Since Bryan LaHair headed off to Japan (he’s since become available again, by the way), and since the Cubs hitched their first base star to Anthony Rizzo, there hasn’t been much in the way of an obvious AAA first baseman in the organization. When you’ve got a full-time first baseman on the big league roster (particularly in the NL), AAA 1B is a nice place to stash one of those older, questionable prospects who’ve always hit in the minors but may never have a position in the big leagues. The Cubs did that when they picked up LaHair, they’d done it before with Micah Hoffpauir, and they did it last year with Brad Nelson.
It looks like this year’s iteration is going to be Lars Anderson, whom the Cubs just signed to a minor league deal. It’s unclear whether Anderson is getting a Spring Training invite, since his deal was formalized on the same day the Cubs announced their NRIs, but it’s not likely to make a huge difference going forward. Anderson is being brought in to fill the first base job at AAA, and serve as the long-term emergency back-up at first base, if something catastrophic should happen to a couple guys in front of him. Fortunately, Anderson, a lefty, has played a little outfield in the past couple of years, so he’s got that versatility going for him.
The rub with Anderson, however, unlike some of the AAA first basemen who’ve come before him, is that Anderson has not raked in recent years. Although he tore through the lower minors in such impressive fashion that he was a top 100 prospect in baseball (at first base, no less) from 2008 to 2010 (and actually reached the bigs as a 22-year-old in 2010). From there, however, his production trailed off at AAA, and he’s hit just .250/.347/.391 over 1775 AAA plate appearances. In that time, he’s struck out at a greater than 25% clip, which you don’t love to see, but his walk rate has been through the roof (some 13.5% the last three years).
Given that profile, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Anderson was a Red Sox draft pick back in the day, and came up in the Red Sox system when much of the current Cubs front office was running the show over there.
There isn’t a ton of upside left with Anderson, who has bounced around among several organizations since 2012, though he is still just 26. If the power develops late for him, he could still be an interesting bat off of the bench. For now, as I said, he projects to be the primary starter at first base in Iowa.