Scouting Yankees Prospect #22: Brandon Laird

Laird's bat could be very special

The Yankees drafted Brandon Laird in the 27th round of the 2007 MLB Draft out of Cypress College. The brother of Texas Rangers catcher Gerald Laird, he went on to hit .339 with eight home runs for the GCL Yankees this past season, proving to be one of the elite hitters in the league and already one of the better steals in last June's draft.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Brandon Laird
Position: Third Base
DOB: September 11, 1987
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 215
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"I think it went real well," Laird said of his debut season. "I made progress everyday, day by day. I made adjustments and did what I had to do. Going to Instructs helped me out even more with my game, especially at third base. Overall I think I had an outstanding year and I think I got a lot better."

As an amateur - where he earned Orange County Player of the Year honors in high school before hitting .392 in his final year of college - scouts debated where he would play defensively at the professional level and it's one of the reasons he fell all the way to the 27th round.

"I think a lot of people [scouts] were afraid of where I was going to play, if I was going to be able to play at third or if I would need to go over to first base," Laird speculated. "I have a feeling I'm going to play third.

"I talked to my agent and they [the Yankees] told him that they love me at third - my hands. I learned a lot and I've become more of a professional third baseman in their eyes this year."

Widely considered an elite hitting prospect, one who stood out in the Gulf Coast League before opening even more eyes in the Yankees' Instructional League camp as one of their top young hitters, improving his defensive abilities has remained a top priority in his development since signing with the Yankees.

"The hardest adjustment - as you go up a level the play gets faster and there's better players," he admitted. "I've got work on more range and more lateral movement over there, and find out about the hitters too. Some of them can bunt more as you move up levels, some of them can hit too and you've go to know where to play.

"Positioning myself I think is the biggest thing, know what hitters are going to do what, what they can and can't do. Some of them can hit and bunt, some of them are power hitters so you need to play back more, stuff like that."

A pitcher as well before turning pro, he has a strong enough arm and soft enough hands to man the hot corner but he admits getting in better shape and improving his range specifically remains the focal point.

"I've been working out everyday," he revealed this offseason. "[Scott] Boras is my agent and he has this training facility out here in California and I've been going five days per week.

"I've been working on everything, my agility, quickness, footwork, we do sprints, learn how to run the right way, and then we get leg circuit to build up your legs, upper-body - it's a good workout. I've been going everyday."

While he is dedicated to remaining at third base, the California native is also open to the idea of possibly moving to first base - a position he played a few times last season - should the Yankees decide his future inside the organization is better served there.

"I hope I stay at third base, that's been my position forever. I love third base because you're in the game. You're at the hot corner like they say but if I have to go to first base I'll go there. I think I would do just as well over there.

"If I go to Spring Training this year and they put me at first base I'm going to work just as hard as I do at third. That may be my calling card to get to the big leagues too, being more versatile and playing more positions will give you more opportunities.

"When I was first started [at first base] I wasn't very comfortable. I had an idea of what to do but a couple of coaches pulled me aside and showed me the real steps of what to do and as the season wore on I got to play first a little more and I got more comfortable. I was switching back and forth and I feel good at first, not 100 percent, but I'm pretty sure I'll get more comfortable as I play there more."

Both he and the Yankees are supremely confident in his offensive potential, so much so that all parties believe he is ready to tackle the long-season leagues in 2008.

"I just feel I'm going to hit at every level," he confidently told us. "I feel like I'm going to put up good numbers wherever I go and that's the next level [the South Atlantic League] I should be at. I could play first there a lot more than third but I'm hoping to play third. They just signed A-Rod for a ten-year deal and a lot of people say first base could be my position.

"If they put me at first I'm going to play hard wherever they put me. I know I can play first in that league and I know for sure I'm going to hit in that league. I'm hoping I'll play third because I'm getting a lot better there. I'm improving, they want me to stay at third, and that's where I want to stay. I feel like I can play third as well as all of these other players."

Where he ultimately lands defensively has yet to be determined. With his power potential however he realizes he could be good at any of the corner spots and he is out to prove he has what it takes to be an elite prospect at any position.

"My goal for this year going into Spring Training is to show them that I was serious about my body, getting it in shape, putting on more muscle, driving the ball with more power, and be quicker at third with more lateral movement," he said emphatically.

"They're going to look at me and know I took it seriously, and maybe they'll think I can be the everyday third baseman in Charleston. That's what I want them to see, that I was serious about my body and did what I had to do, and came into Spring Training strong."















GCL Yankees












Batting and Power. Don't let his walk-to-strikeout ratio in the Gulf Coast League this past season disguise the fact he has an advanced feel of the strike zone. He is a true student of the game, watching how pitchers attack his teammates to get a better plan for his own at-bats. He works the counts in his favor to get better pitches to drive and he makes quick adjustments already. He has a mature up-the-middle approach, focusing on hitting line-drives from center to right field. He is a very good contact hitter with power to all fields and he can turn on inside pitches with the best of them. Laird brings a special combination of plate discipline, contact hitting, and plus power.

Base Running and Speed. Natural speed and agility is where Laird's game is truly lacking. Built like a slugger, he is more of a station-to-station base runner and doesn't really present a true base running threat. Improving this aspect of his game will be a focus in the coming years.

Defense. Laird is a better defensive player than he is reputed to be. He has very soft hands, a plus arm, and he is adept at short-hopping balls in the dirt. Where he runs into trouble is with his below average range, a byproduct of his less than stellar speed. He has the work ethic and the determination to improve that facet of his game to be at least an average big league third baseman, but has the hands to move to first if need be.

Projection. Laird has the work ethic, the drive, and the charisma to be both a great hitting prospect and a leader on the field. Being slighted in the draft after falling as far as he did also allows him to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and great determination to prove his doubters wrong. Questions may continually be raised about his defensive game and where he'll play. The good news for Laird supporters however is his bat is special enough that it should play somewhere. He has already been compared to the Kansas City Royals slugger Billy Butler by scouts, and like Butler, Laird could be tried out at a few corner positions but could also fall back as a designated hitter if all else fails.

ETA. 2011. If not for defensive issues, Laird could be a fast mover inside the Yankees farm system, his bat is that advanced. He is ready for the long-season leagues offensively and he should be a mainstay in the Charleston lineup next season with a possible late-season promotion to Tampa not entirely out of the question.

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