What should LaHair's role be in 2012?

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What should LaHair's role be in 2012?

Where will Prince Fielder sign?

Who cares? The Cubs have their first baseman of the (near) future already.

I mean, don't they?

Bryan LaHair certainly deserves at least a long look for the vacant position. The 29-year-old had a very solid season in 2010, his first year with the Cubs organization. But it was nothing compared to his 2011 (to date).

He absolutely annihilated Triple-A pitching this season and he didn't slow down over his brief stint in the Majors or during the Venezuelan Winter League.

In all (Triple-A, Majors, Winter League), LaHair has hit .311.405.629 in 677 at-bats with 127 runs, 211 hits, 51 doubles, a triple, 54 homers, 143 RBI, 105 walks and 180 strikeouts.

The whiff numbers are a bit high, but you can't argue with that power. Four-hundred-twenty-six total bases in 677 at-bats is just astounding. Those are video game numbers.

Granted, Venezuelan Winter League isn't exactly filled with a bunch of Cy Youngs, but it's no slouch of a league.

LaHair's 2011 Triple-A success netted him a slew of accolades, including the Pacific Coast League MVP, Joe Bauman Home Run Award and a spot on the Baseball America 2011 Minor League All Star team.

He showed the same ability in the brief stint with the big-league club with time at first and 14 games in the outfield.

It's true he could be one of the Cubs' outfielders next year or rotate through first and outfield. But on a team currently without a first baseman, LaHair has the bat to fill that position.

Theo Epstein says he doesn't believe in the "Four-A" players, or guys who are too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the MLB. Given LaHair's numbers, he's too good for Triple-A now. Which means he deserves a shot.

The former 39th round pick of the 2002 draft turned 29 in November, so while he's too old to be considered a prospect, he's still young enough to have at least three full seasons in his physical prime.

The power is for real. The 2012 Cubs are sorely lacking power and the free agent market is sorely lacking in talent at first base -- apart from Fielder, who is still a relative long shot to sign on the North Side because of the financial commitment, and Carlos Pena, who very well may re-sign with the franchise that grew to admire him.

Signing Pena to another "pillow contract" would be a pretty good move, which could slide LaHair in as the backup first baseman and at least a part-time outfielder (if the Cubs deal Soriano, LaHair could get the lion's share of time in left).

Either way, LaHair has proven he deserves a shot and he has the big bopper potential this 2012 Cubs lineup needs.
(numbers are through Tuesday, Dec. 27)

Joe Maddon thinking shake-up for Cubs? ‘I have no idea what that would be’

Joe Maddon thinking shake-up for Cubs? ‘I have no idea what that would be’

SAN DIEGO – Joe Maddon looked down at the desk, shook his head and didn’t hesitate when asked if he was thinking about making some lineup changes to jolt the Cubs.

“I have no idea what that would be,” Maddon said after Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Padres at Petco Park. “We’ve tried everything possible. Guys have been rested. We’ve given guys days off. These are our players. I have all the faith in the world.”

The defending World Series champs are a .500 team through the Memorial Day checkpoint, but Maddon projected calm from the manager’s office to the cameras, expecting that message to filter out toward his clubhouse.

But this wasn’t the red-hot Dodgers pushing all the right bullpen buttons and executing a game plan almost flawlessly. The Cubs had Jarred Cosart on the ropes – and bases-loaded opportunities in the first, second and seventh innings – but still couldn’t deliver the knockout punch against a last-place team.

The Padres gave up 10 walks while the Cubs went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base.

“We came off a 7-2 homestand,” Maddon said. “Everybody loved us a couple days ago. Now all of a sudden, we’ve had a tough time scoring runs on the road. We just got to do better. That’s all this comes down to.”

[MORE CUBS: How Kris Bryant became the face of the never-panic Cubs]

Until Jason Heyward lined a 93-mph Cosart fastball into right field for a two-out, bases-loaded single and a 2-0 lead in the first inning, the middle of that homestand (May 21) had been the last time the Cubs scored without hitting a home run.

“Everybody’s proverbially trying way too hard,” Maddon said. “(Don’t) try to hit homers. Really, again, take what they give you. Play with the middle. You got to convince them to do it. They got to do it.

“It’s not complicated. You can see the big swings coming out of our zone when just a single would do. That’s it. We did it before. We can do it again. We just got to keep talking. But then you have to use the velvet hammer as opposed to a real one. Otherwise, you have no chance whatsoever.”

Preview: Cubs-Padres Tuesday on CSN+

Preview: Cubs-Padres Tuesday on CSN+

The Cubs take on the Padres on Tuesday, and you can catch all the action on CSN+ and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 8:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

The starting pitching matchup: Eddie Butler (2-0, 1.93 ERA) vs. Dinelson Lamet (1-0. 1.80 ERA)

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