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Brandon Laird, a 6'1", 215 pound right-handed hitter and the brother of Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird, was a star at La Quinta High School in Westminster, CA. As a varsity shortstop in 2004 and 2005, he hit .545 with eight home runs in 124 at bats (one home run every 15.5 ABs). As a bonus, Laird pitched to a 1.91 ERA, 12 wins, six complete games, and 124 strikeouts in only 88 innings pitched. He was named First-Team All-League, First-Team All-CIF, Second-Team All-American, and League MVP in his high school career.
Laird was drafted out of high school in the 27th round in 2005 by the Cleveland Indians. He decided not to sign and took his bat to Cypress College. Since Cypress was a two year school, he would be eligible for the draft again in 2007 as opposed to 2009 had he chosen a four year college.
All Laird did at Cypress was hit balls, and hit them hard. In 2006, he led the team with 74 hits, including a ten game hitting streak to start the season. In 54 games, he hit .341 with six home runs, and slugged .484. Laird's sophomore season in 2007 saw him get even better, hitting an amazing .392 with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of .672.
When the Yankees picked him in the 27th round, he decided to sign rather than move on to a four year college.
Should the Yankees consider Laird for the fourth OF spot?
Laird's first professional season was in 2007 with the Gulf Coast League Yankees
He picked up right where he left off.
In 168 ABs he averaged .339 while slugging .577 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs.
The Yankees rewarded Laird in 2008 and moved him up to class A Charleston and it is here that he started to show his power. In 454 At bats, he hit .273, slugged .498, and smacked 23 home runs with 86 RBIs.
With that level of production, Laird was beginning to look like a late-round steal for the Yankees.
He was promoted to high A Tampa in 2009 but his season did not match up to his 2008 campaign. Laird's stats fell in almost every category with a .266 average and he slugged only .415 in 451 ABs with just 13 home runs. Where Laird did improve, however, is in strikeouts. He was wrung up only 75 times (compared to 86 in 2008), showing an improved discipline at the plate.
However, the Yankees felt Laird’s 2009 showing was enough for a promotion to Double A Trenton in 2010. Armed with a fresh start, Laird smashed 23 home runs in only 409 ABs (one home run every 17.8 ABs), slugging .523 with 90 RBIs, 84 strikeouts, and an OBP of .355. He was promoted to Scranton Wilkes-Barre where his numbers dipped but he finished 2010 with a .281 average, 25 home runs, and 102 RBIs in 531 ABs.
Laird has a keen baseball eye and knows how to work a count. However, if he could cut down on his strikeouts, his value would improve dramatically. His OBP has sat in the .329 to .336 range, which is good for a slugger.
The video shows Laird's plate discipline. He is able to work out a walk after being down 0-2 in the count and does not chase many pitches out of the zone. His swing is long and smooth, and if he can shorten it he'll likely make more consistent contact and improve on his strikeouts and OBP.
Laird would be the perfect fit as the fourth outfielder that the Yankees are looking for, if not for his suspect defense. His bat is Major League ready and he should start the season at Scranton Wilkes-Barre where he can build on his hitting and improve defensively. He has good power to all fields and can project to be a perennial 25-30 home run hitter.
Brandon Laird is just another example of the great scouting that Brian Cashman and the Yankees have found in the late rounds. Just one more powerful reason the future looks bright in the Bronx.
The Patience Series:
Patience Part 1: Hector Noesi
Patience Part 2: David Phelps
Patience Part 3: Brandon Laird (Above)
Patience Part 4: Adam Warren
Patience Part 5: Eduardo Nunez
Patience Part 6: Gary Sanchez