Thursday, August 4, 2011

#1: 3B Brett Lawrie

Name: Brett Lawrie
Position: Third Base
Acquired: Trade with Milwaukee in December 2010 (drafted 1st round, 2008)
Opening Day age: 21
Height/weight: 6'0", 215 lbs
Best/worst tool: Bat/fielding

Scouting Report:

Lawrie was drafted in June 2008, and at the time the Milwaukee Brewers announced their draftee as a catcher. Since then, he has moved from catcher to second base, and then second base to third base. A lot of these positional switches are due to Lawrie's glove, which is below average. His arm is strong, which is the reason why many scouts and analysts feel Lawrie may eventually end up as a corner outfielder. Additionally, Keith Law has described Lawrie as being an "intense, aggressive, one-speed player ... lack of finesse in his game is part of what holds him back as an infielder." Lawrie is an excellent hitter, however, as his upper body strength generates a lot of bat speed. His power is another plus tool, and while he may never be a 30 home run hitter, he should rack of doubles and triples as well as his 20+ home runs due to his line drive approach. Speed is another key aspect of Lawrie's game, as he combines natural athleticism with intelligent base running to rack up a lot of stolen bases as well as to turn singles into doubles, and doubles into triples.

Aside from his glove, Lawrie's biggest flaw may be his personality, though as outsiders looking in, it's difficult to analyze the situation. Most notably, Lawrie turned down an Arizona Fall League assignment from the Brewers. The Blue Jays are hoping any "character concerns" associated with Lawrie might diminish as he matures and plays at home in Toronto.

2010 Stats: .285/.346/.451 (.797 OPS), 36 2B, 16 3B, 8 HR, 63 RBI, 30 SB, 47/118 BB/K

2010 Analysis:

As a 20 year old, Lawrie spent the 2010 season with Milwaukee's Double-A affiliate, and while he struggled in the field as a second baseman, his bat met the match of Southern League pitchers. He fell short of his 2009 season total of 13 home runs, knocking only 8, but his 52 other extra base hits speak to the power potential hidden in his bat. His triple slash line is fantastic for an infielder in his age/level situation, and while he did rack up the strikeouts, his 47 walks represent his solid plate approach. His 30 stolen bases were a nice complement to his power.

2011 Stats: .353/.415/.661 (1.076 OPS), 24 2B, 6 3B, 18 HR, 61 RBI, 13 SB, 26/53 BB/K

2011 Analysis:

In his first year with Toronto, the 21 year old Lawrie was assigned to Triple-A Las Vegas. Lawrie's offensive skills combined with the launching pad that is Cashman Field to create the incredible statistics above. The 18 home runs in a half season of at-bats does not indicate that Lawrie has 36 HR potential, it's simply the PCL and park effects making a solid power hitter look like a true slugger. Despite the above information, Lawrie still increased his power numbers across the board and kept his walk rate roughly the same (7.7% in '10, 8.0% in '11) while reducing his strikeout rate from 19.4% to 16.0%.

Future outlook:

Brett Lawrie was promoted to Toronto after today's game in Tampa Bay, and will take over third base duties immediately (with Jose Bautista returning to right field). While he may not be at that position 5 years down the line, Lawrie appears to have placed his stake there for the remainder of 2011 as well as for at least 2012. After that, the Blue Jays may re-evaluate Lawrie's defensive position, depending upon how much success he had at the hot corner. While it is never wise to say a player is done with the minor leagues, Lawrie has proven all he needs to with the bat, and infield coach Brian Butterfield can offer more to Brett Lawrie defensively than the minor league coaches ever could.

Perfect world projection: All Star MLB 3B, potential .300/20/20 hitter.

Worst case scenario: 2nd division MLB OF/DH.

Most likely outcome: 1st division MLB 3B/OF, possible All Star appearances during prime years.

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