Andrew Lambo is making a name for himself with the Great Lakes Loons. Rapidly emerging as one of the top prospects in the Dodgers organization, the 19-year-old Lambo has been one of the best players in the Midwest League this summer, earning All-Star honors while ranking among league leaders in several offensive categories. A left-handed hitting outfielder who was taken by Los Angeles in the fourth round of last yearís draft, Lambo debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2007 where he hit .343/.440/.519 in 54 games. With the Loons, Lambo is hitting .293/.348/.487 with 15 homes runs and 49 EXB. A notable facet of the lefty-swingerís game is an ability to hit southpaws; on the season Lambo is hitting .333/.382/.552 against left-handed pitchers.
David Laurila: What is the baseball life story of Andrew Lambo?
Andrew Lambo: Iíve been playing my whole life. I grew up in a place called Southern California, in the San Fernando Valley, and played a lot of travel ball with big-name guys, like Mike Moustakas and Matt Dominguez; I played against Freddy Freeman and Josh Vitters ó a lot of the big guys in the Ď07 draft. There was Robert Stock, whoís over at USC, Jason Stoffel, whoís over at Arizona right now. And I think itís fair to say that when you play with that kind of caliber, you get better. I lived in the San Fernando Valley, then I moved into Ventura County district where I played my last two years at Newbury Park High School. From there I got drafted in the fourth round and played my first year in the Gulf Coast League, at Vero Beach. I ended up hitting around .340, so I had a nice little average and a pretty good year. I ended winning an award for the best first-year draftee out of California, which obviously made me pretty happy. Now Iím here in Midland (Michigan), just trying to continue it.
DL: If you had to give a scouting report on yourself, what would it say?
AL: That I have a good bat but need to work on my other tools Ė the other aspects of my game. I wouldnít say that theyíre bad, or weak, but they just need a little more tuning up. Speed-wise, range-wise, and stuff on the base paths Ė just little things like that. Iím not too worried about it, because theyíre going to come along as I get more experience in pro ball, but right now thatís what Iím trying to work on.
DL: How would you describe your hitting style?
AL: My hitting style is a simple approach. I try not to get fooled; I try to get my pitch to hit and hit it hard. Thatís all a hitter can really look for, is to get your pitch to hit. If you sit there chasing a pitcherís pitch, youíre going to have a hard time. You want to get your pitch and try to get on top of something.
DL: In saying that you donít want to get fooled, do you mean that you try to make sure that you stay back on pitches?
AL: Everybody tries to stay back. Of course, we canít all be fortunate to stay back all the time, or else weíd be hitting a thousand. When youíre in a pitcherís count, like 0-2 or 1-2, you might strike out on a tough pitch, and if that happens, you canít really do much. But you donít want to get fooled. Getting fooled, for the most part, is looking stupid on a hitterís count like 2-0 or 3-1 when they throw you something thatís not your pitch Ė and you chase it.
DL: Is your approach to try to hit the ball to all fields, or do you look for pitches you can pull?
AL: Itís all fields, really. When youíre thinking up the middle, youíll usually have a lot of success. You donít want to try to pull everything, and if youíre thinking left side a little too much, youíll start fouling balls off that you kind of should have hit, so your best bet is thinking middle, up.
DL: You have a remarkable reverse split this year (a .934 OPS vs. southpaws, .771 vs. right-handers). Why is that?
AL: It is kind of weird, and you almost want to try to figure out why that is. I donít know, but we have seen a lot of them; Iíve seen more lefties out here than I ever have in my life. Maybe sometimes left-handed hitters donít know that staying on the ball with the front shoulder ó thatís all it is. But it is kind of a funny statistic. I looked it up with my host dad the other night and saw that I was hitting three-something off lefties. But itís just keeping the front shoulder in. Sometimes hitters pull that front shoulder off and it leads to bad stuff.
DL: A lot of left-hander hitters do a good job of standing in against southpaws, but there are far fewer who can consistently hit for power against them. Do you feel that you can continue to drive the ball against left-handers?
AL: Yeah, I think I can. Itís just getting ready to hit, you know. Itís having a pitch to hit, but I do think that lefty-on-lefty is harder than righty-on-righty. Righties might sit there and call me a liar, but I think itís true because you donít see lefties as much. You see a lot of righties, so you can kind of get the angle figured out. Because you donít see as many lefties, if you have one going 92-93 with a good hammer, you have to be ready to hit.
DL: Mechanically, what do you look like at the plate? Are there specific players you resemble when youíre swinging the bat?
AL: Scouts have their comparisons, and Iím fine with that, but I donít ever sit there and compare myself to anybody. I am who I am. For the most part, Iím pretty spread out. I have my hands in a pretty good hitterís position. I have a pretty generic swing; itís not really unique or anything. I have an open stance thatís pretty generic, and I kind of just step forward and throw my hands at the ball, really. Itís kind of simple, with not too many things going on in my swing.
DL: Where are you defensively right now?
AL: I think Iím right where I need to be. I get pretty good jumps on balls, and thatís what gets me by. Iím still trying to work on my speed, which will come eventually, but it takes time. And thatís something thatís going to come with a lot of work. If youíre swinging the bat well, you canít just keep doing that and not work on anything else. Ken Griffey said that if you want to play a couple of years in the big leagues, just work on one thing youíre good at ó but if you want to have a good career in the bigs, you have to also work at the things youíre not good at. You canít sit there and think, ďI swing the bat pretty good, so Iíll just rest on that until I get there.Ē You want to have good tools; you want to have a good throwing arm; you want to have good speed; you want to be a good base runner.
DL: Defensively, what are some of things the Dodgers organization has you focusing on this season?
AL: I played first base in high school, and they moved me to right field, and then to left, and people may think itís not a big adjustment, but if you want to be good, it is. Itís tough moving from left to right because of the angles of the balls. How a lefty hits it to left, and how a lefty hits it to right, are different, and itís the same with how righties hit the ball. There are different tails on the ball that you have to pick up; there are different reads and cuts.
DL: How about at the plate?
AL: They donít really try to change much swinging-wise. If you had really good success the year before, theyíre not going to want to do a whole lot. But with your mental approach, you can change stuff ó every day you can change things on the mental side of hitting. Thatís something theyíve worked with me on.
DL: Is there anyone in particular that has helped you a lot with that facet of your game?
AL: Gene Clines Ė heís our hitting coordinator, and a great guy. But they like to keep it really simple; if youíve had some good success, they donít really want to change you up too much. Heís given me some tips, like how to overcome the cold in the Midwest in the early part of the reason Ė just mental stuff, really. I think that the physical attributes are there and ready to go.
DL: Who were some of the coaches and instructors you worked with in spring training, particularly about hitting?
AL: Don Mattingly came up to us a couple of times, and he talked to us mostly about the mental side of things, too. Hitting is pretty tough; if you go three for 10 youíre an above-average hitter, so itís a different from all other sports in that you have to deal with failure a little more. In the NBA, if youíre a three-for-10 shooter youíre not doing so well. It would be the same if you were a passer in the NFL Ė youíre not doing so hot. So we have to settle on failures, and thatís the number one thing for a young guy to learn to overcome. You canít go four-for-four every single game, so you have to learn how to have that bad game and bounce back; you have to learn how to keep it consistent.
DL: What is your history as a sports fan?
AL: Iím not going to lie Ė Iím not really too much of a sports fanatic. I donít like to sit there and watch sports. Iím the kind of guy who canít watch something too long, I have to go out there and get it. In the offseason, Iím not too much of a football guy either. I just like watching movies and stuff, or playing video games. Still, it is kind of corny that I got drafted by my hometown team Ė I grew up about an hour out of L.A., so my whole life Iíve been a Dodgers fan; I grew up going to Dodgers games. So I guess itís pretty cool.