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
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?
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.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.