In previous years there has been a debate over the top performing hitting prospect in the system. In 2011 it was Starling Marte vs Robbie Grossman. In 2012 it was Gregory Polanco vs Alen Hanson. This year there was no debate. Andrew Lambo was clearly the top performer this year among hitting prospects in the Pirates system, and is the Pirates Prospects Minor League Player of the Year.
Lambo combined for a .282/.347/.574 line in 444 at-bats this year between Double-A and Triple-A, hitting 32 home runs on the season. He led the Pirates’ minor league system in homers (32), RBIs (99), slugging percentage (.574), OPS (.922), and total bases (255). The counting stats are the most impressive part, since Lambo spent time at the end of the season in Pittsburgh, playing in only three minor league games after August 11th.
He started out back in Altoona, which is a level where he has spent a lot of time in previous years. This year marked the sixth season where Lambo has spent part of the year in Double-A. The results this time were much different. Lambo had a .291/.351/.559 line in 220 at-bats, with 14 homers. His previous high in home runs at the Double-A level was 11 in 492 at-bats in 2009. Prior to this season he had a 35.75 AB/HR ratio at the Double-A level. This year he had a 15.71 AB/HR ratio. The difference is 20 home runs over a 550 at-bat season.
There was some concern that Lambo’s numbers were a result of so much time at the level, and that he might struggle in a new level. Instead, he only got better by moving to Triple-A. In his time with Indianapolis, Lambo hit for a .272/.344/.589 line in 224 at-bats, with 18 homers. Even though he only played half a season, Lambo led Indianapolis in home runs, with the next closest hitter having five fewer home runs. Even more impressive, Lambo was tied for the tenth most home runs in the International League. The players tied with him or ahead of him had anywhere from 100-300 more at-bats at the level.
Lambo finished tied for 5th this year in all of minor league baseball with his 32 home runs. The amount of homers was also the most any Pirates minor leaguer has hit since Brad Eldred hit 38 in 2004 between High-A and Double-A. Jon Benick hit 32 that year in Low-A. Lambo was the first Pirates minor leaguer to hit 20 or more home runs since Brandon Moss hit 22 in 2010. Stetson Allie also hit more than 20 homers this year. Other notable home run totals that Lambo passed were Pedro Alvarez’s 27 in 2009 (High-A/AA) and Steve Pearce’s 31 in 2007 (High-A, Double-A, Triple-A).
The performance this year was enough to get Lambo a shot in the majors. However, due to strong performance by Jose Tabata in August, and the trade for Marlon Byrd at the end of the month, Lambo has been limited to just 25 plate appearances, with a .638 OPS in that time. He could get more of a shot next year at the age of 25. Alex Presley was recently traded, and Travis Snider is arbitration eligible this off-season and is a non-tender candidate due to his performance this year. That would make Lambo one of the top options if the Pirates don’t seek outside help.
Previous Pirates Prospects Minor League Players of the Year
2012 – Gregory Polanco
2011 – Starling Marte