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.
The 2007 season saw big strides from Laster, as he broke out in nearly every facet of the game. Repeating with West Michigan, Jeramy posted a .276/.339/.468 line in 110 games; including 16 home runs (T-6th in the Midwest League) and 16 stolen bases. In a tough hitter's environment like the Midwest League, Laster's performance warranted attention, and he received that by being named the TigsTown West Michigan Player of the Month for August. Following his successful season with the ‘Caps, Laster was assigned to Hawaii Winter Baseball to play for the North Shore Honu. Jeramy finished the fall league with a .268/.294/.585 line in 29 games; including ranking 5th in the league in home runs with six.
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 above-average 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 field than elsewhere.
Offensively, Laster has tremendous power potential, putting on impressive displays in batting practice. He's gained upper-body mass the last couple of off-seasons, and that increased strength is just beginning to translate 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. Laster is still loaded with potential and room for growth as a player, and the added at-bats he received in Hawaii could help propel him to another strong season in 2008. Guys with his raw ability can sometimes take extra time to become good baseball players, but we may be seeing the start of that transition.
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.
After impressive power displays throughout both the summer and fall seasons, Laster has opened some eyes among fans and prospect mavens alike. The big test as he continues to move up the ladder will be his ability to make consistent contact against more advanced pitchers. His free swinging style can leave him prone to extended cold streaks, and he will need to make strides to curtail that problem.
Laster is a near lock to head to Lakeland to start the 2008 season, where his home park will help him a little more, but the offensive environment in the league is still generally difficult. Jeramy must start making the necessary strides to close up the holes in his game; otherwise he will be in jeopardy of being passed on the organizational depth chart by a slew of young outfielders waiting for a chance. Laster was eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the first time earlier this month and he will be eligible to file for minor league free agency following the 2009 season.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.