by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

I did a post recently on Shark that I kinda regretted for a few hours on Thursday before feeling better about my praise for Spellcheck with Tuesday’s game. In that post I mentioned some Cubs that you should be watching carefully on the Major League level. My number 5 guy was Bryan LaHair. Before we get to him however, let me just say that Anthony Rizzo is destroying AAA pitching at an alarming rate.

Even Galactus is calling dude the devourer of worlds.

Holy hell. It’s not even smoke and mirrors, these numbers are legit. His swing is shortened up and he’s not as busy with his hands, and none of that cost him any power. It’s scary good and he’s ready now. Oddly enough it’s not even really LaHair that is blocking him from the Major League level. The Cubs are probably going to wait for two things to happen before they call up Rizzo. 1. Late June and 2. Soriano is traded.

Soriano is preventing LaHair’s eventual move to LF. In my fan dream scenario LaHair plays left and Rizzo is at 1B. I don’t advocate sitting LaHair either because the Cubs might just have a solid player on their hands that might be able to help them when they are ready to compete.

Bryan LaHair is on a tear. It’s been impressive to watch him launch homers against the Cards and lash line drives against everyone else. It’s early and the numbers will drop, but I can safely say that I wasn’t expecting the .700+ slugging and an OPS of 1.190. He’s a guy that spent 6 years at AAA and was looked at as a Quad A player. All of this is valid, and he’s not going to sustain his .522 BABIP so his average will dip a bit, but there is some truth to his small sample size stats.

Let’s take a look at what he’s doing right:

There are a few interesting trends in there.  He’s striking out 33% of the time, which is a terrifying number. Dunn in ’11 struck out in 35% of his AB’s for comparison. This is a number that I would expect to fall around the 26-28% range, which is still high, but not completely awful. His walk rate is slightly up and has been since he joined the big club in extremely limited AB’s. Cub fans saw him make Motte work extremely hard on April 24 en route to coaxing a walk and eventually setting the table for Joe Mather’s unlikely game-winner. LaHair made Motte throw 12 pitches before the bearded closer finally succumbed and gave him a free pass. LaHair is currently seeing 4.13 pitches per plate appearance according to ESPN. This is again a jump from his 3.67 P/PA he posted in Seattle. It makes sense since he is currently striking out more and walking more than he ever has in his career.

What’s somewhat striking, however, is the authority with which he’s hitting the ball.

Since he’s been in a Cub uni his Linedrives have increased and he’s cut the grounders. He’s hitting the ball in the air a lot more and it’s showing everywhere. Some of those numbers are unsustainable, a 36% Homerun to Flyball rate is insane and it won’t hold, and his Infield Hit Rate will drop from 10% as well, he’s not that fast, but the good trends are that he is understanding what his tools are and is better utilizing his skill set.

LaHair is quick to the ball in his swing. His hands are held high over his left shoulder, and he gets good hip rotation on his swing. The plant foot stays solid when he steps and he drives the ball with authority. Suffice it to say, he has the skills to stay in the big leagues. I think it’s a fair assessment that he won’t be an all-star type player, but that he will go through stretches where he will be on fire, and down stretches where it seems like he’s a Quad-A player. LaHair is interesting, he strikes out a lot, walks a lot, and makes a lot of solid contact. It’ll be interesting to watch which gains he keeps and which ones slip as the season progresses. Don’t get too high on him now, he’s had a tremendous start, but don’t get too low on him when he slumps, he’s a solid major leaguer who will have a pretty solid career.

The Cubs are finding out a lot about their team. I think we’re finding out a lot about LaHair too. He’s not a .360 hitter, but he is a guy that can OPS around .800. I’ll take that.

In left field of course.

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