More times that not, when a team as dealing with a prospect of some sort, said player is usually in his early-20s. But every now and then there is prospect that takes a little bit longer to develop than some of the other traditional prospects. Those cases have been seen all around the major league with Jose Bautista perhaps being the biggest example of having the label as a “late-bloomer”. No Bryan LaHair will not go on a home run hitting tear like Bautista has the last two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, but LaHair has opened some eyes after being rewarded for his record breaking 38 home runs with the Iowa Cubs this season by being a September call-up.
I will be the first to admit that I am still not that confident in LaHair’s ability, though, it is hard to argue with what LaHair has done with the Iowa Cubs these past two seasons. LaHair joined the Cubs as a minor league free agent after the 2009 season. To give you a better picture of who LaHair is, he was the Micah Hoffpauir of the Seattle Mariners‘ organization. The Mariners were hoping that LaHair turned into a left handed run producer that they could put in the middle of their lineup, but for whatever reason, LaHair never developed as that type of player. LaHair’s best season in the Mariners was in 2009, the season before he joined the Cubs’ organization, when he hit .289/.354/.530 with 26 home runs and 85 RBIs with the Mariners’ triple A-Affiliate.
But since joining the Cubs’ organization, LaHair has been a different player. In his debut season with the Iowa Cubs in 2010, LaHair hit a career best .308/.385/.530 for the Iowa Cubs to go along with 25 home runs and 81 RBIs. If LaHair had been younger, the Cubs probably would have put more stock into his 2010 performance with the Iowa Cubs. But having seen this act before with Hoffpauir, the Cubs figured that LaHair was just another career minor leaguer. But LaHair has done everything in his power to shed that label, and his 2011 season with the Iowa Cubs may be the indicator that LaHair could be a late bloomer. LaHair hit everything in sight this year with the Iowa Cubs and had a career year hitting .331/.405/.664 with an Iowa Cubs’ single season best 38 home runs and 109 RBIs.
Now is when the real test begins for LaHair. At age 28, this may be the biggest month in LaHair’s entire professional career. LaHair has finally been given his opportunity to impress the Cubs front office at the major league level with the hope of being given a roster spot on the 2012 team. However, the the problem is that the people evaluating LaHair may not be with the Cubs’ organization next season. Manager Mike Quade is all but gone after the season, and there is likely to be some turnover in the Cubs’ front office once the new general manager is hired. But that is out of LaHair’s control. All LaHair can do is do what he does best and that is hit. So far, LaHair has done just that and is starting to get regular starts in the everyday lineup. Since being called up last week, LaHair has gone 6 for 15 (.400) with a home run, double, triple, and four RBIs. His hot start with the Cubs has been enough for LaHair to supplant Tyler Colvin as the everyday starter as Quade has given LaHair an extended look in right field.
LaHair is capable of playing both corner outfield positions, but he is a first baseman at heart. That would seem to bode well for his chances to make the 2012 Cubs’ roster, as once the season is over, the Cubs will have a vacancy at the first base position. While the ultimate decision will come from the next general manager, there is a good chance that Carlos Pena will return next season to the Cubs. Meaning LaHair will be facing an uphill battle if he plans to be the Cubs’ starting first baseman in 2012. But LaHair’s time in the corner outfield spots should not be overlooked. There is a good chance that Alfonso Soriano is not going to be with the Cubs next season, and LaHair could replace Soriano in left field. Or on the off chance that Soriano is back next season, LaHair and Colvin may compete to be the starter in right field when Spring Training starts next season.
Nonetheless, there is a strong chance that LaHair will be given the opportunity to be a contributor to the 2012 Chicago Cubs.