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Fresh off a 2011 season that saw him destroy pitching at AAA, and then have a nice little stint with the Chicago Cubs in September, Bryan LaHair headed off to the Venezuelan Winter League to try and continue to show his chops.

He did. And now he’s got another award to show for it. From Baseball America:

After leading the Venezuelan League in home runs with 15 for Magallanes, LaHair can add another line to his resume: Baseball America’s 2012 Winter Player of the Year.

LaHair, who played high school basketball in Massachusetts for current Mets scout J.P. Ricciardi, has taken a long road. A Clemson recruit who wound up going the draft-and-follow route, he played at St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC and signed in 2003 as a 39th-round pick in 2002. He has played 970 minor league games, including 653 in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where he’s put up a slash line of .297/.368/.528. His numbers surged the last couple of years.

LaHair led the minor leagues with 38 home runs in 2011, setting a franchise record for Iowa. He was more than just a guy who swung for the fences however, as he delivered an OPS of 1.070. He would have been in Chicago by August except then-general manager Jim Hendry declined to trade Pena. LaHair didn’t sulk, instead finishing off an MVP season in the PCL, and he was still hitting when he finally got to Wrigley in September.

In LaHair’s third game with the Cubs, he delivered a two-out home run off Cincinnati’s Mike Leake to tie a game in the ninth inning. He finished hitting .288 with eight extra-base hits in 59 at-bats, then signed on for more baseball over the winter, playing 47 games for Magallanes in Venezuela. He hit six homers in his first seven games there and finished with a league-high 15, including one of former Cubs teammate Carlos Zambrano.

LaHair had been scheduled to spend only about a month in Venezuela but the Navegantes convinced him to return for three more weeks in December after his fast start. He admitted the constant action left him “tired” but in many ways it was the season of his life.

LaHair, now 29, is expected to start the season at first base for the Cubs, while the team’s long-term answer there, Anthony Rizzo, continues to develop at AAA. Most projections see an OPS right around .800 for LaHair, which would be adequate, though not compelling, for a first baseman.

His glove will be an interesting part of the equation. Thanks to Mike Quade’s preference for trying to get Carlos Pena to 30 home runs last year, we haven’t gotten to see much of LaHair at first base. I’m told his defense there is, at best, average, and probably a little below. If true, no matter how great the story, LaHair will not block Rizzo whenever the youngster is ready. Heck, even if LaHair plays sparkling defense, he’s not likely to block Rizzo.

Unless, of course, he hits this year in the bigs like he hit last year in Des Moines and Venezuela. If that happens, the Cubs will have one of those “nice problems to have” on their hands. Rizzo’s future isn’t anywhere but first base, but LaHair can theoretically play some left field. He could also make for a very inexpensive DH or first baseman on a team looking to upgrade or replace an injured player at mid-season. Again: that’s if he’s killing the ball.

  • Stan

    I’ve been meaning to ask, why is it that most projections (CBS Sports and Fangraphs) don’t have LaHair even surpassing 400 ABs this season? That’s not what his numbers have said and it’s not like he has a lot of competition with Anthony Rizzo starting in AAA….

    • CubFan Paul

      they expect Rizzo to be called up midseason..

      • Stan

        Why should we rush Rizzo? Is he expected to demolish AAA?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          He demolished AAA last season.  The Cubs are starting him in Iowa out of an abundance of patience and to give him the best chance to succeed.  Most people would not argue if he had the starting job from Opening Day.

          • Dion

            Jed has had Rizzo for years, if they start him in AAA its to cure a flaw, he was up last year and did not do well at the big league level. But if Lahair flops or does extremely well and we can find a suitor, Rizzo will be rushed for sure.

  • CubFan Paul

    here’s to LaHair killing the ball in April, May, June & July…

  • Cliffy

    Quads wanted to get Pena to 30 homeruns. Nice job Mike how did that work out for you. Good decision making. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

    Its not a stretch to think 2012 decisions will be much better with Sveum.

    • Andrew

      Well, yeah. Relatively Sveum can’t really make any worse decisions so he starts out on par with Quade. Then when he makes his first good decision he’s automatically made better decisions.

      • TWC

        Ha.  Burn.

  • BD

    If he is hitting, I would like to see him in LF and Soriano anywhere else but here.

  • Cheryl

    Hendry and Quade didn’t do LaHair much in the way of favors It will be interesting to see what he does at first base. If he can work on his defense there and continues to hit, is there a chance he could be the transition person not to Rizzo but to Dan Vogelbach? Rizzo is young enough that he could learn to play the outfield. LaHair may have a real good chance of sticking in the major leagues but it seems a shame to bounce him around for a player (Rizzo) who still has something to prove..

  • Stan

    That HR off Zambrano couldn’t had been any sweeter…

    • Richard Nose

      Was there vid of it?

  • PoppyPants McGee

    Bryan LaHair = Jeremy Lin of Baseball

    • Andrew

      I would love to see the Cubs have the Tim Tebow/Jeremy Lin baseball story this year. A dude who comes out of nowhere to win 20 games or hit a ridiculous number of game-winning homers and then follows it up by saying that he’s excited about the TEAM win. Hopefully the culture change will start to produce players who start to actually play the right way and represent the team well when they do play the right way.

      • hardtop

        Wait one second there Andrew;Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin are totally different stories. Lin was given few if any chances to succeed. He worked his ass off to become excellent at his craft and earn the opportunity to play the game he loved. Tebow was drafted 3 rounds too high and was given the keys because he was on a bad team, and dumb people chanted his name repeatedly.
        I personally hope LaHair is NOT a Tebow story.
        This is how it would go down if LaHair was the Tim Tebow of baseball:
        Cubs pitching and D would be lights out, except every ball thrown to LaHair at first would be grossly misplayed and end up in the dugout. At each plate appearance of the first 8 innings, not only would LaHair strike out, he would do so embarrassingly: hacking at pitches that are over the catchers head and repeatedly falling down after “swinging for the fences” on balls in the dirt. Then, in the 9th, with two outs, bases loaded and the opponent having scored 3 runs to the Cubs 0 (all on muffed plays by LaHair mind you), Bryan would come up to bat. The opposing pitcher would either be 52 years old, with a career ERA of 10.02 and the ability to throw only an 72 mph fastball down the pipe, or he would be out there on pitch number 200 because his manager is an idiot. The base runners would all be Tony Campana. Lahair would approach the plate from the right side with his batting helmet on backwards. Then, with two embarrassing strikes, he would swing the bat, with one hand, and miraculously make contact. the ball would somehow, as if defying the principals of physics, travel deep into the outfield and roll into a corner. as the fielder approached the ball he would trip on a single, longer-than-normal blade of grass. after recovering, his throw to the cutoff man would then strike a low flying bird and drop straight to the ground. the cutoff man would then run halfway into the outfield to find the ball covered in birdshit, making it difficult to grasp. By the time the cutoff man is throwing the ball in to second, all three Campana’s will have scored, tying the game. Lahair would be steadily chugging around bases, sliding head first into each bag despite the fact the baseball hadn’t even reached the infield yet. After a mind boggling 4 fielding errors, the ball would somehow reach the plate ahead of LaHair. As LaHair aggressively dives head first into the man covering home, the catcher slyly steps aside, tagging Lahair firmly on the back as he flys by. the tag would be so direct, you would actually see the imprint of the catchers mitt on Lahairs uniform. Lahair leaps with such force that he completely misses home plate and rolls to the back stop. the ump, pulls a cross necklace from under his chest protector, kisses it, and calls him safe. the cubs win. 4 to 3.

        i’d rather lose.

        • ferrets_bueller

          I bow to your narrative prowess.

          Awesome post.

        • ty

          Classic Hardtop. Go lay down for awhile!

        • Scotti

          Bird shit is two words…

          http://birdshitremoval.com/

          • hardtop

            ha ha my bad.

        • McKaley

          So at the end of the day, the cubs win right? Tebow helped the broncos win 7 games in a row, in football that’s almost half of a season. If LaHair can help the cubs win 1/2 of this seasons games on 9th inning hrs, I think he would deserve to have his name chanted as well.

          Even further, if you get into the whole body of work for the broncos, his team was putting tebow in the position to win games in the fourth quater. So his team deserved most of the credit. Likewise, if the cubs team has a chance to win ever game this year, and we do it with pitching, defense, and timely hitting. What more could you ask for.

          Stop being bitter towards a person that gets credit (THAT HE NEVER ASK FOR) and start acknowledging the fact that when put in the right position he is a winner.

          • hardtop

            i can partially agree with you on one point: his team deserved all of the credit, not most, but all. after that, we’re not even reading in the same book.

            im not bitter: im just saying id personally rather lose than win that way.

            tebow seems like a good dude… nothing against him personally.

      • ferrets_bueller

        Tim Tebow? Please, no.

        Anyone who mentions those two (Lin and Tebow) together is…well….completely off.

        Lin has talent.
        Tebow doesn’t.

        Tim Tebow is a joke. I’d rather not have a player who the organization is forced to play because some delusional fans think he is god, who is completely deficient in so many facets of the game.
        That would be the last thing the Cubs need, at all.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I hope so.

  • Steve

    I hate to say that i hate to say this, but unless Soriano is blocking a youngster, you cant pass up 25 hrs and 75-80 rbi while also eating 50 million dollars. You could say that we’re going to be awful anyway, what is an extra 15-20 hrs in the big picture? Well, Soriano has been a bust, yet he isn’t a bad dude and has some stretches where he is a monster ( 2 weeks or so each year) I am guilty of hoping suddenly Alf breaks out and becomes what he was so many years ago.

    • Dion

      The most we can hope for out of Soriano is to hit enough home runs to have some value at the trade deadline for a team needing DH help, if we eat most of his salary we can move him. Yes he’s a great guy, and can carry a team for couple games 2-3 times in a season but he will never be close to what he once was, he can’t steal bases, play defense, or get on base…he has no value outside being an occasional home run threat as a DH.

      • DocWimsey

        This would require a major injury to a DH from a contending team. The only couple of teams with DH’s producing less than Sori (probably) will produce in 2012 are not going to be contending. Moreover, if (say) Papi went down, well, the Sox have a couple of AAAA types in their system already.

        The big reason for this is that nearly all AL teams want a high OPS guy as their DH: and that means someone who takes walks as well as slugs. DH’s might not be able to field but DHs on contending teams usually are not 1D sluggers.

        • Dion

          I was hoping a contending team with a couple major injuries, which isn’t totally out of the norm. If he hits 10-15 homers by the break and a team only has to pay a couple mil for him, why not very low risk high reward. The A’s are serious about Manny, which is more of a shocker.

          • DocWimsey

            A couple of major injuries is enough to turn most contending teams into also-rans. Most of the major in-season trades (e.g., the Dodgers getting Manny in ’08) were to address pre-existing weaknesses (a dreadful OPS LFer in that case), not injuries. The closest recent example of which I can think is the Sox getting VMart in ’09 to address injury and old-age related problems to Lowell and Varitek. That did not alter the races too much: the Sox got the WC pretty handily as injuries sank the Rays!

            Of course, I might be forgetting some: a lot of trades that GM’s *hope* will alter divisional races turn out to have no effect.

            Oh, and Manny probably would be more productive than Sori, simply because Manny has so much better a batting eye than Sori.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      When Rizzo comes up, I’m hoping LaHair and Soriano can platoon in left.  Let Soriano play against left handed pitching, LaHair against right handed pitching, and the combined production from the two should exceed whatever either of them would have accomplished individually.

      • CubFan Paul

        to start the season (before rizzo comes up) i’d like Campana to platoon against Righties (if he beats out Sappelt, which is doubtful).

        If Rizzo hits .380/.411/.500plus in Spring Training he makes the team right? then LaHair & Soriano can platoon/SLG together in Left from the start of the season

        • baseballet

          I like the outfield platooning ideas with LaHair-iano. On the days Sori plays, whenever he reaches first or second base after the fourth inning, they could replace him with Campana to finish the game.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          I don’t think Rizzo starts the season with the Cubs no matter what he does in the spring.  I get the idea the Cubs are intending to start the year with LaHair on first and Rizzo in Iowa, and to ease Rizzo into the majors down the road a bit.

          • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

            I thought I saw a quote from either Jed or Theo about how you have to be careful with deciding jobs based on Spring Training…I can’t find it though. But I don’t think this team will base too much on Spring Training.

  • Dion

    As quirky as it may sound, if Lahair can sustain success at the big league level, you can bring up Rizzo in June the platoon Lahair/Soriano in left and Lahair/Rizzo at first, that would be a defensive upgrade at both positions. Could make the difference between a 70 win season or a 80 win season if it pans out.

    • Stan

      My thoughts exactly. Also it would rest Soriano against RHP (Which he can’t hit). PLATOON THE WHOLE DAMN TEAM! Why have a team focused on 9 players instead of 25?

      • Dion

        Agreed Stan I’d platoon all of them except Castro….*Byrd and Soto (for lack of acceptable options at this point).

        • dw

          You don’t platoon Rizzo. When a club brings up a 22 year old prospect, you make sure he’s ready (something Hoyer admitted he didn’t do with Rizzo in SD, hence him starting in Des Moines) then the club puts Rizzo out there everyday. No way Thoyer platoons Rizzo. That’s old guard stuff. Also, 10 win difference is like 2 all-stars worth of wins.

          • Drew

            I couldn’t agree more. I hated how Quade handled Colvin at the end of last year. You platoon guys that have a track record of hitting well/not hitting well against LH/RH (Soriano), but not guys that havent been given enough PA to make such a judgement. All you are accomplishing is (maybe) adding 1 win over the course of a season while also hindering the players (Colvin) development.

      • DocWimsey

        The whole talk of platoons confounds two very different issues. Let’s take Sori and Campana. Sori has done better against lefties over the last 3 seasons:
        Lefties: 0.257/0.331/0.470
        Righties: 0.245/0.292/0.461

        That is issue #1. It is completely separate from the issue of, does Sori or Campana hit righties better? Sori’s OPS against righties is not great, but do you really think that Campana will manage an OPS anywhere near Sori’s against righties?

        For comparison, a team of 9 Sori’s facing only RH pitching would be approximately like the Royals or the Oriole’s. A team of 9 Campanas facing only RH pitching would be approximately as bad as the Mariners. (Actually, 9 Campanas is pretty close to what the Mariner’s use……

  • The Other Matt

    According to some, Lahair sucks, but he benefitted from hitting in a hitter friendly ballpark in a hitter friendly league with hitter friendly pitchers throwing lobs to him. Of course, so was everyone else in the park/league/pitchers, but that must not matter if you’re 29.

    Me? I’m anxious for him to get a chance to play.

  • B_Scwared

    What was the word on Michael Morse before he blew up last year?  Wasn’t he in a somewhat similar position of a career minor leaguer?

    • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

      He had a 133 OPS+ in a 98 game look the year before, so it didn’t come out of nowhere. But to me, if the reports that LaHair tweaked something in his swing the turnaround could be legit because he does have a 10% BB rate to go along with his increase in homers. The 21% K rate is meh, at best, but he did hit 26 and 25 homers the two prior years in the PCL (2009 was in Seattle). Hopefully we have the next Jose Bautista sitting here…

  • FromFenwayPahk

    Bryan,
    Here at home in central Massachusetts there has been little snow this winter. There’s hardly even a crusty, blackened snowbank any where from Vernon Hill to Keene, NH. Kids are already taking grounders on bumpy infields that are only frozen in the morning, happy to go home with mudspray on their faces after sneaking in some pre-season fun with their pals.
    The schools are about to start February vacation, but we are already tasting the coming season. Just wanted to let you know that we are all thinking about spring, and heating up early this year.

  • http://bleachernation ferris

    maybe we are lucky we didnt get cespedes if lhair can play left,jackson in center,dejesus in right…..id be happy with that…let rizzo get some big league exsperience now…sori sits if hed rather be a bench player on this team than be a dh for another thats on him…he has numbers that he needs to reach to be considered a h.o.f. player(dont laugh)his numbers arent that far off,but he has to add to them.

  • http://bleachernation ferris

    if sori has the same yr as last (wich is subpar)we all would agree…,over the next three yrs hed finish with.

    270 ba , 418 hr , 2110 hits,1152 rib,270 sb…………thats at least close to h.o.f. consideration….he needs to d.h. to hit numbers…we should tell him he’s ridiing the pine…imo…the guy was very good at one time but his defence is terrible and hes not hittin near good enough to make up for it.

  • Ivy Walls

    A couple of things: In the movie “Moneyball”, Peter Brand tells Beane that rebuilding the A’s on the cheap means finding WAR value in players considered undervalued

    quote from the movie [Brand]: “It’s about getting things down to one number. Using stats to reread them, we’ll find the value of players that nobody else can see. People are over looked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws. Age, appearance, personality [...] Because everyone else in baseball under values them. Like and island of misfit toys.”

    LaHair fits that role like a glove. Further I think the idea is if LaHair has a .850 OPS into June the Cubs move him to LF to platoon with Soriano who is hitting LH’ers at above .900 OPS, like how Epstein and Hoyer lived with Manny Ramirez in LF. Against RH pitching I think LaHair can hit over .900 OPS. (By then Byrd will be traded for some value.)

    And there in lies the magic of this forming roster. At 3B Stewart hits RH’ers at a clip above .825 OPS, while Baker hits LH’ers at a clip above .850 OPS. The next spot will be in CF where working in RJackson and probably RJohnson in again another platoon situation might provide dividends. Will the Cubs do the something similar at 2B as well?

    That is how you play WAR.

    • Wilbur

      “Because everyone else in baseball under values them.”

      Agree totally.

      With a team of players who have a history of weak overall performance, which is how I see the Cubs, the team will over achieve expectations by not picking eight starters and hoping the majority of these eight all over achieve.

      The majority won’t over achieve as their flaws are real and as a full-time MLB starter they are appropriately valued lowly. What I am hoping is the missed value the Cubs will obtain from this roster will be playing them in combos that create team success. The combos would tend to match each player to his offensive strengths and away from his offensive weaknesses. The net result would be higher offensive production.

      If you do catch lightning in a bottle and one or two excel offensively (and/or play exceptional defense at an “up the middle” position) then the manager gets flexibility and can play them more at the expense of the other role players.

      I don’t see this strategy creating a Division challenging strategy for 2012, but has potential for an 81/81 season which could make the rebuild marginally less painful.

  • Stuart Williams

    I love how some can project stats. What is it about what LaHair did in the minors that shows he CAN’T do it in the majors? Is there something glaring in his swing/pitch selection/etc.?

    Everyone talks about how it was the PCL. Does that mean that the homeruns he hit would be fly ball outs in the majors? Why wasn’t everyone hitting 38 Homeruns?

    What we were doing with Pena last year is beyond belief.

  • die hard

    Using the Moneyball approach, what better time to trade LaHair to a contender looking for a DH to get to the WS for 2 good young arms?..He will never have more value than he does at this moment.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Right now I think he has very little value.  He spent forever in the minors, so how can other teams be sure that his couple of weeks in September weren’t just a fluke?

      He’ll need a couple of hundred at bats to demonstrate to the league that he is a quality hitter who can contribute as part of an everyday major league lineup, and that is when his trade value will be at its highest.  That should roughly correspond with Rizzo being ready to come out of the minors.

    • DocWimsey

      Again, it takes two to tango. What AL team with aspirations of contending is in need of a DH with a projected OPS of 0.8? (Answer: none; most of the contenders have too many DH candidates, not too few.) Given the poor MLB histories of guys with LaHair’s miLB history, what makes you think that AL GMs are going to buy the hype? (Answer: there really is not any reason; there is a reason why the term AAAA exists.)

    • Brian Myers

      The other way to look at it is if a team thinks highly enough of LaHair to give up something like that, then why wouldn’t the Cubs? In other words, if they think this guy can hit .280 with 20 something HR’s a year… wouldn’t he be worth keeping? Put him in left, let him bat 7th if the Cubs get that deep in hitting, then leave him alone. If he puts up those numbers (becomes proven) they can then trade him (if they have a replacement) and get deeper or leave him as a solid bat off the bench.

      Getting rid of an expensive power hitter struggling to hit his weight is one thing, getting rid of a cheap power hitter that hits potentially in the .270’s or higher is quite another….

      • DocWimsey

        Alternatively, how would Cubs fans feel if Theo et al. gave up anyone of value for a player similar to LaHair from another organization? I, for one, would not be thrilled….

        • Brian Myers

          …and that’s the thing. They don’t have to give up value for him. It’s not a matter of if they give up value, it looks like the guy already has the level of value you would expect from him… which is better than the guys (at least hitting) we have starting in half our positions this year.

      • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        No, because the odd of him keeping it up are slim, and he’s already 28 years old, likely to start declining.
        If he gets off to a hot start, the Cubs better trade him the second he has trade value.

        • EQ76

          at 28 likely to start declining?? WTF? I’m thinking he’s about 5-6 years away form a decline.. who cares if he’s 28.. if he can produce for the next 5 years and transition to LF, all while not costing us much, we’re getting one hell of a deal.

          • http://bleachernation loyal100more

            lahair looks hungry… i predict a monter year from him and a roster spot for the next 5 years. hes a late bloomer but hes ready to deliver the goods. all he done is everything that you could possibly ask a minor leaguer to do. dont let the age fool ya, hes about to hit his prime, and in a cubs uni! i see the potential 3-4-5 hitter for the next 5 years… maybe longer. get ready to be swept off your feet cubs fans

          • http://bleachernation loyal100more

            im also predicting a come back year for ian stewart… the guy to keep the 3rd base position warm for beaz. 15-20 HR 75 RBI depending on where he bats… and a respectable 260-270 AVG.

        • Brian Myers

          But most players don’t decline at age 28… 26-28 is looked at as the “triple crown” years. Particularly playing OF and 1B he’ll likely have another 4-5 more good years minimum (assuming he has the talent in the first place). His knees are not going to give out.. he’s not a guy built on speed… he should be good for a while.

          I’m not in love with his talent, but I’ve not seen him enough to really know, I’m just providing the counter point as to why they would keep him.

          • http://Www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

            Most players DO decline after 27. Some do not, some still improve, but odds are that LaHair is at his peak right now. You can hope for the best; that he’ll still be good at 32 years old, but it is not all that likely.
            For a team that needs good players for 2014 and beyond, you trade him for what you can the moment he can bring back a decent long term assett.

            • Brian Myers

              I found this interesting:

              http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/how-do-baseball-players-age-part-1/

              Essentially, it states that the average player begins to regress after a certain age (27-28), but it’s a rather subtle difference at first and becomes steap at some point after age 32 or 33. Greater players regress a bit later. The thing is, we don’t know how good this guy really is. I agree with you if he’s a .280 hitter with 25HR power….which he could be. On the other hand, if he hits .315 with 30HRs… well, I’d be willing to wait and dump him in a couple years when he’s “only” hitting .285 with 24HR’s to keep the farm system stocked.

              …but that’s just me…

              • die hard

                to build on your analysis, Jackie Robinson was 28 when made debut in major leagues…..so was LaHair last year….JR in HOF…maybe history repeat?

    • Wilbur

      Diehard, your strategy is correct, but Luke’s timing is where the value will be obtained …

  • Stuart Williams

    Again, what is that thing that has kept him in the minors? Certainly, people have broken down his AB’s in the minors and see any glaring weakness. What are they?

    I think that guys get labeled unfairly.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think that I read somewhere he struggles with high fastballs, for whatever that’s worth.

      • Wilbur

        A good point, but doesn’t everyone struggle with a good high fastball?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      In part, he’s been stuck in the minors because he keeps getting blocked.  In Seattle he struggled when first called up, and then got passed on the depth chart by other guys.  With the Cubs, he was blocked behind Lee and Pena.  When he did get called up for the Cubs, he was misplayed and ignored by Quade.

      Often when a player is still in the minors despite putting numbers that suggest he should be promoted, it is because the player is blocked.  That isn’t always the case, but it never hurts to look at the player’s logical promotion path and see who is in the way.

    • DocWimsey

      ESPN recently had an article on 4A players and what this beast is. (Like so many things, we all “know” what it is, yet have a hard time diagnosing it repeatably.) The closest thing to a consensus is that they are guys who would be a slightly above average MLB hitter, but who cannot play a “skill” position and who does not hit well-enough to play an “offensive” position (1B, DH, LF).

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        That’s the definition I’ve accepted in my own head for that term (even though the term therefore excludes a variety of guys who would be good enough to play at AAA, but not in MLB).

        • DocWimsey

          Yeah, it’s sort of like “ecologic niche” or “species”: everybody knows what the word means, but actually articulating it gets tough! (I seem to recall a Supreme Court Justice noting that about pornography….)

  • ty

    A scout told us at Fitch that LaHair is no longer just a flyball hitter–line drives and taking the ball to center and left–nice adjustment and admittedly we saw a bit of that when Quade would let him play. I shook handswith him and this guy is like the proverbial oak tree. Real pleasant and gosh knows we need his best efforts.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      An interesting thing about him – he’s always had a super high BABIP for his career. Given that he’s not a fast guy, I assume that means he’s always been a bit of a line-drive hitter.

  • rbreeze

    Call him a late bloomer.  I think LaHair is going to do OK. 

    Unless they can squeeze something positive out of Soriano, he is a boat anchor on this team and stunts its development.  If he shows nothing during the first 2 to 3 months, then pay Sori to stay home and collect his checks.

  • BetterNews

    I can’t see any circumstance where Rizzo plays this year. Bringing him up after the All-Star break is just plain ridiculous.

    • Turn Two

      Why is it ridiculous? If he is having success and looks ready, we have to begin the building process eventually, why not this year if the guy is ready to go?

      • JB88

        Yeah, I’m not seeing the logic to BetterNews’ argument either. Not only would it make sense to bring Rizzo up this year (if you intend to compete by 2013 or 2014), but there is no reason I can see for sticking with LaHair for a full year at 1st when he is undoubtedly a stop-gap.

        • BetterNews

          JB88-Well my point is simple. Jed Hoyer stated Rizzo was not ready. How in the world would 4-1/2 months in the minors benefit Rizzo? No I think the Cubs wait till next year regardless of how LaHair does.

          • Turn Two

            A lot can happen in an off-season, plus part of what Jed was saying has to be a guy trying to take the pressure off of his star recruit by taking ownership of blame. I doubt Jed really think Rizzo is too far off a major league ready player.

            • BetterNews

              Honestly, the only way I see Rizzo being called up is if LaHair is “stinking” up the joint and the Cubs are in contention. Might not be what fans want to hear, but makes sense. If the Cubs are in contention for the playoffs(anything’s possible) and LaHair is doing good, there is no way in hell Rizzo gets called up.

              • Turn Two

                I’d agree, if Cubs are in contention and Lahair is playing really well, Rizzo won’t be called up. So I stand by my earlier statement, Rizzo will be called up mid-season if he is ready. Side note: Why did you put stinking in quotes?

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                  If the Cubs are in contention, Rizzo will absolutely be called up.  Two reasons: Rizzo is part of the future and the Cubs are not going to miss a chance to a get a guy they are counting for the next several years some experience in a playoff chase, and secondly, we know that Theo and Jed both believe that teams ultimately win with pitching and defense.  Rizzo is the better glove man at first.  If the Cubs are in contention, their best chance of staying in contention is by putting the best defensive team on the field they can.  That means Rizzo and Jackson both would be called to the majors.

                  • BetterNews

                    Luke-I don’t buy that agrument at all! If the Cubs are in contention it will be because a “chemistry” would have been built up between the players. You don’t rip apart a team that has that magic and might make the playoffs to see what prospects can do. Do you realize what you said?

                  • DocWimsey

                    heh, if the Cubs are in contention, then it won’t be chemistry: it will be alchemy!

                    However, you are very much mistaken if you think that Theo & Hoyer build teams around pitching and fielding. As a Sox fan, I probably have paid much more attention to them over the last decade than others here, and this does not describe at all what Theo & Hoyer did for the Sox.

                    It also does not describe what they are doing for the Cub. Theo aims for run-differential: he talks about run-creation and run-prevention. The position players that they have nabbed have been guys who can hit for pop and work counts; meanwhile, they ditched a power hitting, decent fielding right-fielder who cannot work counts. They also have gone for pitchers who show the potential to get ground balls (it’s tough to double on grounders and impossible to homer on them) while giving up few walks.

                    In short, they are trying to do for Chicago what they did in Boston: put together a team that will out-OPS the opposition game in and game out.

                    • BetterNews

                      Doc-Again, what are you saying? You’re beginning to sound like Die Hard! I’m getting worried.(LoL)

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                      I’m not sure there is much of a difference between saying ‘pitching and defense’ or saying ‘OPS differential.’  The first is part of attaining the second.

                      Theo won his first world series in Boston with a team that was weak offensively at short and preferred to play a light hitting, defensive first baseman over their other options.  I believe both those guys were picked up by Theo.

                      He also commented several times since joining the Cubs that his priorities are pitching and defense.  Winning with pitching doesn’t just mean loading up on aces Phillies style.  By bringing ground ball pitchers onto the Cubs and improving team defense, Theo is absolutely staying true to his MO and to his statements regarding pitching and defense.  In a park like Wrigley, ground ball pitchers are the way to go.  If he were the GM in San Diego he might try a different strategy to take advantage of the massive outfield… or he might not.  I’m nearly certain he would not prioritize ground ball pitchers if the Cubs played their home games on turf, but that’s a different conversation altogether.

                      But even if we refer to the plan in terms of working towards a positive OPS differential… which is largely saying the same thing, only we add an additional requirement on the checklist when evaluating position players… he would still bring up Rizzo and Jackson.  Jackson’s game is all about OPS.  What he lacks in average and gives away in strikeouts he makes up for in OBP and SLG.  Rizzo, meanwhile, projects as a solid OPS guy who is superior defensively to LaHair.  He’d take over at first, and LaHair would move to left.  It isn’t a case of dropping a potentially high OPS guy (LaHair) from the lineup, its a case of adding another one (Rizzo) to the lineup, and improve team defense in the process.

                      Chemistry, to it bluntly, is overrated.  Baseball history… indeed all of sporting history… is littered with very good teams who had severe chemistry issues.  It can’t be ignored, but it won’t stop a good GM from significantly improving his team’s defense at first and in the outfield while adding two more quality left handed bats to his lineup.  In this case, though, the point is irrelevant.  Both Jackson and Rizzo are considered to be very good clubhouse guys.  The odds of them causing severe problems… as rookies, mind you… are slim to none.

  • Dave H

    The problem is somewhat simple. Both Rizzo and Lahair both need PA’s to see what they have or can do might be better. Both have been good if not great in PCL. You can’t really sit there and tell Lahair he’s only going to have 250 PA’s then we let the kid have some time there for the rest of the year. Give Lahair his chance. Bring Rizzo up in september and see what happens then.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      LaHair doesn’t have to stay at first.  He can play first every day into June, then flip into left when Rizzo comes up.  He’s not likely to play first against left handed pitching anyway (that’s why the Cubs have Jeff Baker), so playing against right handed pitching in left field would not cost him any at bats.

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