Welcome to the next installment of Los Angeles Dodgers Down on the Farm.
This week, we will meet the team’s best position prospect, corner outfielder Andrew Lambo, and righthanded pitcher Ethan Martin.
Lambo is the heir-apparent to Manny Ramirez in leftfield for the Dodgers. His name comes up frequently in trade proposals; however, Ned Colletti seems loathe to part with him, as the team lacks quality outfield depth in the farm system.
With Ramirez only signed through 2010, it would seem that it’s just a matter of time until Andrew will be on the Dodger roster. Additionally, he won’t be 21 until August 11.
Lambo was the Dodgers’ fourth round pick in 2007 out of Newbury Park High School in Northern California. Projected to go in either the first or second round, character issues caused his stock to drop on draft day.
This serves as a cautionary message to baseball prospects everywhere.
You see, Lambo was once caught smoking marijuana in a classroom...during his sophomore year in high school, at Cleveland High School in Reseda, CA.
“I did get in trouble when I was in high school,” Lambo once said in an interview with Hugh Bernreuter of The Saginaw News. “I hung around older kids, and the older kids I was around did things that weren’t right. So I did some wrong things.”
Lambo transferred to Newbury Park High for his final two seasons. He credits the move with getting him on the right track.
“It was a great move for me,” Lambo told Bernreuter. “It was a smaller school and the students were very achievement-oriented. The baseball players were serious about playing. I matured a lot and everything came together for me.”
Unfortunately for Lambo, he was branded as a spoiled surfer kid, a Malibu-type snob, an attitude problem. This was highly unfair; though born in a Beverly Hills hospital, Lambo never lived Beverly Hills, Malibu, or any other such affluent area.
He slid all the way to the fourth round of the 2007 Amateur Draft.
“I was supposedly a second-round guy, maybe first round,” Lambo confided to Bernreuter. “But I understood why I fell to the fourth round. I was just so relieved when (I was drafted). It was like, ‘I can live again.’”
Lambo is a smooth lefty with a swing that has been compared to George Brett (for you old-school baseball fans) and Justin Morneau (for the younger set). Brett might be the better comparison, as Lambo does not have the power of Morneau...yet.
Veteran Dodger observer Alex Eisenberg reports the following:
“Lambo has a simple, quiet swing until he starts rotating those hips and moving those hands forward. You see a forward shift in weight to build up momentum, a small loading of the hands, and then at foot plant he turns his hips and hands together aggressively.
"Rather than achieving “extension”, Lambo lets the ball travel to him instead of letting his hands meet the ball (which saps a player of much of their power). Letting the ball travel deep is an excellent indicator of bat speed.”
He has excellent size (6’3”, 190-pounds), average athleticism, below average speed, a plus arm and good hands. He projects as a corner outfielder or first baseman. With the big club set at rightfield (Andre Ethier) and first base (James Loney), his best hope is in left.
Andrew knifed through the Gulf Coast League Dodger’s Rookie League opposition as an18-year old. In 218 plate appearances, Lambo led the Gulf Coast League with a stellar .440 on-base percentage. He hit .343 with a .519 slugging percentage. In 54 games, he had 38 runs, 32 RBIs, 15 doubles and five homers, while managing 29 walks against just 34 Ks.
The following season saw him become a Single A standout, being selected to the Midwest League All-Star game, representing the Great Lakes Loons.
He finished the year with 15 homers and 79 RBI, while batting .288, with a .462 slugging percentage, leading the Loons in all of the above categories and finishing second in the league in RBI and fourth with his 33 doubles. His 110 strikeouts were a concern.
He then got the call to AA Jacksonville and hit a sparkling .389 there in 38 plate appearances.
The Dodgers AA affiliate in 2009 is the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern League, and Lambo is finding mixed results at the level. At the tender age of 21, he is batting .260 thus far, with 10 home runs, 48 RBI, and an amazing 32 doubles.
His strikeout percentage is way down (17 percent, best since his rookie league season), but so is his power. His slugging percentage is a pedestrian .418, with a meager .730 OPS. He also exhibits a reverse platoon split, meaning he gets better results against lefthanders than righties.
As he ages, fills out, makes more adjustments and gets more experience, Lambo promises to be an exciting player for the Dodgers. Ned Colletti’s determination to hold onto the prospect could very well pay off handsomely in the long run.
Deeper down on the farm, Ethan Martin toils for the Great Lake Loons. He is perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the entire organization, being ranked as high as No. 5 in the system (though many have him ranked much lower.)
Martin was much coveted as a hitter, but that’s not what the Dodgers drafted him to be.
Martin was a most unusual two-way player, performing at both third base and on the mound. When he began pitching, he was used as a closer at Stephens County School in Georgia.
He was converted to starting as a senior.
At 6’2” and weighing 195, Ethan fit the mold of a power pitcher.
Several scouts (including from the Dodgers) attended a Stephens County-American Heritage game early in 2008, most of them to see Eric Hosmer of American Heritage hit.
Martin, however, maintained mid-90s velocity late into the game, showed off both a plus curve ball and split-fingered fastball, and threw strikes on each side of the plate. He piqued the Dodgers' interest from that day forward.
Selected by Los Angeles as the 15th choice in the first round of the Rule Four (First Year Amateur Player) draft in 2008, Martin missed out on making his pro debut after tearing a knee during fielding drills.
The injury required season-ending surgery. He was ready for action by the time for instructional league action the following spring.
He immediately began showing off his 93-to-95 mile per hour fastball with late sinking action, and flashed a big-breaking curve. He also displayed the athleticism to repeatedly duplicate his flowing, smooth delivery.
It is still too early to know for sure where Martin projects; he has stuff that could make him a front-end of the rotation starter (though probably not an ace); or, he could end up in the bullpen.
His long-awaited debut at Class A versus the Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds) was promising. After having the team bypass the Rookie League stop for him, he rewarded their faith with five scoreless innings, leaning heavily on his fastball early on.
Facing Dragons’ lead-off man David Sappelt, Martin cashed in by striking out the very first professional batter he ever faced.
“It felt really great to get him out,” Martin said to Bernreuter of The Saginaw News after the game. “That was my main goal going into the whole game, just getting the first batter. Once I got him to strike out, I was relaxed from then on.”
He also showed exceptional poise for a 19-year old, adjusting easily when the batters began to figure out his fastball.
“I was just spotting with my fastball and then once they started hitting that, I had to go to my curve ball,” he told Bernreuter. “[It didn’t have] the best of spin, but it was all right, enough to help me out and get me through the innings.”
Martin got the W in a 2-0 Loons’ victory. Though the rest of the season has been up and down for the rookie, he just turned 20 on June 6.
He is striking out almost 11 batter per nine innings, yet walking 5.4 per nine. He has also managed a save for the Loons.
With his size, athleticism and pitch selection, he has tremendous upside for the Dodgers.
2009 Pitching Statistics
Minor League Totals