At 29 years old, LaHair is way past being considered a prospect, and he has not been enough places to be called a journeyman.
Drafted by the Mariners in 2002, LaHair slowly began his journey to the big leagues, stopping at every level and reaching Triple-A for the first time in 2006. At age 24, he was beginning his first season at Triple-A with only an aging Richie Sexson standing in his way.
LaHair spent all of 2007 in Triple-A and hit an unimpressive .276 with 12 home runs and 126 strikeouts to 49 walks. He started 2008 with Triple-A but was soon called up for his first major league appearance. He was striking out way too much and not hitting for enough average, amassing a .250 average, so he was sent back down to Triple-A once again.
The Mariners, not confident in LaHair at first, signed Russell Branyan for the 2009 season who proved to be a huge success. Branyan hit a career-high 31 home runs while LaHair finished with 26 home runs, a .289 batting average, and a K-BB ratio of 116-to-45.
He was released by the Mariners following the '09 season and signed by the Cubs late in the offseason to a minor league deal.
LaHair improved greatly in his first year with the Cubs, hitting .308 with 25 home runs and a .385 OBP. He struck out less and walked more, showing an improved eye at the plate.
In 2011, the hard work finally paid off for LaHair. With Carlos Pena locked up at first for the Cubs, LaHair knew he would be with the Iowa Cubs as organizational depth. He flourished, though, hitting 38 home runs with a .331 average and a .405 OBP.
But what caught the Cubs' attention was that he set a career-high in walks with 60 and also set career highs in runs, RBI and doubles.
Considering LaHair's price tag is substantially less than Pena's or any available free agent and he improved across several key statistical categories, it would have been foolish not to give him an opportunity.
After the Cubs acquired Anthony Rizzo, it appeared LaHair would be a temporary stopgap—a better Micah Hoffpauir, if you will.
However, he has proved to be very valuable piece of the offense so far in 2012, hitting .381 with six home runs and a .459 on-base percentage through 21 games. He has struck out 25 times to 10 walks, but at least, he is being patient and seeing pitches.
We're looking at an experienced baseball player who has been making gradual improvements at the plate over the past four seasons. He's in the middle of his prime and is just putting it all together in time.
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