Hoffpauir Hard to Ignore

Micah Hoffpauir has said it once already this season. He's not ready to call himself a power hitter just yet, even though he leads the Cubs farm system in home runs and is currently on pace for a 30 HR/80 RBI season.

Those numbers would shatter anything the 26-year-old first baseman has ever accomplished in any previous season. With 13 homers and 35 RBIs in 47 games already this year, Hoffpauir is having his best go of things power-wise since being drafted from Lamar University (Texas) four years ago.

Through it all, he's been every bit as relaxed and nonchalant about the home runs as those who know him best might expect. It hasn't completely stopped him from making light of the situation, though.

"A lot of the guys at Double-A asked me how I was hitting so many home runs. I told them it was just ‘old man's syndrome,'" Hoffpauir joked. "The older you get, the more home runs you sometimes hit. I don't know if that's what it is, but it's fun to joke around with the guys."

Last year in 119 games for Triple-A Iowa, Hoffpauir hit just three home runs and drove in 47 runs. All the same, he was surprised to begin 2006 at Double-A West Tennessee. His performance there eventually earned him a trip back to Iowa with teammate Luis Montanez last week.

While 2005 wasn't an overly horrific year for Hoffpauir, it was disappointing nonetheless. He hit .268, almost 40 points lower than his .306 mark at West Tenn the previous year. His four home runs (he hit one in a brief seven-game stretch with the Jaxx mid-season) were the fewest he'd ever totaled.

But with the season he's having this year, and the big league club struggling for offense like a helpless, sometimes comical rat trying slither its way out of a good old fashioned, perfectly designed trap, it's not altogether difficult to imagine Hoffpauir getting a major league call-up in the near future.

He would be at manager Dusty Baker's often painful mercy for playing time over veterans like John Mabry, Todd Walker and others, but Baseball America Executive Editor Jim Callis, a close follower of the Cubs' farm system each year, believes Hoffpauir could at least get a sniff of the majors at some point soon.

"He is a solid minor league player," Callis told Inside The Ivy when describing Hoffpauir. "He's not really a top prospect, and he hit the wall hard in Triple-A last year. But he can hit, and I'd bet that he can get at least a taste of the majors. It's too bad he didn't do better last year, or he might have gotten an opportunity when Derrek Lee went down."

Hoffpauir himself knows anything is possible. After all, he expected to get a good amount of playing time in the outfield with the Double-A club before an injury to Brian Dopirak sidelined the Jaxx starting first baseman 6-8 weeks.

Whether Hoffpauir eventually gets to the big leagues or not isn't something he believes he can readily control.

"It's taken me a couple of years to realize it, but I've learned that getting called up to the big leagues isn't in my hands," Hoffpauir says. "The only thing that is in my hands is doing what I can at the level I'm at, and to make it as hard as possible not to get a chance. I'm just controlling what I can and having fun doing it."

He maintains that he isn't consciously aware of any one particular area where his newfound power originates.

"There's no big secret behind it, man," Hoffpauir says. "I've gotten a lot better pitches to hit and I'm not missing them this year. I do have a little more power running through my legs and I think that's helped some of the balls I'd previously been hitting to the warning track to get out of the ballpark now.

"But I'm still a gap-to-gap, doubles type of guy. I always have been. The fact that the power numbers are developing is great. I'm really happy that it's happening, but I won't call myself a power hitter until I do it more than one season."

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