New York Yankees third base prospect Brandon Laird (Photo by Leon Halip, Getty Images)
With Ramiro Pena on the disabled list with appendicitis, the Yankees promoted 23-year-old infielder Brandon Laird from Triple-A Scranton. Does this rookie have a long-term future in New York?
Brandon Laird was drafted by the Yankees in the 27th round in 2007, from Cypress Junior College. The younger brother of major league catcher Gerald Laird, Brandon's career got off to a fine start with a .339/.367/.577 performance in the Gulf Coast League, then a .273/.334/.498, 23-homer performance in the South Atlantic League in 2008. The big parks of the Florida State League were a tougher environment in '09, reducing his line to .266/.329/.415 with 13 homers, but he rebounded last year to hit .291/.355/.523, 23 homers for Trenton, earning Eastern League MVP honors.
Laird played 31 games in Triple-A late last year (.236/.268/.344) and has 90 more at that level this year (.266/.296/.415), giving him an overall Triple-A line of .261/.288/.397 with 12 homers, 17 walks, and 82 strikeouts in 464 at-bats. Overall in his minor league career, he's a .278/.330/.467 hitter in 2128 plate appearances, with a 140/353 BB/K ratio.
Laird has very good raw power, although his ability to tap into his strength for home runs isn't consistent and his Triple-A performance has been mediocre overall. The good news: he's been on a power tear lately, hitting four of his 10 homers this year in July with a .611 SLG this month. The bad news: his BB/K ratio in July is zero/9 in 54 at-bats. Scouts say he has quick hands and very good bat speed, but he's over-aggressive at the plate and seldom draws walks. Major league pitchers will figure out a way to use his impatience against him. A right-handed hitter, he's shown a sharp platoon split this year, with an .832 OPS against lefties but just .668 against right-handers.
Scouts rate his range at third base as mediocre, but he has a strong arm and has improved his reliability through hard work. He won't won gold gloves but he's not a liability on defense, either, capable of handling the hot corner. He can also play first base if necessary and has limited experience in the corner outfield spots.
In the long run, Laird likely fits best as a platoon player with some defensive versatility, although he's still young enough to remedy his weaknesses and build on his strengths. He isn't a top prospect, but is the type of player who could leverage a well-timed hot streak into a spot on a major league roster, or make himself a valued trade component.