Like Wilson Betemit, Langerhans is out of options so will either be on the team or will go elsewhere. Unlike Betemit, he appears to be ready. Langerhans bears some resemblance to Adam LaRoche a year ago. Like LaRoche, he was never considered an elite prospect (Langerhans was probably rately more highly, at least until last season). Like LaRoche, he’s been a guy who worked his way through the system, and like LaRoche he’s had some adjustment years.
Langerhans first came onto the prospect screen in 2001, when he repeated Myrtle Beach and put up a .287/.374/.413 line — which is pretty good for MB. But he never did figure out Greenville, putting up stats in a half season in 2003 that were pretty much identical to what he did in 2002, and neither of which was very good. The Braves promoted him to Richmond late in the 2003 season anyway and he’s been strong there. Last season, he had what looked to be a breakout campaign, hitting .298/.397/.518. Leaving aside that Mike Hessman hit .287/.365/.562, making me wonder if anyone in the International League can throw a curveball, Langerhans’ effort was enough to get him noticed a little. If Charles Thomas hadn’t gotten off to a hot start, the Braves probably would have given the next shot to Langerhans.
Langerhans was compared to Paul O’Neill coming up, an unfair comparison maybe, but his AAA campaign was close to one of O’Neill’s Yankee seasons. Langerhans drew a good number of walks, hit 20 homers and 34 doubles, and almost hit .300. None of his numbers blow you away, but they’re all good. He’s reportedly a good defensive outfielder who could play center on the major league level and would work well in right.
If he plays much for the Braves in 2005, it will likely be in left, however. He might wind up platooning with Brian Jordan. Or the Braves could spot him around the outfield, getting 50-100 starts against righthanded pitching. Or they could keep him on the bench as a traditional fourth outfielder. (If that happens, it won’t last, because as I’ve said Jordan will get hurt playing everyday.) If he’s good in spring but they’re married to Jordan anyway, they could shop Langerhans even though there’s not a real backup on the roster.
I’ve mentioned in the past that the Braves’ high draft picks haven’t been too productive lately. Langerhans was a third-round pick; I believe that would make him the second-highest Braves draft pick on the 25-man, after Chipper.