Prospect #4 - OF Andrew Lambo

His final statistical line .256/11/61 at Chattanooga in 2009 would probably engender only mild excitement had you not noticed the name that went with it and the outfielders age. Andrew Lambo, at age 20, held his own in the Southern League at an age that many players are just completing their sophomore year.

In his first two seasons he scorched his way through the Dodgers system, hitting .343 in the Gulf Coast League at age 18 and the following season he battered Midwest League pitching and, promoted to Double-A Jacksonville, had posted a .389 average and a 1.171 on-base plus slugging.

That saddled him with the toughest handicap of all, the curse of "potential," a weight under which many remarkable players have broken down.

Duke Snider struggled with the description and no matter how well he performed, and he performed brilliantly, critics were always on hand to point out that he could have done better. The hue and cry ended only when Snider was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Now Lambo may never earn such an honor, but the young man will be compared to his early professional efforts the rest of his career.

But overcoming obstacles does not seem to a problem for him.

Before he was selected No. 4 by the Dodgers in the 2007 draft, the word on the baseball street was anybody who drafts this guy is asking for trouble. This guy is bad news. There was also a published report that scouting directors who were talking to him were turned off by his flippant attitude.

These weren't just side-of-the-mouth whispers, either. No, the bloggers who dwell on this sort of thing, were messaging away and reports found their way into print.

So his stock fell from an almost-certain second-rounder until the Dodgers took him in the fourth.

What? The Dodgers! Logan White, the man who was in charge of scouting, the one who stresses character like Sister Margaret Mary used to in your fourth grade class. What's going on here?

"Oh, sure, he did some things," White relates. "But nothing like they said he did. Those reports were all exaggerated. And I talked to him and didn't find him that way. He made some kid mistakes and I believe in second chances."

Lambo himself is forthright about all this. "I always played sports with kids that are older than I am so I began running with an older crowd. Yes, I got into some trouble and wasn't headed in the right direction when I was a freshman and sophomore.

"So, my parents decided to move to a smaller town (from Reseda, California to Newbury Park). It's quieter and was a great place to get myself together."

His grades began coming up, enough so that he was offered a scholarship to play baseball at Arizona State as a senior. And he was careful with the company he kept, so, what's this with the scouting directors?

"I honestly don't know how that started. At the tryouts, I was the one who went up to the coaches afterwards and thanked them for their help," Lambo remembers.

There was never a question about hit talents. He pitched and played first base exceptionally well and White directed him into right field where his exceptional arm would be put go good use.

That was okay with Andrew. "No problem. I played the outfield lots of times before."

And always there was that sweet swing. At 6-3, 190, he's solid and it looks like he'll hit with with plenty of sock as he matures. He doesn't run well enough to be classified as "five-tool" but does everything else in a style that projects very well.

The big thing is he's matured off the field. "I owe everything to Logan White," he declares. "He's given me my chance and I don't ever want to do anything that would make him sorry. I grew up a Dodgers fan and the only games I went to were Dodgers games. I was so excited when I got drafted."

One scouting report noted, "Strong hitter with bat speed, fluid swing, plate discipline and ability to use whole field giving him unlimited offensive potential. Hits pitchers from opposite side and stays inside ball."

It took him a bit to get started in 2007 with the Gulf Coast Dodgers but he pounded the ball at a .343 clip, third in the minor league system.

He led everyone in on-base percentage (.440), was fourth in slugging (.519), and had an OPS (on-base plus slugging) average of .960 to rank third. In fact, he was on most of the charts: fourth in runs (38), sixth in hits (62), second in doubles (15) and seventh in runs batted in (32),

LADugout and Dodgers Dugout Magazine liked him so much, that we named the 18-year-old the 2008 Guy Wellman Award winner as Rookie of the Year.

After the season the Association of Professional Baseball Players of America honored Lambo as their Most Outstanding First-Year Player.

"I'm very proud of him," said Chuck Crim, the scout who signed Lambo. "I expected it of him. Then again, it's a high school kid going out and facing D-I college All-Americans. There's a big difference in the level of play they' re used to and the maturity level. He did a great job of adjusting.

Crim knew Lambo better than most scouts. Before Crim joined the Dodgers' scouting staff, he was a local high school baseball coach who saw Lambo earn All-City honors as a freshman.

"I can honestly say we were not surprised by the way he's played," White said. "Chuck Crim absolutely loved him. All our scouts believed in him. He's a real polished hitter. He'll probably play primarily in the outfield this year, but he really is a superior glove around first base. I hate to compare him to James Loney, but there are a lot of similarities there."

"There's no question he would have gone higher in the draft if it wasn't for his past. When there's that much money involved at the top, teams are going to be very wary."

In 2008 he played most of the season in Great Lakes and was selected as a Midwest League All-Star. Jumping of Jacksonville in August, he ripped the ball at a .389 clip over his eight-game cup of coffee.

He ranked high in the Midwest League statistics, with 136 hits, 33 doubles, 15 home runs, 79 runs batted in and hit .288. At Double-A Jacksonville he added 101 points to is average and had 14 hits, three homers and 12 runs batted in over his 36 at-bats.

Between the two teams he led the entire Dodgers franchise in Runs Created (85.24), was third in hits (150), and home runs (8), fourth in runs batted in (91) and in the top 10 in slugging average (.482) and on-base plus slugging (.833).

Baseball America, who made him the #1 prospect in the system, said "he has plus raw power and bat speed with an ideal swing-path and mechanics." They also mentioned "he has mainly gap power now but has the big frame to provide leverage for more power."

Some baseball publications made him the #1 prospect in the system, while we had him at #2 but by a slim margin.

With the Lookouts in 2009, he finished his third professional season with a .256 average, a .311 on-base percentage and a .717 on-base plus slugging. He had 126 hits (10th in the system), 39 doubles (tied for second), 11 homers, 61 runs batted in and 62.14 runs created.

Lambo found out the game moves faster each step up the ladder and he just didn't have the experience to be able to slow it down. The mental part of the game is tough to master at the upper levels because all the players have the physical talent.

It was the first time in his life that he struggled and as such, while the season was statistically not a good one, it was a great learning experience and one that will stand him in good stead.

He earned a spot in the Arizona Fall League, where each organization send their top prospects for polishing. Lambo helped guide the Peoria Javelinas to the AFL championship, leading the team with a .330 average. He had an .848 OPS and knocked in 18 runs in 17 games.

Although in some eyes he hit a snag at Chattanooga, his worth has not diminished with the Dodgers. DeJon Watson told truebluela that he still needs to prove himself in AA, but they were "very happy with his performance in the AFL as he's still one of the youngest players in the league but is also one of the best hitters in the league."

Most analysts say he needs to cut down on his strikeouts (which he has (119 in 2008, 95 in 2009) and get a better read of the strike zone. He projects to be a 4-5 hitter in the lineup with the capability of hitting 25-30 home runs with a near .300 average.

So, Lambo is playing hard and is quiet off the field. The next, say, Andrew Ethier? Now that would be a burden to place on him but those stories that he's the next Charlie Manson belong beyond left field. He deserves the chance he's getting and he's making the choice look very wise.

His record:

OF ANDREW LAMBO
6-3 195 BL TL
Born-August 11, 1988 in Beverly Hills, CA
Obtained-Selected in fourth round of 2007 draft

year	 team   ave  obp  ops   gm   ab   r    h  2b  3b  hr  bi sb
2007	GCLg  .343  .440  .808  54  181  38   62  15  1   5  32  1
2008	GLake .288  .346  .808 123  472  56  136  33  2  15  79  5  
	Jack  .389  .421 1.171   8   36   7   14   2  1   3  12  0
2009	Chat  .256  .311  .717 130  492  70  126  39  1  23  61  4
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  Totals       .286 .349 .805  315 1181 173  338  89  5  23 184 10

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