Pirates appear dangerously close to giving regular season at-bats on Travis Ishikawa

I've said this once or twice on Twitter and with Mike Grau on TribLIVERadio, but not on the blog, so I'll put it in (virtual) writing now: if the Pirates start 2014 off with Travis Ishikawa as the big end of their first base platoon with Andrew Lambo, the only thing that's likely to accomplish is to make it so that we have no idea if Andrew Lambo is a viable first base option by mid-season. Ishikawa has bounced all over baseball in recent years. He's only ever played a significant amount of time in 2010 (with the Giants) and 2012 (with the Brewers). His OPS+ in those years was 97. He hits acceptably against right-handed pitching, but not really much better than that. He would be, at best, a version of Garrett Jones with very little power. He is a known quantity. 

Andrew Lambo is probably not the type of player that you want to be an every day regular, which is essentially what your left-handed first baseman would be. He basically did not hit at all between the ages of 19 and 23 in the minor leagues. He finally broke through a bit last year in Double-A as a 24-year old that started in Double-A as a 20-year old. He carried that momentum into a nice Triple-A season and it's clear that he's got at least some power, even if he's likely to strike out a ton and only draw a minimally acceptable number of walks. 

Basically, Lambo is at a point where it's worth evaluating him. Based on what he did in the minors last year, I'd say that it's possible that he'll struggle with the Pirates, but it's unlikely that he'd be a whole lot worse than what Travis Ishikawa would offer them. If they play Lambo at first base and he doesn't work out, it'll be pretty clear pretty quickly. If they play Ishikawa at first, it won't work out, and then it'll be June 1st and we'll all still be wondering about Lambo with considerably less time to figure out what to do if he doesn't work out. 

Making decisions like this based on spring training results rarely ends well. 

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.

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