SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – I can hear the collective calls echoing in the South Hills today. The chorus goes something like this: “It’s about time.”
Many of you have wanted to see Andrew Lambo on the Pirates’ roster. Many have wanted to see someone, anyone, other than who the Pirates have played in right field this season. The Pirates right fielders have combined to produce a .662 OPS this season, which ranks ahead of only lowly Houston in baseball.
Well, he’s arrived. The club announced today that Lambo will be called up Tuesday for the St. Louis series. (The Pirates have not announced a corresponding roster move, that is expected to come Tuesday.)
The Pirates face three right-handed Cardinals pitchers in the series: Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn.
Lambo is left-handed.
Welcome, to The Show, kid.
Lambo is tied for the minor league lead with 31 home runs. He’s tied for third in RBI (97) and extra-base hits (60). Yes, he strikes out (123 Ks in 117 games), but he walks and he can even hit lefties: .908 OPS vs. left-handed pitching in Triple-A, .953 OPS vs. right-handed pitching.
So what took so long?
I think one of the Pirates’ primary concerns are the strikeouts. If a player is striking out in 24 percent of his at bats at the Triple-A level, he could be pushing 30 percent at the major league level.
The walk rate and averages will tick down against the highest levels of competition.
If Alex Presley is sent down. If Travis Snider doesn’t get right. If Lambo were to become platoon fixture, the Pirates are likely concerned about adding more swing-and-miss to a lineup that already has too much swing-and-miss. He’s probably not a defensive asset either, though PNC Park’s smaller right field hides that to a degree. Speed is not part of his game.
I get that.
I understand the flaws.
This is a player who has spend parts of six minor league seasons at the Double-A level.
But at some point,the power has to get a chance to play, especially with the short right-field porch at PNC Park.
Thirty-one home runs are 31 home runs. Perhaps only Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen will have more power with Lambo is in the lineup. The Pirates need more punch in the lineup and there’s no one else who can provide immediate help, internally. Check back on Gregory Polanco in June 2014. But for now, Lambo is the only real internal option who can provide legit power.
Lambo deserves a shot, but expectations should be curbed. This was his preseason weighted PECOTA forecast: .229 AVG, .283 OBP, .359 SLG
That will curb your enthusiasm.
Lambo is not the kind of guy who is going to solve all of the Pirates’ offensive woes. But he has enough power in his bat to change a game or two with one swing, and that’s worth taking a chance on in a season where one or two games can mean a lot.