Image courtesy: kffl.com
Name: Stephen Lombardozzi
Date of Birth: September 20, 1988
Lombardozzi was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in 2008. He was the 9th selection in the 19th round (#571 overall) out of St. Petersburg College (St. Petersburg, FL). While Lombardozzi was the first from his draft class to reach the Major Leagues, he is the 8th player to climb as high after being drafted out of the junior college – joining current big leaguers Pedro Beato (Mets), Bobby Wilson (Angels), Bryan LaHair (Cubs), and Alfredo Amezega (currently a free agent). Former Mets and Tigers third baseman Howard Johnson is perhaps the most prominent player to reach the Major League after being drafted out of St. Petersburg College (1979).
Stephen is also the second member of his family to reach the Major Leagues, joining his father of the same name. The elder Lombardozzi was also a second baseman, spending four years with the Minnesota Twins (1985-1988) and parts of two more with the Houston Astros (1989-1990) before calling it a career. In 1,437 career plate appearances he batted .233/.307/.347 with 20 HR and 107 RBI. Now, it would seem it’s the younger Lombardozzi’s turn in The Show.
Within two weeks of being drafted in 2008, Lombardozzi had signed his first professional contract at age 19 and found himself playing for the organization’s affiliate in the Gulf Coast League. In 48 games over the course of the season he would hit .283/.371/.322 in 184 plate appearances. While it wasn’t a dominating performance, it was enough for the Nationals to bump him right over Low-A for the following season.
In Hagerstown for the 2009 season, Lombardozzi was first exposed to a full season league and he responded well. In 128 games he batted .296/.375/.395 with 3 HR and 58 RBI in 576 plate appearances. He added 16 stolen bases, 62 walks, and 80 strikeouts. He was also solid defensively, committing just 8 errors on the season.
Coming off such a strong performance in Hagerstown, it was no surprise when Lombardozzi was bumped up to High-A Potomac to begin the 2010 season. In 110 games in the Carolina League, Lombardozzi managed to hit .293/.370/.409 with a home run and 38 RBI in 507 plate appearances. Once again he showed solid plate discipline, adding 49 walks versus 60 strikeouts, before ultimately earning a late season promotion to Double-A, where he put up an almost identical line (.295/.373/.524) in another 118 plate appearances (over 27 games).
2011 once again proved to be another big year for Lombardozzi. He started the year back in Double-A, batting .309/.366/.454 with 4 HR and 23 RBI in 291 plate appearances over 65 games. It was evident that he had little left to prove in Harrisburg, so once again the second baseman saw a mid-season promotion. In an additional 69 games with Triple-A, Lombardozzi batted .310/.354/.408 with 4 HR and 29 RBI. He added 13 doubles, 14 stolen bases, 21 walks, and 40 strikeouts over 325 plate appearances.
Combined on the year, he posted a .309/.360/.430 line across minor league baseball’s top two levels. He would add 8 HR, 52 RBI, and 30 stolen bases – all career highs. Lombardozzi had earned a September callup to Washington. Over the season’s final month he appeared in 13 games, batting .194/.219/.226 in 32 plate appearances.
Top Prospect Rankings
Baseball America (Top 10): 10th
MLB.com (Top 10): Unranked
FanGraphs (Top 15): 13th
Seedlings to Stars (MLB Top 100): #66 overall, 6th of 7 Nationals to make the list
DoD Editor Aaron Somers (Top 15): 11th
DoD Staff Writer Michael Natelli (Top 15): 6th
DoD Staff Writer Andrew Flax (Top 15): 11th
From Seedlings to Stars:
"Lombardozzi is basically ready to start for a major league team at second base right now, after hitting over .300 at both upper-minors levels.He has enough power to keep the bat from being knocked out of his hands, as he ripped 42 extra base hits in the minors this year, and he could grow into 10-HR power as he matures – let’s not forget he just turned 23."
Courtesy of Marc Hulet for FanGraphs:
"He’s produced very good numbers throughout the minors but projects to be more of an average regular than a star. He hits for average but doesn’t have much power or pure foot speed."
Conflicting scouting reports aside, Lombardozzi is generally regarded as an above average fielder. He showed solid fundamentals at second base and a great deal of athleticism, failing to commit any errors in Triple-A during the 2011 season. He also has shown decent range through the minor leagues. While he’s primarily a second baseman, he does have some experience at shortstop and limited time at third base as well.
In addition, his approach at the plate is far-and-away above many other minor leaguers/rookies of the same age. He strikes out rarely and has shown consistent on base skills throughout his minor league career. While he still needs to adjust to Major League pitching, he’s shown indications that he should be able to handle such a change rather smoothly.
Power is limited for Lombardozzi. He’s never hit more than 8 HR in a single season. He doesn’t really have the body type that will bulk out naturally with maturity so it remains to be seen how much the power production develops with more training/experience. But while his HR power is negligible, he does possess enough gap power to have solid extra base hit totals (51 in 2010, 42 in 2011).
2012 and Beyond Expectations
With his arrival in September, the Lombardozzi era officially began in Washington. While he’s largely been an under-the-radar prospect across most baseball circles, Lombardozzi has long figured into the Nationals’ plans in the middle infield, as he’s repeatedly been asked about by other organizations during trade talks only to have Washington flatly refuse his inclusion in any deals. Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond are entrenched as the team’s current starters, but it’s widely expected that Lombardozzi will be able to get his fair share of at bats backing up the pair. It seems highly unlikely that he returns to the minor leagues, barring an unexpected setback.
Of course, his name will likely continue to come up in trade talks over the coming weeks, especially as the organization continues to search for solutions to other holes on their roster. Some believe the team would be better served trading Desmond, allowing Lombardozzi to start at second with Espinosa sliding over to shortstop, but it seems equally as possible that the team doesn’t move any of the three players. The trio would give the organization depth and production up the middle for the coming seasons.