TAMPA—At first glance, Brandon Laird seems to have a colossal roadblock on his path to the big leagues.
A natural third baseman, the 23-year-old Laird sees only Alex Rodriguez, who is signed through 2017, on the horizon in the Bronx.
Yet, a stint in the outfield in the Arizona Fall League may have nudged the door open for Laird, a 27th-round pick in 2007 out of Cypress (Calif.) JC.
"He will play games in the outfield during spring training," general manager Brian Cashman said of Laird, whose older brother Gerald catches for the Cardinals. "He can play the outfield."
Laird batted .291/ .355/.523 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs for Double-A Trenton last season, earning Eastern League MVP and rookie of the year honors.
Manager Joe Girardi said Laird has a shot to stick with the Yankees as a reserve. "He had a tremendous year least year when the ball jumped off his bat," Girardi said. "He has obviously proven he knows how to drive in runs, and he knows how to have good at-bats."
Laird finished 2010 with 102 RBIs in 138 games, but he batted just .246/.268/.344 in 122 at-bats after an August promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
He faces long odds of making the big league club this season, but Laird figures to carve out a big league career eventually, whether with the Yankees or another club.
"He will be a very capable major league hitter for the position he will play, the corners," pro scouting director Billy Eppler said. "He hits for average and power. He is a good thinker at the plate, (he) sees the ball out of the pitcher's hand well and there is no fear in him."
Laird's power is from right-center field to the left-field foul pole. As for his defense, the style resembles his approach at the plate.
"There is no fear and he is very aggressive, but not to the point where he makes mistakes," Eppler said. "He is a smart player."
• Lefty Manny Banuelos impressed early in big league camp, but Cashman reiterated in late February that the 19-year-old would start the season in Trenton.
• The Yankees signed Cuban shortstop Yadil Mujica, who appeared on the nation's preliminary roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic and batted .358/.432/.440 in 2009 before defecting. He had emerged as one of Cuba's most promising young middle infielders.