Andrew Lambo is joining the Pittsburgh Pirates in the major leagues, reports Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com. Lambo leaves Triple-A behind with a minor league-leading 31 home runs, having split time between Double and Triple-A.
Those are the facts. The rest of this is opinion and analysis, as Lambo, and what should be expected from him in the majors, remains an enigma.
Lambo was once the top prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization heading into the 2009, according to Baseball America. He was coming off an .833 OPS season as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League and profiled as a future power-hitting corner outfielder. By the time the Dodgers traded him (along with James McDonald) to the Pirates for Octovio Dotel just a year-and-a-half later, Lambo's stock had fallen considerably.
In the two-and-a-half years between that trade and the beginning of this season, Lambo hit just 18 home runs, the same amount he hit in his breakout 2008 campaign. He also missed the majority of the 2012 season due to injury.
So you'll forgive the Pirates for not factoring him into their major league plans this season.
But much like Darin Ruf did last year to the Phillies with a breakout season, Lambo has forced his way into the consciousness of the Pirates, and after a three-game sweep in which the Pirates were able to score just seven runs in three games at Coors Field.
But will Lambo help? And how much?
A 30-homer season was once expected from Lambo, but after his struggles over the past few years, it was questioned whether or not he still has that potential. He has proved that the power is still there, but the question now remains how it will translate against major league pitching and whether it is enough to make him an everyday player.
The former is a question becuase his only power production in the past four years came against younger competition as a 24-year-old in Double and Triple-A who turned 25 yesterday. That's not so old that it totally negates the performance, but this season marked his sixth stint at the Double-A level, so there's about a pound of salt that needs to go with his raw numbers. His continued success in Triple-A certainly helps with that, but isn't enough to assume he will come up and hit immediately.
The latter is a question becuase, even with breakout season, Lambo still has a significant platoon split. This season, the left-handed hitting Lambo has a .980 OPS against right-handed pitching but a .788 OPS against lefties, leaving serious question as to whether or not he can play every day.
For now, however, he could easily still represent an improvement against right-handed pitching, where the Pirates used Travis Snider for most of the season and have now turned to Alex Presley. Even if Lambo isn't the .280 hitter he's been in the minors this season, he has enough power that he should still be a better offensive player than that duo. Against right-handers, he only has Jose Tabata to beat out, giving him a puncher's chance of earning every day at-bats down the stretch.
What the Pirates haven't done here, however, is add a 30-homer bat, an opinion that is likely to be trumpeted because of Lambo's minor league numbers and the Pirates lack of action at the trade deadline. Lambo can help, but he's unlikely to step in and be a middle-of-the-order impact bat, especially in a lineup that is already left-handed-heavy. He is, however, likely to be an improvement over Snider or Presley against righties, and potentially Tabata against lefties.