Don't forget about Lambo

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How many times has it been written in the past few weeks that the Pirates need to find a temporary solution in right field to serve as a placeholder for Gregory Polanco?

It's almost as though Andrew Lambo doesn't exist.

Lambo, 25 and a left-handed hitter, was the outfielder fans were clamoring for in August, as his minor-league home-run binge deservedly attracted attention. The fact he failed to make a strong impression once given a chance can hardly be held against him. He had scant opportunity, with only 30 at bats spread over 18 games with the Pirates in the final seven weeks of the season.

Almost any team would take a long look at Lambo, who hit 32 home runs and drove in 99 runs in a season split almost evenly between Class AA and AAA. That's more so with the Pirates, a team with limited payroll. The case could be made that he's as much a permanent solution as a temporary placeholder.

The fact Lambo once was a prized prospect -- ranked 49th by Baseball America in 2009 -- makes him all the more intriguing.

They are obvious downsides. His career stalled in the minors and the Dodgers gave up on him and sent him to the Pirates in 2010, along with James McDonald, for Octavio Dotel.

Additionally, Lambo is a big-time strikeout guy. He rivals Pedro Alvarez in that respect, which is not a trait teams hoping to contend want to see in a young players. Lambo struck out 30 percent of the time in Class AAA and 27 percent in Class AA. Overall, he whiffed in 28 percent of his at bats. Alvarez, in 367 Class AAA at bats in 2010 and 2011, also struck out 30 percent of the time.

But other comparisons for Lambo are more favorable. In 220 at bats at Class AA Altoona, he hit 14 home runs and had a .910 OPS. Polanco, ranked as the 13th best prospect by MLB.com, had 243 at bats at Altoona with six homers and a .762 OPS.

That's not to suggest Lambo is a better prospect than Polanco. He's not. He is three years older than Polanco.

The fact Lambo increased his production after being promoted to Class AAA Indianapolis -- 18 home runs and a .933 OPS in 224 at bats -- is encouraging.

Much of Lambo's future will be dictated by personnel moves the Pirates make this offseason. For example, if the Pirates are able to sign a veteran power-hitting outfielder in free agency, such a player clearly would push Lambo to a bench role, at best.

But if the team does not add such a player, Lambo's resume has earned him a long look in spring training. But it should not be enough to give him a starting job. The 'scholarship' days of Jeff Clement and Travis Snider should be over.

Even if the Pirates don't add an outfielder, the team might believe that Jose Tabata -- based on his promising performance in 2013 -- is a better option in right field than Lambo.

Lambo has very limited experience at first base, but he also could get a look there if the Pirates don't add at that position.

A player who hit 32 minor-league home runs along with an OPS over .900 has to be given serious consideration on any team.


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