitting I think you will see him before the season ends.

  • scrappy2499

    I’m hoping that Lambo has finally figured things out. I actually think that he may have been looked at a little different if he wouldn’t have had two back to back years dealing with injuries and the 50 game suspension is first year with us. I think those three years threw him off a bit. It looks like we are seeing a healthy Lambo finally and are seeing what he is able to do.