Lambo sees self as 'work in progress'

Lambo sees himself as a 'work in progress'

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- In his first full season after being drafted out of high school in 2007, Los Angeles Dodgers first base-turned-outfield prospect Andrew Lambo has had a long, hot summer followed by a long, hot fall. And he's not complaining one bit.

Lambo, the Dodgers' fourth-round pick out of high school in Southern California, burst out of the professional gate that summer by hitting .343 with five homers and 32 RBIs to win the Gulf Coast League batting title.

This season, the Dodgers moved the just-turned 20-year-old up to Class A Great Lakes, where he finished 10th in the Midwest League in hitting at .288 with 15 homers and 79 RBIs. He skipped a level to Double-A Jacksonville for eight games down the stretch and batted .389 with three homers and 12 RBIs. Total damage? A .295 average, 18 homers and 91 RBIs.

So the Dodgers didn't hesitate to send the youngster to the Surprise Rafters of AFL as their lone permitted Class A player.

The left-handed hitter with the sweet stroke said he's honored just to be part of the league, now in its 17th year and well established as a finishing school for the game's top prospects.

"Last year, I came out to (instructional league) and saw a couple of games here and it was impressive," said Lambo, who was hitting .310 with a homer and 10 RBIs for the Rafters. "Fortunately, I had a good year this year and got invited. It's just such an honor to play with these guys."

When he's not busy playing, he's been studying the other players.

"You can learn a lot from them," he said. "You want to see how they compete, how they act, how they carry themselves. They have take me under their wing and I appreciate it."

Lambo's also been paying close attention to the coaching as he works on different aspects of his game, which he called "a work in progress."

"Some of the things I need to work on are my fielding and my baserunning," he explained. "So I'm here to work on that and to get the big-league atmosphere. It's all new to me."

Other Dodgers in the AFL

SS Ivan DeJesus has enjoyed the unusual experience of no longer being the youngest guy on his team, thanks to Lambo. The 21-year-old, who anchored the Jacksonville infield this year, had expected to leave the Rafters after only a few games to join his home country's winter ball program in Carolina, Puerto Rico. But he wound up sticking around until Nov. 1, hitting .254 in that span. The Dodgers' reigning Minor League Player of the Year, he batted .324 with seven homers, 58 RBI and 16 steals and brings an active 23-game hitting streak into the 2009 season, most likely at the new Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate. The son of former shortstop extraordinaire (and AFL manager in 2004) Ivan Sr. is a chip off the old block with great defensive skills and a live bat to go with makeup and instincts.

C Lucas May, one of two Dodgers backstops in town, was a 2003 eighth-round pick who showed good power. Though he hit just .230 at Jacksonville this season, he had 13 homers and 54 RBIs after batting .256 with 25 homers and 89 RBIs at Class A Advanced Inland Empire in 2007. He was hitting .192 with a homer and six RBIs.

C Russ Mitchell joins May behind the plate as the team's taxi squad members, playing twice a week as needed. A 2003 15th-round pick, he's in his sixth season and has shown new power the last two years with 22 homers and 82 RBIs in '07 and 16 homers and 75 RBIs in '08. He was batting .316 in five AFL games.

OF Jamie Hoffmann also is a taxi squadder who waits for his opportunities. A non-drafted free agent out of Minnesota, he hit .278 with 10 homers, 71 RBIs and 28 steals at Jacksonville after batting .309 at Inland Empire in 07. He was hitting .333 with five RBIs in nine AFL games.

LHP Brent Leach missed virtually all of 2007 due to injury, seeing only 14 games at Inland Empire, where he posted an 0.45 ERA. In his comeback, he combined for a 2.60 ERA and 15 saves in 49 games between the California League and Jacksonville. He had an 8.80 ERA in 10 AFL games over 15 1/3 innings.

RHP Justin Orenduff, a supplemental first-rounder out of Virginia Commonwealth in 2004, had a rough season, going 3-7 with a 6.55 ERA in 31 games at Triple-A Las Vegas. In 110 innings, he allowed 124 hits and 66 walks while striking out 95. He'd just finished his third year in a row at Jacksonville, where he had a 4.21 ERA. Orenduff had a 5.63 ERA in seven AFL starts, walking eight and fanning 26 in 24 innings.

RHP Travis Schlichting originally was drafted by the Rays in the fourth round in 2003 and spent four years as a third baseman in the Tampa Bay system before moving to the Angels and the mound. He didn't play at all in 2007 as he worked the transition. Schlichting went 6-4 with a 3.77 ERA and 49 strikeouts over 59 2/3 innings at Jacksonville. At Surprise, he logged a 1.80 ERA.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.