By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
April 10, 2009
Andrew Lambo showed up at his old high school field this winter wearing mixed rags, his old Newbury Park black and gold gear comfortably clashing with a splash of Dodger blue. It’s not that Lambo minded the contradiction. In fact, he got a kick out of it as easily as he joked around with kids a few years younger. Take away the prospect hat and he’d be just another kid; put the bat in his hands and you see why his organization thinks he’s not just another kid.
Lambo won’t turn 21 until August 8th. He begins this season at Double-A Chattanooga, safely aboard the Fastrack Express. When you hit 15 home runs as a teenager in the Midwest League, you’ve got something. He was rewarded with the title as the Dodgers’ top prospect, which, as Lambo explains, really isn’t a reward at all.
Lambo discusses the differences between internal and external expectations, between confidence and the desire to upgrade his lesser tools to the realm of “50,” or big league average, all in an effort to become “the guy.”
Baseball Beginnings caught up with Lambo before Spring Training broke for the first installment of this season’s Pro Q&A. Stay tuned for more interviews as well as video as the minor league clubs roll through town.
BB: Maybe I should say, ‘Welcome to the fast track.’
Lambo: (Laughs) There’s nothing etched in stone. You have to fight for the job and earn the job. People expected me to start at Double-A and you can say, ‘Now you can relax,’ but I have never thought of it that way. Nothing is ever given to you. That’s my way of looking at it.
BB: How do you feel about all the prospect attention?
Lambo: It’s part of it. You can’t change. You have to be the same guy you were. A lot of people give me a little bit of credit. The way I look at it is you have to be the same guy you always were. You can’t sit there and live off the hype. The other stuff that comes with it, the ‘Oh, my god, you’re the greatest,’ ‘Oh, you’re gonna be a movie star, you’re gonna make millions,’ you gotta avoid it. You gotta sit there and it’s got to be eye wash.
That was last year. I had a great year last year. That was last year. So what am I going to do this year?
BB: So what are you going to do this year?
Lambo: The expectation I have for myself this year is to become a better all-around baseball player. I’ve had great success with my hitting and when I think it comes down to starting to knock on the door of the big leagues, the all-around game needs to be there, and that’s what I need to develop. That means my defense, my base running, my throwing, my maturity, how I handle umpires, everything else needs to start becoming a little bit more polished and a little bit more refined.
Staying in the big leagues comes with the all-around game. That’s something I think about. Are you going to be a great hitter, and then when you can’t hit, are you just going to be useless? No. If I’m not hitting, I want to draw a walk. I want to be a threat defensively so that nothing falls for my pitcher. I want to be that threat constantly. I want to be that guy.
BB: Can you describe your confidence in your bat?
Lambo: You can never sit there and say, ‘I’m going to be an incredible hitter, no matter what.’ There will always be slumps. You will always have to work at hitting. You still have to worry about it. Right now, what I need to worry about is what I’m not really good at. I’ll be a corner outfielder. My real thing is outfield. I think the big thing is doing a lot of the extra work even if nobody wants to or if you’re tired that day. Going up to the defensive coach and asking for fly balls in the sun. I have to worry about those things and I think that comes with maturing. The future looks bright.
BB: As an amateur player, how did playing against a lot of future professionals help you become one yourself?
Lambo: My 2007 draft class was unbelievable. I have yet to see a class like that. If you want to look at our 2007 high school draft, you had Matt Dominguez and Mike Moustakas. I was probably the biggest scrub out of all of them. I was fortunate to grow up and play around those guys.
BB: Are player rankings a distraction?
Lambo: Only if you let them be. Last year, when I was No. 14, I didn’t care. Now Baseball America is rating me No. 1? I don’t care. It’s not a big deal. It’s not going to lift or kill my confidence. You have to show up and perform every single day. Rankings won’t get you to the big leagues.
BB: You probably shouldn’t answer this in public, but I’ll ask it anyhow: In your mind, by what age are you a big league regular?
Lambo: I don’t know. It’s a tough question. To be honest, when they’re ready. I have no idea. The great thing is that you have the trust with your farm director and your general manager when they think you’re ready to be brought up. They’ll know. They’ll keep an eye on you. That’s going to be the time. From then on, you have to prove it.
We had Ramon Martinez come in and talk to us. He had such an up and down time. He was like 10-0 in Triple-A, they sent him up for one game, and then sent him back down. He called Pedro and said, ‘There’s gotta come a time when I show them they want to keep me here.’ He told his brother he was going to prove that he belonged there. He wanted to be their guy. And that’s all you can do. Throw on your uniform and perform. Be their guy.