For years, first baseman Bryan LaHair always had power potential. A hulking first baseman drafted by Seattle in the 39th round in 2002, LaHair's bulky physique offered hope that he could have over-the-fence power.
After two nondescript years in the low minors, the 6'5" first baseman busted out with 22 homers in the High-A California League in 2005.
LaHair's backers used the nice homer total to argue that he was translating his raw power to games.
His detractors said it was all park effects, as the Cal League is known as a hitter's paradise.
LaHair split the next season between Double-A and Triple-A, but his homer total declined to 16. He did hit .323/.397/.525 with 10 homers in 54 games in Triple-A, however, offering some hope of a major league future.
LaHair gave all that progress back in 2007, however, as he only hit 12 homers in a full year at Triple-A. He did rope 46 doubles, but only slugged .431. That sort of line as a 24-year-old was a big red flag for LaHair.
He did manage 12 homers in the first four months of 2008 in his third crack at Triple-A, but his .263/.356/.465 line wasn't impressive for a 25-year-old first baseman in his third year at the level.
Nevertheless, the Mariners grew tired of incumbent Richie Sexson's terrible hitting, released him, and called up LaHair.
He completely flopped.
LaHair showed a bad approach at the plate, and very little of his raw power showed up in games. He had just seven extra-base hits (four doubles and two homers) in 45 games, and had an ugly .096 Isolated Power.
So LaHair entered this year with a track record of major league failure and complete inability to use his bulk to produce homers. He's also 26, well past the age where players take big steps forward.
LaHair was sent to Triple-A Tacoma. It's the fourth straight year he's spent extensive time there.
LaHair has smashed 22 homers in just 92 games with the Rainiers, and has even upped his batting average significantly, hitting a nice .305/.366/.555.
He's also taken well to the outfield corners, where the Mariners are trying him in hopes of increasing LaHair's versatility.
It seems like the 6'5" 235 first baseman is finally hitting like one, and with the Mariners falling out of contention, it's a good time to give LaHair another 100 at-bats to see if his newfound power plays at the major league level.
With Mike Sweeney currently hitting worse than the 2008 incarnation of LaHair (.239/.293/.370) and being a worse and less versatile defender, he's certainly the logical choice to be let go. LaHair, even if he struggles again, would be an upgrade over Sweeney.
Since he's finally showing the over-the-fence power some have long projected him to have, Bryan LaHair deserves another shot with the Mariners.
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