Name: Andrew Laughter
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: February 24, 1985
Andrew Laugher has come a long way since the beginning of his collegiate career.
The Longwood, Fla., native began playing college ball just two hours from home, at Jacksonville University. In two seasons with the Dolphins, Laughter surrendered 32 earned runs on 59 hits in 42 innings, leading to a 6.86 ERA.
Laughter pitched the summer of 2005 – following his sophomore season – in the Florida Collegiate Summer League, and that's where he began to make himself known as a prospect. The right-hander pitched in 31.1 innings, allowing only 19 hits. He went 2-1 with a 2.01 earned-run average.
The performance caught the eye of Louisiana-Lafayette, and he joined the Cajuns for his last two collegiate seasons. Although Laughter was little-used as a junior [he had an 11.25 ERA in eight appearances], he had an outstanding senior year.
Working as the club's primary setup man in 2007, Laughter went 3-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 35.1 innings. He yielded 39 hits while walking eight and fanning 25.
Rangers super-scout Randy Taylor saw potential in Laughter, and the club selected him in the 10th round of the 2007 MLB Draft.
Laughter turned in the best performance of his career right away with short-season Spokane in '07, posting a 2.03 ERA with just four walks [and 32 strikeouts] in 31 innings.
The organization put Laughter on the fast-track in his first full season, as he opened the season with High-A Bakersfield. Laughter didn't allow an earned run in his first 16.1 innings with the Blaze, and the Rangers promoted him to Double-A Frisco after just a month in full-season ball.
The Texas League presented Laughter's first real challenge in professional ball, but it wasn't until a late-season slump that he really labored.
In his first 38 Double-A innings, Laughter surrendered just 12 earned runs [2.84 ERA]. Five of those runs came in one poor mid-June outing. Laughter quickly began to look tired, and his final ERA was a rather ugly 4.80 after he coughed up 12 earned runs over his last five appearances of the season.
Wanting to give the hurler another challenge, the Rangers sent Laughter to the highly competitive Arizona Fall League shortly after Frisco's playoff run had come to a conclusion.
Laughter's Fall League stint seemed to mirror his time in Frisco. The prospect had a 1.50 ERA in his first 12 innings [nine appearances], but he gave up eight runs in his last three outings [2.2 innings], bumping his final ERA to 6.14.
Also See: Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Andrew Laughter (June 8, 2007)
Laughter adopts two-seamer (September 21, 2007)
Instant Analysis: Frisco at Corpus (May 8, 2008)
Laughter on the fast track (May 14, 2008)
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball: Laughter consistently works in the low-90s with his fastball, usually sitting between 91-93 mph. He has added some velocity over the last few years, and he occasionally bumps 94 and 95. The Rangers gave Laughter a two-seam fastball when he entered the organization, but he still relies on a four-seamer that he commands fairly well. The pitcher showed plus command of his fastball with Spokane and Bakersfield, but it was often inconsistent after his promotion to Frisco. When at his best, Laughter pounds the bottom-half of the strike zone with his fastball, which has good natural sink.
Other Pitches: Most people – including Laughter himself – call his breaking pitch a slider, but it really acts as more of a power curveball. The pitch has a hard downward break, and it is generally clocked at around 85 mph. His slider command is still a bit inconsistent, but it has the ability to become a legitimate strikeout pitch. Laughter also has a changeup in his repertoire, but it is used very sparingly.
Projection: Laughter started just two games in his four-year collegiate career, and he will be a short-inning relief pitcher for the remainder of his professional career. While he probably won't be a closer at the big league level, Laughter certainly has the talent to work in the seventh or eighth inning. To reach that ceiling, he'll need to command his two potential plus offerings – the fastball and slider – with more consistency.
2009 Outlook: Laughter will likely break camp with Frisco, and the Rangers will probably be looking for more consistency before they promote him to Triple-A. Laughter will probably reach Oklahoma City at some point in 2009. If Laughter has an excellent season, his stuff is good enough to earn him a shot in the Majors this summer. But like fellow Frisco reliever Beau Jones, Laughter likely won't be ready to make an impact in the Majors until 2010.