Prospect Profile: Bryan LaHair

November 9, 2006
The Seattle Mariners 2006 Minor League Player of the Year, 24-year-old first baseman Bryan LaHair, has vaulted from a draft and follow pick to a player who stands a good chance of helping the big league club as soon as 2007.

Undrafted out of high school, LaHair attended St. Petersburg Junior College and tried to bulk up his athletic 6-foot-5 frame. The Mariners liked the physical and mental maturation that they saw out of the Florida native enough to take a chance on him in the 39th round and then sign him – for well above slot money – convinced that the light went on for LaHair in his second year of college.

A basketball player for Toronto Blue Jays’ general manager J.P. Riccardi in high school – Riccardi used to coach basketball during the offseason – LaHair was mediocre in his first two minor league seasons. He combined to hit .273 with eight home runs and 44 doubles in 488 at-bats between Low-A Everett and Single-A Wisconsin in 2003 and 2004.

The Mariners wisely opted to take it slow with the lefthanded hitter, promoting him just one level per year in his first three minor league seasons. Playing against younger competition, LaHair made that decision pay off by tearing apart High-A Inland Empire in 2005: .310/.373/.503 with 22 home runs, 133 RBI, and 28 doubles in 508 at-bats.

He built upon that success this year by combining for a .309/.381/.474 line and totaling 16 home runs and 22 doubles between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tacoma.

We talked to an American League scout who called LaHair a “very young 24-year-old,” justifying his choice of words with an argument that LaHair is still growing into his frame and learning to make adjustments so that he can hit for power more consistently.

But aren’t most minor leaguers expected to bulk up and learn to hit for more power? How many of them really manage to do both?

LaHair has one plus-plus tool, his makeup. He has the kind of desire to get better that every organization wishes for out of all of its athletes. According to the American League scout, LaHair’s makeup is an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

“He’s a relentless worker,” the scout said. “He’s a confident guy. He knows he can hit. And I think that’s 90-percent of the battle…that attitude, that confidence. He’s a leader and he’s an asset to a ball club…no doubt about it.”

Still a rangy 6-foot-5, 215-pounder, LaHair is most comfortable when he’s going the other way and can slump when he tries to pull the ball. But he has gotten into some amazing power grooves.

Prior to leaving Tacoma to go play for Team USA in Cuba, LaHair hit six home runs in six games.

“He really hasn’t shown what I think he’s going to be able to put up,” the American League scout said. “I can see his power numbers being plus. Not an 80 power guy but something like a 60 power guy. When he gets hot, look out. When he gets locked in, look out.”

LaHair is still an underdog in terms of becoming a regular position player in the majors, but as a big, talented athlete, he has the versatility to play first base or switch to a corner outfield position. Don’t be shocked if he blossoms into an above-average major leaguer.

“He’s still maturing,” the scout said. “He’s still maturing physically; he’s still maturing as a hitter. I would not put anything past Bryan LaHair. You give him a challenge and then he’ll meet it.”

Adam Foster can be reached at