Winter Leagues: Lambo and Sands Take Turns at First Base

In the Venezuelan League on Friday night, Andrew Lambo went 0-for-3 with a walk. The interesting part is that he got his third start of the VWL season at first base. During the seventh inning, Lambo switched on defense to right field. While at first base, he handled two ground balls, a pop up and had seven putouts.

Sands had a double and RBI on Friday
Sands had a double and RBI on Friday

Elvis Escobar came in as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning. It was the fifth appearance of the Winter for the 19-year-old outfielder. He did not score a run or bat.

Carlos Ruiz made his second appearance, getting a ground out from the only batter he has faced. Ruiz has pitched four years in the VSL/DSL for the Pirates. He has thrown one inning so far, allowing no runs and one hit.

In the Dominican, Carlos Paulino went 0-for-2 in his team’s 1-0 loss. He was pinch-hit for in the eighth inning by Oscar Tejeda, who was just signed by the Washington Nationals. Paulino is hitting .213 through 17 games.

Atahualpa Severino through a scoreless inning, his 13th straight shutout appearance, a streak that dates back to late October. Severino picked up two strikeouts. He has a 1.46 ERA this year in 12.1 innings.

It was announced on Friday that Gregory Polanco won’t play until Tuesday. He had a stomach virus earlier in the week and was given Friday night off to recover his strength. The Dominican League is off Saturday and Monday. The League’s All-Star game is this Sunday.

In Puerto Rico, Jerry Sands did the exact opposite on defense that Andrew Lambo did. He played right field for the first six innings, then moved to first base. At the plate, Sands went 1-for-4 with a double, run scored and RBI. He is hitting .238 through 25 games, with a .770 OPS.

Benji Gonzalez made his fifth appearance, coming in as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning. He is 4-for-10 at the plate this year.

Ivan De Jesus Jr. went 1-for-3 with a walk, stolen base and run scored. He leads the league in both runs and walks.

In Australia from Saturday, Sam Kennelly went 1-for-3 with a run scored and two strikeouts in game one of a doubleheader. He did not start game two, though he did finish the game on defense at second base. Kennelly also played second base in game one and he handled all five fielding chances on the day. He is hitting .171 through 13 games, though it is still important to point out that he is just 17-years-old, playing in a league filled with minor league veterans and a handful of guys with major league experience.

Danny Arribas went 0-for-4 with a walk and run scored. He had a little trouble on defense behind home plate. Arribas made two throwing errors, his first miscues of the season. He also allowed the opponents to go 4-for-4 in stolen bases.

  • Don’t get why its still “interesting” that lambo is playing first. Its pretty obvious that they want to see what he can do there because rf is not an option with our system. He can’t hit either so he can field all he wants over there

    • People want to see what he can do and playing first base gives him a better chance of sticking in the majors this year. Besides Gregory Polanco, Lambo playing first base is getting the most attention among Fall/Winter stories here, so that is why I say it is interesting. The system doesn’t have a first baseman that is a legit prospect right now. He hit 32 homers this year, crushed both AA and AAA pitching, then came to the majors and wasn’t given a chance. You have to remember that the last time he played a full game was late August. He made the flight to Venezuela on a Friday, was in the lineup by Tuesday, facing guys that were already playing for over a month. It’s going to take some time to get adjusted to the game speed again and he’s only played 13 games. Starling Marte has been practicing with his team for two weeks now, still hasn’t played a game. He’s there getting his timing back.

      • no i know i agree with you i just think that its not interesting anymore and its expected that he would be playing first base because it makes sense that he is the pirates extreme option at first

        • We all thought Alex Dickerson would go back to 1B and he never did, so I think people are afraid to assume now. I’d like to see him there everyday, not sure that will happen though.

          • I think you can discount Lambo’s hitting performance so far just from the distraction of being a “gringo” in Venezuela. He is likely hearing all kinds of verbal abuse. Because of the communist government there they have shortages of everything from medical supplies in hospitals to toilet paper. Can’t imagine what he’s eating. I just hope he survives the experience and is still in a good place by Spring Training. Shows his determination to advance to even go to Venezuala. It’s not like the Dominican or Puerto Rico!

            • Where do you get this information? Venezuela’s poverty rate is 28%, the Dominican Republic’s is 50.5%, Puerto Rico’s 44.9%.

            • There was actually a story this morning about Lambo being well-received by the home crowd. Basically it said they realize he is one of the better players on the team and he isn’t as bad as he has looked so far, so they are really getting behind him.

  • Not really on the topic, but there is a lot of talk of the extra money the Pirates have. There are less teams paying the luxury tax and the Pirates getting a lower percentage of that now. How much have they lost on these receipts?

    • The luxury tax collected this year will actually be high with the Yankees payout and the Dodgers kicking in some. Pirates won’t lose out on anything this year. The Yankees claimed they were going to cut pay next year, but they signed Ellsbury, McCann and Beltran, so it looks like they will pay again

    • Luxury tax funds go to the MLB central fund…they do not go to teams. This is a common misconception. Revenue sharing, distinct from luxury tax, is where the Pirates are given funding from other, richer, clubs. That revenue sharing is a percentage based on revenue over certain thresholds. Again, luxury tax goes dirtily to MLB central fund.

      • I don’t think the numbers have been released yet for the Revenue Sharing distribution, but you are correct about that. Like I said a lower/higher luxury tax won’t cost the Pirates anything, it only costs the teams that go over the cap. The luxury tax money goes towards players benefits, developing baseball worldwide and something called the Industry Growth Fund

        • Yes, industry growth fund, not the central fund. My apologies.

          John, maybe this is a little off topic, but I would love to know what your thoughts are on Nick Franklin, only 22. He won’t have a spot on the Mariners roster after the Cano signing and with the Mariners attempting to put a package together for David Price, I wonder if the Pirates would have a chance for Franklin. His minor league numbers were good and his major league numbers weren’t terrible considering it was his first go around. He’s still young and can play either 2B or SS…presumably SS with the Pirates.

          • It sounds like Franklin is a poor man’s Alen Hanson. There are questions are him being able to handle SS full-time and he’s a switch-hitter with 15 home run power. What he doesn’t have that Hanson does, is above average range and speed. Plus he is 1 1/2 years older. He would be a nice player to have for the right price, but he doesn’t sound like someone they would want at shortstop full-time. As a shortstop, I’m not sure he would be better than Mercer. Similar power/speed, slightly worse defense, but should hit for a higher average. You could also say though, that as a second baseman, he wouldn’t be worse than Walker, yet he would be much cheaper short-term

            • They always say you can’t have too many middle-infield prospects…and I’ve liked Franklin’s minor league production for awhile. I take it that it’d probably take someone like Kingham to get Franklin, so it might not be the most productive trade. However, looking at what the Pirates have right now an injury to either Walker or Mercer means that D’Arnaud is the starter (barring a free agent pickup) and I am not sure how I feel about that either. Kingham is a little too much for a backup though, and I think that’s what Franklin would be here…do you agree?

              • I know the Pirates are very high on Kingham, so I’m not sure Franklin is the type of return they would like. I think they would prefer the upside of Kingham as a starter vs Franklin. The backup SS job is a problem with d’Arnaud and Harrison as the only options, plus Hanson at least a full year away. I think you’ll see someone signed to a minor league contract with major league experience, such as Josh Wilson.

                • Thanks for the discussion, John. I guess, for me, I was more thinking that Franklin could be the starting SS…he was a top 50 prospect pre-2013, or top 70 according to BA. That is a higher ranking than what Kingham will be, that is why I figured it would take someone like him to get a deal done.
                  I like Kingham a lot too…just was trying to think of a way to add some more elite talent to this club in an area where we are weak.

                  • From what I’ve read since you asked, it sounds more and more like SS isn’t a full-time option for Franklin

  • What is the upside on Jerry Sands? I know the Dodgers where very high on him before he was traded to Boston. With the chances he has had in the majors though his batting average is less than many pitchers.

    • Sands had a decent upside coming into last year, but he was a surprising early cut in Spring Training, one of the first by the Pirates. He actually looked decent with the Dodgers in extended time in 2011, but not in a brief stint with the team in 2012. He has power, a strong arm in RF and he has shown the ability to draw some walks in the minors. The problem is that he is now 26 and coming off a poor year at AAA. He was just bad the entire year, never got on track. It’s good to see him playing Winter ball, but right now he isn’t doing anything special except the early power and he’s been racking up outfield assists.

  • Didn’t Ivan DeJesus sign with another team (I hear tell it’s the Orioles)? Why do we care how he does? Get with it, Dreker!!! Sheesh!!

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Players get dropped once they have signed with a team. De Jesus has been linked to the Orioles, but he is still a free agent as of right now. Which means…you’re the one that’s slacking on the reading! You owe me 20 push-ups and read ten articles of mine.

  • Get yourself down there and tell us how good of a defensive 1bman Lambo is.

    Oh….and buy a gun first thing. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • He was busy at first base for someone who didn’t play the whole game there. Lambo has played plenty of first base before, between both the minors and in HS, when he wasn’t pitching. His scouting report from school called him a solid defensive player. I would say that he could play the position, he just needs more reps than he is getting. So basically, it’s good to see him get some time there in Winter ball, even if it’s just an occasional start, it still means he is taking ground balls there and infield practice.

      • 41 career games at 1B over 7 minor league seasons wouldn’t exactly qualify as “plenty” of first base experience, at least not in my book

        • I worded that wrong. I meant between the minors and the fact it was his natural position prior to being drafted. Basically the combination is plenty of time there. He wasn’t just a random outfielder moved to first base for a trial, he was a first baseman that was moved to the outfield

          • It would be nice to see him hit…

            • At first I thought it was rust from not starting a game since late August and being thrown right into the lineup, but this is an extended slump now. He did have two hits on Thursday and has been clutch with runners on, 11 RBIs on seven hits. With Snider unexpectedly back, Tabata still around and Decker acquired, I think the more important thing for him is to get reps at first base.

              • With Snyder still around, I think Lambo is destined to return to AAA. I think the Pirates have some weird infatuation with Snyder and will give him the full benefit of the doubt. Maybe they just don’t want another situation where they get rid of a player and then he goes on to find good success elsewhere, but Snyder has not done anything to deserve being tendered a contract in my mind…Tabata should be starting in RF, just based on his success last season where he started to hit, again, like he did when he had early MLB success.

                • The thought is, he played through an injury that caused him to alter his swing and they think he is more like the guy who hit .300 with seven doubles in April, rather than the May-Oct player. He will turn 26 next year, so he is still relatively young. I just didn’t expect him to be back at that price.