It's interesting to see how far Bryan LaHair has come. At this point last year, he was a non-rostered, minor league vet just looking to keep his career alive. What a difference a year makes.
According to Doug Padilla on ESPN, Sveum said,
‘‘It’s Bryan LaHair’s job. And it’s not his to lose. It’s his job.’’
Not only that, but the Cubs are counting on him to produce. The Cubs don't exactly have a group of players who are perfect fits when it comes to filling out a lineup card, but there are a couple that are already decided...sort of.
According to Paul Sullivan of the Tribune, Sveum said this regarding the 2012 lineup,
“Being realistic, I’ll probably start with (David) DeJesus leading off, (Bryan) LaHair hitting fourth, and right now after that I don’t really know right now...."
I like DeJesus leading off and LaHair fourth. In fact, that's how I made my own lineup in a previous article.
It also brings up an interesting potential conundrum. The Cubs obviously think enough of LaHair to put him in the middle of the lineup and think he can produce, what if he does? And what if Anthony Rizzo also mashes at AAA Iowa?
In case your wondering, Sveum said LaHair won’t be asked to play any outfield, at least not during the spring. But he didn't rule out that changing somewhere down the line if the Cubs suddenly find themselves with two slugging first baseman.
“He’s our first baseman, and he’s going to play first base,” Sveum said. “I’m not going to put anything in his head that way. He’s our first baseman, and that’s the bottom line. If anything was to happen somewhere along the line we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
So what can we expect from LaHair? Bill James has a .273/.335/.474 line for him and 13 HRs but only has him for 316 PAs. James also has him for a solid .352 wOBA. Over the course of a full season, that would make him an above average offensive player.
ZiPS has a slightly lower projection at .262/.324/.469 and a .339 wOBA, but has it over a full season and has him hitting 24 HRs.
In case you don't remember what wOBA or other stats are, check our new stat glossary for a basic definition and some examples from last year's Cubs team.
For those of you that like comps, Baseball Prospectus has a couple of very interesting ones that have ties to the Cubs and Theo Epstein. The 2nd comp listed is Leon Durham and the 3rd comp is David Ortiz. The first comp, in case you're wondering, is Richie Sexson.
It's not just the numbers, however. The scouting reports on LaHair have drastically changed since he was a Mariners prospect. For that matter, they have changed since last season alone. He's now seen as a disciplined hitter with solid bat speed that can produce somewhere along the lines of a .270 batting average and 20-25 HRs, which aligns nicely with the statistical projections.
The Cubs could certainly use that kind of production in the middle of their lineup this year. It may not be ideal, but it's a year of transition. The hope is that you find a couple of players you can go with for the next few years. It appears that LaHair will get the opportunity to be one of those players.