Winter Leagues: Two Hits For Polanco, Lambo and Ramirez

In the Dominican on Thursday night, Gregory Polanco went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored in his team’s 11-1 win. He reached base four times in Wednesday’s game. Polanco is hitting .331 and has reached base 67 times in 35 games.

Andrew Lambo is hitting .364 in his last nine games
Andrew Lambo is hitting .364 in his last nine games

Alen Hanson went 1-for-3 with a single, walk and stolen base. He made a fielding error on his first chance of the game and had just one play the rest of the day.

Carlos Paulino went 1-for-4 with a stolen base and two strikeouts. He is hitting .218 through 20 games, with just one extra base hit and two RBIs. He has been getting playing time though, due to his strong defense, which has been praised around the league.

Graham Godfrey made his Winter debut, throwing a scoreless inning in relief for Escogido(same team as Polanco). Godfrey spent most of the season with Indianapolis after coming over from the Boston Red Sox in a late-May trade. He is currently a minor league free agent.

In Venezuela, Andrew Lambo went 2-for-3 with an RBI. He was pinch-hit for in the eighth inning with the game out of hand. Lambo was back at first base and made his first error there. He has been on a tear at the plate, going 12-for-33 in his last nine games, with ten RBIs.

In Colombia from Wednesday night, Harold Ramirez went 2-for-3 with two walks, a run scored and a stolen base. Ramirez raised his batting average to .372 and he has a .974 OPS in 21 games. He will play in the league’s All-Star game on Saturday.

In Puerto Rico, Benji Gonzalez went 1-for-3 with a single and sacrifice bunt. He’s hitting .381 through eight games. Ivan De Jesus Jr. went 1-for-4 with a double. He is batting .289 through 28 games, with 22 walks and 17 runs scored. De Jesus is still a free agent.

In Australia from Friday, Danny Arribas went 1-for-3 with a double and two RBI’s. He raised his average over the .200 mark and doubled his season RBI output. The double was the third extra base hit in 16 games for Arribas.

Sam Kennelly went 0-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. He was at second base again, where he spent all of last week after splitting his time between second and first base early in the year. He has not made an error at either spot. In the ninth inning, he moved over to shortstop for the first time all season. Kennelly was signed as a shortstop, but during his two years in the ABL, he has played all four infield positions.

Nick Hutchings has been activated for this weekend. The 17-year-old pitcher played at the Australian Baseball Academy this Summer and dominated the hitters, leading the league in both strikeouts with 33 and with an 0.70 ERA in 25.2 innings. Hutchings pitched five times in the Australian League last year, giving up one run over six innings and he had ten strikeouts.

  • I would be ecstatic if Allie could learn to hit a curveball/off speed stuff… I don’t wanna write him off yet, because he seems extremely competitive.

    • The fact he got to Bradenton last year was impressive and as far as pitching, the Florida State League is a big step up from the SAL. It may have been good for him to struggle, just so he sees that he has a lot of work to do. Because of the jump in one calendar year, GCL to High-A, it is obviously too soon to write him off. The power is legit and he’s got a quick bat, if he learns to sit back on pitches, he could do better against breaking balls and go the other way with fastballs. Once you prove you can hit breaking balls, you won’t see so many and he saw a lot from what I heard. His problem was he was swinging fastball on every pitch and he’s got the strength/bat speed to avoid that

      • The reason to not write-off Allie just yet is simple: age. Consider this: Allie was 22 years of age playing in WV and Bradenton last year, Andrew Lambo is three years older and was in AA and AAA last year. Tony Sanchez is 25 and looks to be heading back to AAA again this year. Stetson is still young enough and new enough to the developmental process for fielders/hitters that he’s more than capable of becoming a prospect again, and pretty quickly. If he continues to progress like he did last year he would be a contender to be in the majors at the age of 25…again that is way too early to discuss, but from an age and developmental standpoint he’s still young and should have the fullest opportunity to develop his power-skillset.

        Remember this, as well, for all Allie’s strikeouts and his problems when he got up to Bradenton, he still managed a .342 OBP at Bradenton and does walk a decent amount (he had 77 bb last year while Polanco had 52)…it was his SLG, not his OBP, which failed him as he put up a .697 OPS. If he hits more than 4 HRs and puts up more like a .450-.470 OPS he’s got a decent OPS.

        I am only saying this because Allie does have the ability and he just needs the time to develop…remember he has 630 total ABs in the minor leagues…the equivalent of one full season and a half of a half-season.

  • Nice problem to have in your minors when you have 3 center fielders in your outfield and might be exactly like that in Pittsburgh before the 2014 season is over. Exciting to think about the Pirates outfields future if we don’t have to trade too many of those guys away.

  • Hey John,

    I have plenty of reasons why I suggest these moves but do not want to bore you with an overly long message (I was going to email you, but did not have the address) with information that you already know. I do, however, want to ask you this: looking at the Pirates lack of corner infield prospects in the system and the overwhelming strength at the OF and C positions I am a strong advocate of an immediate switch of Josh Bell to 1B and Wyatt Mathisen to 2B/3B, what do you think? At Bell’s body-type he can easily add another 10-15lbs of muscle if he didn’t have to patrol the outfield, making him a body very similar to that of Ryan Howard. With Bell’s bat and his athleticism I would imagine he’d come, quickly, to profile as a highly-regarded 1B prospect. With Mathisen I think the switch is even easier. He plays shortstop in high school and played it pretty well. Considering his athleticism, his release, and his strong and accurate arm you’d imagine that he could play the infield quite easily. Health-wise it might be easier for him to continue to develop with the bat if he wasn’t behind the plate as well. I don’t know if he’d ever develop enough power to grade out well at 3B, but potentially at 2B. The Pirates have had some success with these types of moves before: Neil Walker as an example. Doing these type of moves now would give the gentlemen time to get used to the roles and develop. Small market teams need to get the most out of their systems; utilizing an area of strength like the OF and C positions to fill areas of weakness, infield prospects, is a smart and viable way to do that.

    Just wondering your thoughts,

    • I truly believe that Bell will eventually move to first base. He is a very athletic looking player, but he is not fast, so his range is limited and I saw some throws from him this year that were not good. I think his power will eventually come, his problem(with homers) seems to be that he is more of a line drive hitter that uses the middle of the field as a lefty. As a righty, he swing is awkward and looks more like he’s trying to make contact and that shows in his stats.

      Mathisen is definitely a player that could move, but again, I haven’t heard anything. They are going to run into a numbers crunch this season. It seems like they have three legit catchers that should go to WV for 2014. You can go with two prospects there no problem, one will get at-bats at DH and catchers need time off. Of McGuire, Jhang and Mathisen, I’d say Wyatt is definitely the most likely to move off the position. We will probably have a better idea of what is going on this Spring because they need to make a decision on these three. McGuire could stay back a month or so and give one of the others a chance to prove they can handle High-A.

      • Thanks, John. Glad to know I am not crazy with my thoughts on Bell and Mathisen.

        As a side-note, I absolutely hate the switch-hitting that is going on, especially since very few players are capable of being actually good switch hitters. Take Neil Walker as an example, his numbers are so bad against left handers when he hits from the right-side that I honestly think he could do as well hitting left-handed if he actually practiced it and gave himself the chance.

        Switch-hitting is a difficult skill and one that should be utilized if able…but hitting for a .519 OPS vs. a .805 OPS and continue to try to hit that way is ridiculous. Neil Walker had 18 hits in 80 ABs vs lefties last year and only 1 extra base hit…yes, I do think he could do that batting left-handed opposed to switching over to the right-hand side. Same with Bell…he should just stick to hitting left-handed.

        • The strange thing is that righty is his natural side and he didn’t do bad with his awkward swing, he just didn’t hit for power. It’s strange to see just how big of a difference there is between his two swings, looks like Ken Griffey Jr from the left and Doug Glanville from the right

  • So where does Ramirez begin the 2014 season?

    • He will be in left field(likely) next to Austin Meadows at West Virginia. If all goes well, Elvis Escobar will be in the same outfield, providing that team with three legit prospects roaming the outfield, all of them good enough to play center field. Expect Ramirez to spend the whole season there as well. It’s his first full season assignment and for younger players, the Pirates(recently) like them to stay in one spot their first full year.

  • Tim,

    Maybe this question has been asked and addressed sometime before, I haven’t paid too close attention. But in the winter leagues can the Pirates dictate where they want their players to be played in the field? In other words, are they telling the managers in Venezuela that they want Lambo to get more time at first base? Do they have to comply?

    • Winter ball really isn’t Winter ball in these countries, it’s their regular season, so for the most part, they put the guys where they want them and write out the lineups how they want. It isn’t a developmental league like the Arizona Fall League or like Spring Training, these are play to win games with large followings for each team. That’s why I shudder a little when people say these games don’t matter at all. For most of these minor leaguers, this isn’t just the best competition they have faced regularly, these are the most intense games and biggest, most active crowds they have seen. That being said, players need to receive permission from their clubs to play and there could be a deal on the side being made. If someone like Lambo was hurting the team defensively at first base, he would not be there just because the Pirates asked. If you’re not doing good, they will bench you or send you home.

  • Lambo still does not have a HR, is that right? Hopefully, he gets hot and stays hot in the winter leagues until spring training…last year was a great year for Lambo and hopefully he can continue in his development. I don’t know if he’s the answer in RF/1B, but if he can improve in the winter leagues and continue that progress he’s definitely deserving of a shot in RF/1B…although, I hope we have a 1B by then.

    • He has not homered yet. He has four doubles and a triple in 62 at-bats. I don’t think it’s an easy place to hit homers, though it is still surprising he doesn’t have any yet. His team has 38 homers in 50 games. Last four years, during the 63 game regular season schedule, they had 43, 39 and 33

  • Lambo deserves a shot… former top prospect who’s status was downgraded for marijuana usage. Hardly a crime. After seeing the HR he hit in Cincinatti (approx. 423 ft) he had me sold on at least a 50 game trial at RF or 1B.

  • Looks like Lambo’s “spring training” is over. But he made an error. Haters gonna hate.

  • And ladies and gents, he’s heating up!

    • my thoughts exactly. I have been stumping for Lambo at 1b, all offseason. It depends on how badly (or well) he plays 1b. Could be he any worse than Jones? (don’t answer that 🙂 ).


  • tim

    the phillies signed byrd for 2 years 16mill i think the pirates should have signed him and when polanco comes up maybe he could have played first base, then we wouldnt need Loney which looks like it will cost more. he hits better than Loney, might not have the defense but he’s a good athlete with practice i think he could have been adequate. thoughts?

    • I don’t think Loney is going to cost more than $8 M per year. His demands are $9-10 M, and no one is meeting that. Even at those demands, if I had a choice between Byrd learning first base at $8 M, or Loney playing excellent defense at $9 M, I’d take Loney.

    • Don’t forget that Byrd is 36 years-old and has a recent drug suspension. Also he was mediocre at best in 2011-12 – had an OPS 132 points worse than Garrett Jones – before putting up a career year at age 36. I wouldn’t even think of doing a deal like the Phils did. Maybe 1 year for $6M and I’m not sure I’d do that. Their contract will look terrible in 2015.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 13, 2013 10:12 am

    I would really like to see Lambo get a real shot at either RF or first base this Spring – and I will be pulling for him to succeed. For some reason, I just really like this kid….he’s overcome a lot in his young life and now seems to be firmly planted.

    • I agree. I liked this guy ever since we picked him up (can’t remeber who we sent to LA for him, was it Dotel?)! I’ve followed his ups and downs, and think he may have found his stroke. I’ve been an every day reader since June of 2010, and cannot thank you enough for the site. Thanks for the info, Tim!