Prospect Profile: Andrew Lambo

Chad, guru of the remarkable website has kindly allowed us to reprint a recent feature on outfielder Andrew Lambo, ranked the Dodgers #4 prospect by Lambo exploded onto the scene in 2007 and improved in 2008 before hitting cooling off in 2009. He will be only 20 this coming season and is one of the most exciting prospects in the Dodgers system.

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
  Totals    .286  .349  .805 315 1181 173  338  89  5  23 184 10
Overview-Lambo was taken out of high school in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. His talent was never in doubt, but character issues caused his stock to plummet. The Dodgers ended up taking a chance on him, and they probably aren't disappointed with how he has turned out.

Early on, Lambo moved up the minor league ladder quickly, reaching AA in 2008 at the age of 20. Unfortunately, Lambo's prospect status took a large hit in 2009, as he got himself into a funk in early May and was unable to get himself out of it all year. He did bounce back with a solid performance in the Arizona Fall League that generated some momentum and confidence going into the 2010 season, but he now has more to prove than ever before.

Hitting-Talent wise, not much has changed from last year. His combination of good bat speed and good bat control allows him to make consistent hard contact. Lambo uses his hips well and shows the leverage necessary for future power, though he's currently more of a gap to gap type of hitter. He has always had a mature approach at the plate, and he likes to spray the ball to all fields. Lambo's short swing and solid mechanics allow him to let the ball travel deep into the zone, which should serve him well as he moves levels.

The main area of concern with Lambo is his current lack of plate discipline and pitch recognition. The two skills can still develop sufficiently because his swing mechanics allow the ball to travel deep, but there wasn't any noticeable improvement in 2009.

Lambo continued to chase balls out of the zone and didn't show that he had a strong grasp of the strike zone. Of course, we all know now that plate discipline and pitch recognition are key factors in a player's development, so Lambo is going to have to show improvement in 2010 to gain his top prospect status back.

Fielding-Lambo isn't as bad a fielder as you likely believe. As I mentioned last year, he reads balls well off the bat and is coordinated enough to make athletic plays from time to time. He does have poor speed, so that naturally limits his range, but he's no butcher in the field. Lambo's arm is likely good enough for right, but it plays much better in left, as it's above average in strength and flashes good accuracy on throws to the plate.

I believe a move to first base is unnecessary, and any reports of how his defense may improve there is pure guess work, as he has played the position sparingly as a professional. There is nothing concrete to show that Lambo would be significantly better defensively at the position, and he would need to be in order to make up for the loss in positional value due to the switch.

Baserunning-Lambo is not going to steal bases, as he doesn't have great instincts and possesses poor acceleration. He's not towing a trailer out there, but his wheels are well below average.

Mental-There have been recent growing concerns about his effort, but keep in mind that those criticisms only magically started to appear when he had a down year. Lambo did seem to struggle dealing with failure for the first time, but that's not unusual for a young kid. The general consensus on his makeup is still positive, so there doesn't seem to be any red flag here.

Health-No serious injury history that I am aware of.

Performance-In 2009 more than ever before, Lambo's performance paled in comparison to his raw ability, particularly with the bat. His slash numbers of .256/.311/.407/.717 were a huge disappointment, and his power development took a small step back (.174 ISO/.150 ISO). Of course, it was Lambo's first crack at advanced pitching, and he was 20 years old, so in that context I think he deserves a bit more rope before everybody starts to hang him.

For all the obvious negatives in his surface statistics, there were some hidden positives that would seem to indicate a resurgence next year. Lambo's strikeout rate actually dropped (23.3%/19.3%) while facing tougher pitching, and his walk rate remained relatively stable (7.9%/7.3%).

More importantly, Lambo posted a .298 BABIP, which is 51 points below his previous career low. While a slight BABIP drop is expected as a player moves up in competition, it's still more than a little unlucky for a guy who maintained a similar GB%/LD%/FB% split (45.0/20.6/33.9 In 2008|43.8/19.8/35.9 In 2009). If we were to give Lambo a BABIP of even .330, then his slash line becomes about .285/.336/.451/.787, which isn't great, but it's certainly not fall off the map bad.

Personally though, I'm not worried about his slash line at all, as my biggest concern is how his peripherals will advance going forward. I fully understand that moving up to face advanced pitching isn't a situation that exactly fosters growth, but since he'll be repeating the level in 2010, I want to see strikeout rate maintenance, an improved walk rate, and better power production.

If at least a couple of those things don't happen, then I think it's only fair that he gets dropped significantly. I'm holding on and monitoring his 2010 for now though.

It's worth noting that Lambo has a rather peculiar reverse split in his numbers. He's a career .895 OPS hitter against lefties, but a career .755 OPS hitter against righties. That trend continued at AA (.785 OPS/.690 OPS), and I'm not quite sure what to make out of it.

An inability to hit righties would be hugely problematic, as most pitchers are right handed, but I still can't believe this is a real problem going forward because it's such an oddity. My instinct is to say it's more likely that the split eventually evens out, and it becomes more of a positive that he can handle lefties at such a young age.

Overall, the statistical year Lambo had was always a possibility in his first full exposure to advanced pitching. Personally, I think evaluators are putting far too much stock into a one year sample. The underlying skills and tools are still there, but the breakout just didn't come.

Of course, it's possible that the breakout may never come, but I'm willing to wait more than one year before dropping him from a potential impact player in the system to a reserve outfielder like some have.

Other-In his earlier high school days, Lambo was caught cutting class and smoking weed. However, he had no real trouble towards the end of high school career. Going into the draft, there were reports that Lambo showed a bad attitude in interviews, but since getting drafted by the Dodgers, Lambo seems to have matured. I'm not concerned about his commitment to baseball at this point.

Projection-Lambo did appear overmatched at AA at times, but while others predictably abandon the very bandwagon they started last year, I didn't really notice a drop in ability level, so I'll be staying on for the ride. In my opinion, Lambo is in a similar situation as last year, as he is one breakout performance away from vaulting himself to the top of the Dodgers system. Unlike last year though, time is starting to work against him, and he's going to have to make improvements soon.

I still believe that Lambo's ceiling is about the same as last year. At his best, he could be a borderline All-Star in left field, perhaps hitting 25-30 homers with a .285-.295 average. It's also possible that he ends up an average defender in left.

Unfortunately, there is the downside that Lambo could fail to progress unless his plate discipline and pitch recognition improve. Regardless, I think he ends up sticking in left field defensively and ends up as average to above average regular there.

Lambo will undoubtedly repeat AA in 2010, and I think he needs to remain there the entire year, regardless of how well he does. Assuming that he shows progress, there aren't any obstacles preventing Lambo from possibly stepping into a major league role in 2011.