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Career minor leaguer Bryan LaHair had big April for Cubs

May 1, 2012, 12:48 PM EDT

Bryan LaHair AP

Not much has gone right for the Cubs early on this season, but the decision to give 29-year-old career minor leaguer Bryan LaHair the starting job at first base is looking very good.

After knocking around Triple-A pitching for five-and-half seasons LaHair finally got his big break and has taken advantage in a huge way, hitting .390 with five homers, eight doubles, and a 1.251 OPS in 20 games.

He’ll come back down to earth eventually, of course, but LaHair hit .331 with 38 homers in 129 games at Triple-A last season and has a .528 slugging percentage in 653 total games at Triple-A.

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Dale Sveum deserve credit for giving LaHair a long-deserved chance that the previous regime was unlikely to provide and it’ll be interesting to see what the Cubs do if first base prospect Anthony Rizzo continues to push for a promotion to the majors with a strong performance at Triple-A.

Chicago could certainly use the added offense and LaHair could perhaps play left field somewhat passably, but the Cubs have Alfonso Soriano and his contract there.

  1. drewsylvania - May 1, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Insert your irrational, fact-free PED scare arguments here.

    • l0yalr0yal - May 1, 2012 at 12:56 PM

      Or, congratulate Mr. LaHair for sticking with it and having an opportunity to play in the show.

  2. AK47 - May 1, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Too bad he didn’t get a chance earlier, he was blocked by Pena last year and Derrick Lee before that. Good for him for his success.

    • jeffbbf - May 1, 2012 at 2:10 PM

      He was in the Seattle system prior to 2010. Who was blocking him then?

      • frightwig - May 1, 2012 at 4:36 PM

        LaHair’s minor league numbers in AAA Tacoma weren’t consistently great–his 2007-8 numbers there were rather mediocre, really–and when he got a chance to play in Seattle in 2008, after the club released Richie Sexson, he hit just .250/.315/.346 (79 OPS+) in 150 PA, at age 25. So the M’s sent him back to AAA for 2009 and signed Russell Branyan, who had a very good year in Seattle. And when Branyan hurt his back late in the season, Mike Carp stepped in, at age 23, and hit .315/.415/.463 (138 OPS+) in his 65 PA audition.

        I suppose they could have given LaHair the 1B job in 2010, at age 27, instead of signing Casey Kotchman. He had a good year at AAA in 2009. Maybe the front office thought he did well in Tacoma that season because he was a bit old and had repeated that level a few times. Maybe they thought the younger Carp had a more promising future. Who knows, when they signed Cliff Lee, maybe they were already thinking about trading him for someone like Jesus Montero or Justin Smoak.

        So the M’s let him go, and the Cubs signed him just to stash him away at AAA for two more years. If he hadn’t done so well in his September call-up last season, he’d probably still be in AAA now. If you’re a minor league 1B who strikes out a lot and has been stuck at AAA more than a couple times around, it’s hard to get people to take you seriously.

  3. tacklemeelmo - May 1, 2012 at 1:57 PM

    Saw a crazy stat earlier today.. Lahair is hitting over .600 when he does not strike out.

    • 18thstreet - May 1, 2012 at 2:12 PM

      Yeah, but in the games that he didn’t hit a homer, he’s homerless. So there’s that.

  4. biasedhomer - May 1, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    Another mistake by the M’s. LaHair and Morse would be very welcomed on the M’s.

    • frightwig - May 1, 2012 at 9:11 PM

      It hurts knowing that the Mariners gave up Mike Morse for Ryan Langerhans, but it is worth noting that Morse really struggled in his first two seasons at AAA, at age 23-24; then, after finally adjusting to AAA in his third go-round in 2007, he made the M’s roster to start the 2008 season but tore his labrum in early April and missed the rest of the year.

      So, at the start of the 2009 season, he was 27 years old with a mixed track record at AAA, had just missed a year with a serious shoulder injury, didn’t have a clear position, and failed to make a good impression on the new manager and GM in spring training, evidently–because the club DFA’d him, and he actually cleared waivers on April 1st. Any club could have had him for nothing at that point, and nobody wanted him.

      When he got off to a good start at Tacoma that spring, it’s unfortunate that Seattle didn’t hang on to him at least long enough to give him one more chance in LF. It’s not like anybody had that job locked down. But, it’s also true that nobody in baseball thought Mike Morse was much of a prospect at that point. And his .250/.291/.481 line after the Nats called him up in late August 2009 didn’t exactly scream, “Haha! Y’all were WRONG about me!!!” either.

  5. jason1214 - May 1, 2012 at 7:12 PM

    Just my two cents, but I think a .275, with 20+ homers, 75 rbi is very realistic, better than league average no?

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