Laster joined the Tigers as a 12th round choice in the 2003 draft, out of Hunters Lane High School in Nashville, Tennessee. As a senior at Hunters Lane in ‘03, Jeramy led his squad to an undefeated season on the back of his .486 batting average, five home runs, and 24 stolen bases. With numbers like that, there was little arguing with his selection as a Tennessean All Mid-State 1st Team player. Combining his impressive final prep season with his outstanding career as a member of the SATCO Padres of the Mid-State Amateur Baseball Association, and Laster's draft stock was soaring.
Through two seasons in the Rookie level Gulf Coast League, Laster mustered only a .241/.308/.370 line, but he did demonstrate impressive base running instincts, swiping 19 bags in 22 attempts. His third professional campaign didn't get any better as he struggled to adjust to the slightly more difficult New York-Penn League. Finally, at age 21, Laster made his full-season debut with the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2006; and his rocky career continued. After muddling through the season's first three months, Laster came alive in July and August, posting a combined .286/.350/.505 line in 31 late summer games.
Jeramy is the Tigers classic toolsy outfield prospect; the next in a long line of freakish athletes, that have had a difficult time transferring that ability to the baseball field. Laster's athletic ability and potential give scouts visions of Mike Cameron – both at the plate, and in the field. He is a gifted runner, having been clocked as fast as 6.5 second in the 60-yard dash, and he backs up his speed with good instincts on the bases and in the field. The potential is there for Laster to become a plus defender at any of the three outfield positions, but he has had trouble maintaining his focus at all times on the field. His arm is strong, but a slow release probably leaves it playing better in left than elsewhere.
Offensively, Laster has good power potential, putting on impressive displays in batting practice. He's gained upper-body mass the last couple of off-seasons, but that increased strength has not completely translated to game situations. His hand-eye coordination needs substantial work, as he swings and misses far too much. Jeramy struggles to recognize pitches, and will frequently flail at pitches nowhere near the strike zone. Laster has the potential to be a 20-20 type player, but there are a lot of hurdles standing in the way of that projection.
He is very hard on himself, often getting visibly down about his performance on the field. There is little doubt about his desire to be a Major League player, but without a more positive outlook of his own abilities, he's going to be hard pressed to achieve that goal.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
Laster has experienced some minor, nagging injuries at various points throughout his career, but no injuries of substance have held him back in his quest for the Major Leagues
Jeramy was yet again assigned to West Michigan for the 2007 season, in hopes that his late season progress was a harbinger of things to come. The ‘Caps outfield is a crowded one, with high ceiling prospects such as Brennan Boesch, Gorkys Hernandez, and Deik Scram all vying for playing time. Laster will likely be forced to battle with Brandon Timm for playing time in the 4th outfielder role.
Laster is quite a ways down on the depth chart for outfield prospects in the Tigers system, and is likely looking at a tough road ahead; even for a simple promotion to Lakeland. He will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December, but don't expect the Tigers to protect him, or any other team to select him. There is still a slim chance that Laster puts his athleticism to use on the field and makes a run through the system; but the odds are stacked against him in a big way. Expect Laster to work his way through this season, and likely be on the organizational bubble next spring; teetering on the edge of searching for a new team.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.