Chicago Cubs: Why Bryan LaHair Will Benefit Cubs in the Short and Long Term

Jim WeihofenCorrespondent IApril 25, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 24:   Bryan LaHair #6 of the Chicago Cubs rounds the bases after hitting a home run to tie the game in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field on April 24, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Brian Kersey/Getty Images

Right now, the best two position players for the Cubs are easily star shortstop Starlin Castro and longtime minor leaguer Bryan LaHair.

While many called for top prospect Anthony Rizzo to start the season at first, LaHair was given the job. Some questioned this, especially with LaHair missing Opening Day with a back issue, but all he's done to prove his critics wrong is post a .361 batting average, 1.106 OPS, and is the only Cub with multiple home runs.

LaHair's power is even more coveted in this lineup than in years past, as this year's Cubs have more triples than home runs. While most Cub teams of the past have been built around home runs, this year's club seems to have more speed.

This does play into manager Dale Sveum's strengths, but it also causes more pressure on the guys that should be the power bats such as LaHair, Ian Stewart, Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano.

The last two games, LaHair has had a big role in the Cubs' late-inning wins. On Monday, he delivered a 12-pitch walk against St. Louis closer Jason Motte. On Tuesday, he made his first hit of the season against a left-handed pitcher count, sending Mark Rzepczynski's first pitch into the bleachers to tie the game at two in the ninth.

LaHair's contributions aren't just on offense. While he isn't the defensive stalwart that guys like Derrek Lee and Carlos Pena were at first, he's definitely solid all around, and provides a big throwing target at 6'5".

LaHair's most valuable contributions, however, will have to do with the weird symbiosis between himself and top prospect Anthony Rizzo.

The longer LaHair continues to hit like a worthy major leaguer, the less pressure is on the Cubs front office to promote Rizzo before he's fully ready.

While some will argue that the Cubs should promote Rizzo and find a spot in the corner outfield for LaHair, that won't do anything toward improved team defense. While LaHair never seemed to take a bad route in the outfield, his range is extremely limited, and his arm is simply that of a first baseman.

Once Rizzo is ready, LaHair presumably becomes trade bait. While it's borderline delusional to think LaHair can keep up his current pace, asking solid to above-average production at the plate doesn't seem too out of the question.

Should July roll around and a team like Milwaukee find themselves in need of an upgrade at first, it wouldn't be out of the question for them to inquire about LaHair. By then, we all hope Rizzo will be ready to go.

For a team really looking for an upgrade, LaHair could net a couple of decent prospects. While it wouldn't be someone along the lines of a Jacob Turner, he could net one or two guys who should be solid and near ready. Or prospects that could be good, but are a few years away.

All in all, Bryan LaHair is proving that Team Epstein's gamble on him was a good one. With other players they bet on not working out as well (looking at you, Ian Stewart), it's a much-needed victory.