The Pittsburgh Pirates’ first half success has many fans clamoring to upgrade the sometimes-sputtering offense. It’s been no secret that great pitching has carried the Buccos, and timely clutch hits from the entire lineup have been key for many victories. However, there has been an outcry to find another bat to accompany McCutchen, Marte, and Alvarez in the lineup. The most common position to improve upon has been right field. Pittsburgh is obviously set at the other 2 outfield spots and throughout the infield (especially with the recent emergence of Mercer at SS). It has also been noted that statistically the Pirates have the worst offensive production coming out of right field in the entire National League.
Because of these issues, trade rumors have been swirling for the past couple weeks: grand ideas about trading away the future for Giancarlo Stanton or possibly getting a veteran, Alex Rios from the White Sox. Neither of these two would come cheap. Stanton would cost at least Taillon and Polanco, and go up from there. Rios wouldn’t take away quite as many prospects, but his contract would be over $13 million.
Could the answer be waiting in the wings for free?
Andrew Lambo has long been seen as a bust. The Dodgers picked him in the 4th round of the 2007 draft right out of high school. Before the 2009 season he was a top 50 prospect in the MLB due to his great first 2 seasons in the minors. Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly pan out the way he hoped. Despite solid early numbers and lofty projections he has never made it to the majors.
In 2010, Lambo was acquired in a trade for Octavio Dotel (the same deal that brought over James McDonald). Lambo started hot for the Curve but was suspended for 50 games for non-performance enhancing drugs, and then slumped horribly upon his return. In 2011 and 2012, Lambo posted solid numbers but was still passed over by every major league team (twice) in the Rule-5 draft, despite being unprotected. I can tell you that the Pirates are sure glad he wasn’t picked now.
Lambo has broken out again this year. The 24 year old looks like he has found his former swing, and is posting some big time numbers. He has played both in AA and AAA this year and has a combined 21 home runs, 67 RBIs, and a .295 batting average. His 1.038 OPS would be good for 2nd best in all of the International League were he eligible.
One of the main issues in right field is lack of power. The Pirates have a combined 8 homers coming from the corner outfield slot and 3 of those are from Jones, who is regularly a 1st Baseman. Lambo’s 21 bombs are tied for most of any player in the entire organization.
I wanted to look farther into where The Great Lambino was hitting his homers so I went back and re-tracked every one. Of his 21 total bombs, 19 were hit to right or right-center field, meaning the left-hander’s power plays perfectly for PNC. PNC’s short right field porch is a dream come true for lefty power hitters, and would be ideal for Lambo. It should also be noted that 5 different times Lambo hit a homerun in back-to-back games including a double header. Two of his homers also were walk-off winners, so the clutch gene is definitely present in this one.
Lambo’s home runs and RBIs are tops among the organization and his slugging percentage is second only to Danny Collins, who has merely 52 at-bats. If the Pirates are looking to upgrade in right field and produce more pop they should look no farther than their own cupboard. Lambo would be completely free, wouldn’t disrupt any chemistry, nor would he compromise the Pirates’ strong farm system. At only 24, Lambo could still make his mark in the league and could end up playing a key role in a possible playoff run. The Great Lambino could also be the perfect placeholder until prized-prospect Gregory Polanco is ready to take over in a couple years. I’m certainly hoping to see a brand new Lambo parked in right field at PNC (ba dum-dum chhh), are you?