|Born: August 11, 1988
Height: 6′ 3″
Drafted: 4th Round, 146th overall, 2007
How Acquired: Trade (for Octavio Dotel)
High School: Newbury Park HS (CA)
Agent: Beverly Hills Sports Council
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Pirates obtained Lambo, along with RHP James McDonald, in exchange for RHP Octavio Dotel at the 2010 trade deadline. The trade represented a gamble with significant upside for the Pirates, as both Lambo and McDonald were former top prospects on whom the Dodgers had soured. Baseball America ranked Lambo and McDonald #1 and #2, in that order, in the Dodgers’ farm system going into 2009. BA also ranked Lambo #49 in all of baseball at that point. Lambo’s potential is with the bat, as his defense is below average, and his speed and arm are around average.
Had a big debut in the GCL, with good plate discipline.
In low A, Lambo had an outstanding season as a 19-year-old. His plate discipline slipped, as his K:BB ratio was nearly 3:1. The high doubles total seemingly promised more power to come. The Dodgers moved Lambo up to AA for the last eight games and he posted a 1.171 OPS.
Lambo skipped high A and had only a decent season in AA. He played most of the season at age 20, though, which is young for AA. He again hit a lot of doubles while maintaining marginal plate discipline.
The Dodgers sent Lambo back to AA and he started the season hot, posting a .956 OPS in 19 April games, but he got suspended for fifty games for violating MLB’s substance abuse policy. According to various news accounts, Lambo tested positive for a “drug of abuse” rather than for performance-enhancing drugs. He had been caught using marijuana in high school, which may have affected his draft standing; news accounts generally assume that was the problem in 2010 as well. The Pirates have stated that they investigated and concluded that Lambo had made a mistake but they did not believe he’d be a problem. He slumped badly after returning from the suspension. After the trade, he hit well initially, but then hurt his shoulder running into outfield wall. He continued to play, but it seemingly affected his hitting. Between the two stops he fanned in a quarter of his ABs. He went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit well.
The Pirates moved Lambo up to AAA and he was overmatched, hitting very little and striking out in a quarter of his ABs. The team demoted him to AA in late June and he struggled there initially, too. He gradually came around, though, and finished strongly, with a .906 OPS in August. He had a large platoon split there, posting a .695 OPS against LHPs and .810 against RHPs.
The Pirates did not add Lambo to their 40-man roster after the season, leaving him eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but he was not selected. He returned to Altoona at the start of the season and struggled, hitting very little through nine games before going out with a hamate injury. I don’t know whether he was playing with the injury or not. Following a rehab in the GCL, he returned for 17 games in AA and posted a .937 OPS.
Lambo was eligible again for the Rule 5 draft and wasn’t selected. The Pirates sent him back to AA to start the season and he had a breakout year, hitting for dramatically more power than he had previously. At mid-season, the Pirates moved him up to Indianapolis and he hit almost exactly the same there as he had in AA. At both levels he showed decent patience but struck out in more than a quarter of his ABs. He handled LHPs reasonably well, with an .810 OPS as opposed to .944 against RHPs. The Pirates called Lambo up in mid-August to replace Alex Presley, sent him back down briefly when they needed a pitcher, and brought him back to stay (except for a brief paper assignment to Altoona) in late August. He hit decently in the majors, except of course for the strikeouts. He played mostly the outfield corners at Altoona, but spent some time at first and a little in center. At Indianapolis he played the outfield corners almost exclusively. With the Pirates he served mainly as a pinch-hitter, but he got a few starts in right.
When the Pirates failed to acquire a first baseman during the offseason, Lambo went into spring training as the favorite to be the left-handed half of a first base platoon with Gaby Sanchez. He had a terrible spring, though, and the Pirates optioned him to Indianapolis. After a slow start in AAA, Lambo got red hot, posting an OPS of an even 1.000 through May 4. He only had two HRs at that point, as he seemed to be toning down his swing; for the AAA season he did reduce his K rate from better than one every three and a half ABs the previous year to one every five ABs. Unfortunately, he suffered a thumb injury that was first diagnosed as a bruise, but ultimately required surgery to repair a ligament. When he returned to Indianapolis in mid-July, he picked up where he left off, including a spree of six HRs in seven games in late August. The Pirates had opportunities to call him up during their August injury epidemic, but for some inexplicable reason, they preferred going with three zero-offense utility infielders (Michael Martinez, Jayson Nix and Brent Morel) to having Lambo available as a bat off the bench. They did call him up for September and he performed passably in what was primarily a pinch-hitting role. On the year, including majors and minors, he had no platoon split at all: he had an OPS of .888 against LHPs and .883 against RHPs.
Despite his performance in AAA, the Pirates don’t seem all that interested in Lambo. It was bad luck that he was hurt during a period when they were getting little offense from first base or right field, but they didn’t call him up in August when they had the chance, preferring veterans with terrible track records who ended up hurting the team. One problem seems to be that they don’t like his defense at first base. An opportunity as a fourth outfielder may have opened up for him, though, when the Pirates traded Travis Snider.
|2014: Major League Minimum|
|Signing Bonus: $164,250
MiLB Debut: 2007
MLB Debut: 8/13/13
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2019
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 8/13/13
Options Remaining: 2 (USED: 2014)
MLB Service Time: 0.079
|June 8, 2007: Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 4th round, 146th overall pick; signed on June 12.
July 31, 2010: Acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Los Angeles Dodgers along with James McDonald in exchange for Octavio Dotel and $500,000.
August 13, 2013: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.