First Pitch: Thoughts From Indy on Lambo’s Power, Top Pitchers, and Bullpen Help

Andrew Lambo, who had a starting big league job in the spring to lose, managed to do just that. Along with this collapse, Lambo managed to avoid a call up, despite hitting .332 with a .962 OPS in 60 games with Indianapolis. That streak ended today when the Pirates called him up, likely for the remainder of the season. But why did it take this long?

After the trade for Ike Davis on April 18, I reported that Lambo was no longer playing first base every day at the Triple-A level and this marked that how far he had fallen to no longer get a look at the position within the organization.

The bad luck continued for Lambo in May, when he injured his thumb just about the time that the Pirates were looking for some outfield help before the Gregory Polanco call up. Prior to leaving with an injury on May 4, Lambo was hitting .344 and riding a nine game hit streak. This made him a prime candidate for the promotion. However, the injury bug bit and he remained away.

After taking ground balls and nearing a return, Lambo endured a setback from the thumb and was forced to have surgery.

Since returning to Indianapolis from the DL on July 17, Lambo has picked up right where he left off. However, he had still been overlooked for the call up, as the Pirates favored Jose Tabata when Polanco was sent back to get some confidence in his swing.

Prior to today’s promotion, it appeared that Lambo had fallen out of favor with the Pirates brass and his future in Pittsburgh was in doubt. The recent call up could not come at a better time for him. After hitting 32 home runs last season, Lambo appears to have found the power again. He hit six home runs in his last eight games in Triple-A before the promotion. If Lambo would like to resurrect the excitement that the Pirates had in him, the solution is simple – go up and do what he has the past two seasons in Triple-A in hammering the ball.

Pitching prospects getting to the upper levels

At the end of this season, Nick Kingham and Adrian Sampson will venture to the Arizona Fall League. With the age of the duo, combined with their quick climb through the organization, the Pirates have high hopes in their hurlers at the upper levels.

Though Sampson and Kingham have each seen their share of struggles in Triple-A, they have each shown what has them on the doorstep of the big leagues. Obviously Kingham had a much better start at the Triple-A level and many more starts that Sampson, showing that he is closer. He has seen some struggles towards the end of the year, which should keep him in Indianapolis for the start of the 2015 season. Next year the two will team with Jameson Taillon, who is returning from Tommy John surgery, in the Indianapolis rotation.

Outside of Tyler Glasnow, Indianapolis will see the organization’s top three pitching prospects in 2015. With the way that the Pirates bring along young starters, it is possible that even Glasnow could find himself at the Triple-A level toward the end of next season.

September call up help in the bullpen

With a noticeable bullpen void in Pittsburgh, Neal Huntington has been praising the internal options most of the second half of the campaign. There are several options at Indianapolis, but they may not all be household names.

There is no doubt that Casey Sadler will join the bullpen when the rosters expand. Sadler has struggled of late with Indianapolis after a strong start. However, he was strong in his final start with Indianapolis Thursday night, going six innings and allowing one run on two hits. He also has experience from earlier in the season with a pair of stints in the Pittsburgh bullpen.

I expect Ernesto Frieri to get another look in Pittsburgh. With the expanded rosters, they will not be forced to put him in close games as they were before he was outrighted to Indianapolis. Frieri is also among the strongest options as well. However, the issues are still there for Frieri, as he has allowed a home run in two of his last three outings coming into Friday.

While Vin Mazzaro has some experience and success in the Pirates bullpen, he has really struggled this season with inherited runners. However, I expect Mazzaro to be the final bullpen arm added due to this experience.

This leaves candidates Andy Oliver, John Holdzkom and Bobby LaFromboise likely on the outside looking in. LaFromboise is a possible pick to be added, due to being on the 40-man roster and he would add an extra lefty in the bullpen, but I think that they will go with experience for the stretch run. Oliver has put up strong numbers, but he still cannot be trusted in a pennant race. He struggled with command early, was pinpoint toward the middle of the season, but has since fallen back in some bad trends. Holdzkom is someone I have been high on all season. I love his stuff and his upper 90s fastball, but his inexperience also cannot be trusted in the race. This is Holdzkom’s first season above High-A. While he isn’t a guarantee to go up this season, I see big things for Holdzkom if he can keep his command issues under control.

Links and Notes

**The 2014 Prospect Guide is on sale in the Pirates Prospects store. The paperback version has dropped to $14.99 plus shipping. We currently only have one case of books remaining, and the offer is only valid while the books are in stock. There is also an eBook version available for $9.99. The 2013 Prospect Guide is on clearance for $1.

Pirates

**Josh Harrison is More Than Just Heart and Hustle

**Clint Hurdle on Marte’s Improvement, Harrison’s Hustle, and Hitting Leake

**Injury Updates on Charlie Morton and Travis Snider

**Pirates Recall Andrew Lambo

**Pirates Outright Tommy Field to Indianapolis

Prospects

**Prospect Watch: Nick Kingham Ends Season on Sour Note, Reese McGuire Homers

**DSL Pirates 2014: Ten Prospects to Watch

**Willy Garcia Establishing Himself as a Top Prospect

**Morning Report: Cole Tucker Holds His Own in His First Pro Season

  • As bright as the future is for the bucs,the landscape looks pretty bleak in the short term for the pen. They are still winning games on a wing and a prayer,how that stands up if and when they make the postseason remains to be seen.

    • Less than a year ago we were sure we had a solid bullpen for a few years. Such is the reality with a volatile position. Imagine how much things may change by next year. We have quality arms that arent doing real well, but the talent is there. A bullpen of Melancon,Watson, Hughes, Wilson, Pimental and a FA has a good chance of success.

  • PiratesForever
    August 30, 2014 12:00 pm

    Neal Hunnington said that Andy Oliver will definitely be up in September to help out the Pirates bullpen.

  • I see no one on this list that I would trust in a high leverage situation, they like Sadler, but I don’t know why, he is a pure starter, not a pen pitcher, he looks more like a batting practice pitcher out of the pen.
    If I were to call any of these guys up it would be Holdzkom, put him in some low leverage situations to get him going, of course Hurdle would not do that, he would get thrown in the fire and be expected to do the 2 inning bit, they would not be satisfied if he just got them out of a big inning.

  • Bucs need to recall Chase d for base stealing purposes!!!!!!

  • Scott Kliesen
    August 30, 2014 6:40 am

    Nice article Ryan. I agree w your assessment about RP’s. Pirates will go w experience over talent/potential in choosing who to bring up in Sept.

    Nice to see Lambo make a strong debut last night. Hope it gives him and CH the confidence needed for continued success.

    • SK: I truly hope that Lambo makes us think long and hard about him at 1B over the Winter. Nice to see he and Tabata both be guys who figured prominently in the win. I am not forgetting JHAY, but he will get the lion’s share of the highlights. I cannot agree with you guys regarding the RP’s coming up. Sadler was tried in the BP for the Pirates this year and recorded a 7.71 ERA. Frieri at AAA in August was 5.63 ERA with 5K/4W? Mazzaro was only around 3.80 ERA in Aug but gave up more hits than IP with 9K/6W – his control has always been a problem. La F — had an excellent K/W in Aug of 8K/1W at AAA, but let’s not overlook the 6.75 ERA, and why is he here in the first place? Andy Oliver pitched well all year – April thru Jul 37 G, 52 IP, 2.22 ERA, 13 Saves, 69K/31W. He had a bad August in 10 G, 12 IP, but still managed a 3.75 ERA. His K/W was not good at 16K/13W in Aug, but his whole body of work in 2014 at AAA as a late inning guy and a guy who can go 2 innings tells me he would be the best option before all of the rest. His worst month was still much better than all of the deadwood listed ahead of him. He is also out of Options this year and will be a Minor League Free Agent at age 26. I am a firm believer in giving people the opportunity to succeed or fail – he is at a point where a little confidence imparted by being called up could be enough to allow him to turn the corner. That said, I would use him in spots where he could show, but not use him in the big pressure spots unless he shows well.

      • emjay…I love ya man, but what’s with the wall of words?😜😜😜😜😜

        Think ‘paragraphs”.😊😊😊😊

        • Thanks for the input. Usually I take the time to dress it up, but just some time constraints this morning.

      • Pedro makes Lambo’s future at 1B really tough. They wont give up on Pedro’s offense without giving him a chance at 1st and Lambo as a LH doesnt seem to fit the profile as a LH platoon. Solid bench bat

        • I agree with that line of thought, and Pedro has earned the consideration with 30 and then 36 HR’s and probably around 20-25 this year – an average of 29 or 30 a year for 3 years. The year that Harrison has had has changed the whole approach to plugging holes for the future. At 1B, Pedro will get the first shot, but the second guy in could very well be Neil Walker who is working his way up to being a mid-20’s type of HR hitter and a solid #4 hitter protecting ‘Cutch.

          • If Walker moves anywhere, it better be 3B. His defense at 2B has been below average this year and Harrison can play at worst average at that spot. The power plays well at 3rd and it better hides his limits on defense while allowing Harrison to keep playing. Moving Walker to 1B creates a hole at 2nd and a logjam at 1B.

    • Reading through the BP callup options was depressing. Doesn’t appear to be a single guy you’d trust with runners on. And even coming in with a clean inning, who’s not going to give up free passes? Based on performance, I’d (very reluctantly) say Frieri is the best option among this flotsam. And just saying that made me throw up some coffee in my mouth.

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