Brett Lawrie: On the Verge of Joining the Toronto Blue Jays
Thursday June 2, 2011
MLB reports: There is often a misconception in baseball that news and events from north of the border is often ignored. Around the Rogers Centre, there has been a strong buzz for weeks anticipating the arrival of the Blue Jays top prospect. At the tender age of 21, Brett Lawrie, the third baseman of the future for the Jays is about to arrive. But news of Lawrie’s impending promotion has spread beyond the media in Toronto and Las Vegas, the Jays AAA affiliate. The MLB community is talking, from Seattle to Washington, and Milwaukee to Florida. Everyone wants to know the same thing: When is Brett Lawrie getting the call?
Brett Lawrie was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers of the first round of the 2008 draft, going 16th overall. The team picking next? Ironically enough, the Toronto Blue Jays. With the 17th pick, the Jays went with first baseman David Cooper. The Jays had their eye on Lawrie and were all set to draft the British Columbia native Lawrie. But with Milwaukee having Canadians Doug Melvin and Gord Ash in its front office, the Brewers with a strong scouting presence in Canada were all over Lawrie. Milwaukee in 2008 made Lawrie the highest drafted Canadian born position player in major league history and fourth overall, behind Jeff Francis, Adam Loewen and Philippe Aumont. But the Jays never lost their interest in Lawrie and on December 6, 2010, Lawrie was finally coming home.
Last winter, Lawrie was moved from Milwaukee to Toronto in a straight exchange for Jays ace hurler, Shaun Marcum. Coming off arm issues and a missed 2009 season, Marcum bounced back during the 2010 season with 13 wins and almost 200 innings pitched. Now due for arbitration, the Jays capitalized on Marcum’s success to land the player they coveted for some time. Lawrie immediately moved from 2nd to 3rd and became the Jays third baseman of the future. But at 21-years of age, Lawrie was still in need of more experience and seasoning. After a fairly solid AA campaign in Huntsville, Lawrie was expected to repeat AA with the Blue Jays and slowly move to AAA near the end of the year. But that all changed come spring training.
After a solid spring campaign, there was a buzz around baseball that Lawrie almost made the Blue Jays team in time for opening day. But with Edwin Encarnacion on the roster, the Jays decided that the major league roster had its stop-gap solution until Lawrie was ready. Given his strong spring though, the Jays organization reasoned that Lawrie was ready for increased competition and designated him to AAA Las Vegas to start the campaign. Looking at the numbers, Lawrie has flourished. Going into today, Lawrie has a .354 AVG, .415 OBP, .677 SLG, 15 home runs, 19 doubles, 49 RBIs, 51 runs, and has been successful on 11/12 stolen base chances. All of this accomplished in only 52 games played. Granted, Las Vegas is known as a hitters park and the 51s play in the Pacific Coast League, a notorious slugging league. Lawrie though has earned his shot and this was week was all set to get the call. Media outlets reported that Lawrie, together with Adam Lind would be joining the Jays on Friday. But this past Tuesday night, Lawrie was hit on the hand and everything changed.
The Blue Jays and the collective baseball world held its breath as Lawrie’s left hand was x-rayed. The results came back negative and fortunately only a bruise. However, with a deep hand bruise, Lawrie’s promotion has temporarily been placed on hold. As with all good things in life, the best things come to those that wait. While surely disappointed at his misfortune, at this point Lawrie just has to come back and prove health in order to make his long-awaited major league debut.
Fantasy baseball players especially have been contacting me to find out my predictions as to how Lawrie will fare when he finally joins the Jays. My response has been that he will play at third base when given the call and likely stay there for the next decade or so. But fans of the game have a way of getting excited about MLB prospects, which is great for the game but creates some unrealistic expectations some times on the players. Looking at Lawrie’s stats, I noticed that he had 47/118 BB/K in 2010 and this year sits at 18/40 BB/K. Lawrie with a career .294 AVG in the minors clearly has a strong bat. Now he just has to develop his batting eye. Coming to the majors, he might be a little slow out of the gate as he gets his feet wet. A .250-.260 AVG is a realistic prediction at this stage of his career, but may not be enough to satisfy the demands of his loyal followers. People may expect the world from Lawrie with all the hype surrounding him, but let’s remember that he is still only 21 and maturing as baseball player and person. Coupled together with his defensive shift from 2nd to 3rd, it has been a season of adjustments for him. But Lawrie has shown the superstar potential and earned the call to the big leagues.
We will follow this story for you as it develops and continue the Reports as Lawrie is likely to join the Blue Jays next week. After landing in Toronto, the future for Brett Lawrie is wide open. He could be here to stay or may need to bounce a little between Toronto and Las Vegas before he establishes himself. Look no farther than another one time can’t miss Toronto prospect, Travis Snider. For the last two seasons, Snider made the team out of spring training with high expectations, only to land back in Las Vegas to work on his game. The baseball world looks forward to the arrival of Brett Lawrie and the next “can’t miss” prospect. After all the talk and hype, the moment of truth is almost upon us.
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