Posts Tagged ‘Brett Lawrie’

The long awaited Major League debut of the Toronto Blue Jays top prospect 3B Brett Lawrie occurred tonight and I thought I would provide some thoughts and observations on his first game.

Lawrie, 21 years old is listed at 6’0” and 213 pounds and he looks like a middle linebacker for Ohio St with his impressive build and physique.  He possesses massive strong forearms and looks extremely athletic.  He appears better suited for a more physical sport and my guess is he could’ve had success in multiple sports if he had the inkling.

With nothing left to prove at AAA the Jays did the right thing bringing him up now after destroying minor league pitching with a slash line of 353/415/661 with 24 2Bs, 18 HRs and a .459 wOBA.  He was playing in a supped up offensive environment and he could still stand to refine his patience at the plate (7.9 BB%) or he could be vulnerable to more skilled and savvier major league pitching.

Small nitpicking aside this is one of the most anticipated Blue Jays debut in franchise history.  I don’t remember this much buzz surrounding a prospect on the Jays since Jose Cruz Jr. was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in 1997 (what a rip off).

First inning – Nick Markakis flares a little grounder down the third base line, Brett Lawrie was playing well off the line with the shift on for the lefty, he ranged far to his right and made an athletic (though offline) throw to first base.  Markakis was safe on the play as Lawrie really had no chance, but an athletic play.

After the inning was done, Brett was talking and presumably taking advice from John McDonald, likely about just eating the ball and not risking the throw next time.  Having veterans like Johnny Mac around doesn’t help a club statistically but it is hard to measure the impact he can have on our younger players.

Second inning – Two out and two on, Brett Lawrie makes his debut at the plate.  Lawrie has a nice solid wide stance and looks strong and comfortable with the bat.  Facing right hander Tommy Hunter.

Pitch 1 – Ball, Lawrie takes a close slider. 1-0

Pitch 2 – Ball, takes another close slider. 2-0

Pitch 3 – Good swing, just a bit late on a fastball, fouled behind home plate. 2-1

Pitch 4 – Big slow curveball, out in front, fouled into third base territory. 2-2

Pitch 5 – Fastball up the middle, Lawrie hammers it up the middle for an RBI single! 

First big league hit in his first big league at bat!  Great at-bat, good patience, good balance and a solid stroke to centre field!  Lawrie 1-1 with a single and RBI.

Third inning – Nolan Reimold hits a ground ball to Lawrie and he boots it, the ball got right through him on a slightly strange bounce.  A play he should have made, nerves/adrenaline possibly playing a role after getting the big first hit.  The error is meaningless and the Jays got out of the inning, Lawrie will definitely have to continue working hard on his defense and it has been made very clear that he is not going to second base.

Fourth inning – Brett Lawrie leads off the inning for his second MLB at-bat, still facing Tommy Hunter.

Pitch 1 – Fastball upstairs, ball.  1-0

Pitch 2 – Fastball down the middle, taken for a strike. 1-1

Pitch 3 – Big breaking ball outside, ball. 2-1

Pitch 4 – Another big looping breaking ball, outside. 3-1

Pitch 5 – Broken bat grounder to third base, Lawrie hustled hard down the line but was thrown out by a step.

Another solid at-bat, Lawrie worked the count and got a solid pitch to hit and just got sawed off.  Lawrie might be facing another pitcher in his next at-bat as Tommy Hunter has struggled to keep his pitch count inline, already has 70+ pitches in the fourth inning.  Lawrie now 1-2 with a single and RBI.

Sixth inning – Lefty Troy Patton relieves SP Tommy Hunter, not much known about him to be honest (apparently a switch hitter according to Yahoo!)

Brett Lawrie comes to bat with 2 outs and nobody on-base.

Pitch 1 – Fastball up, called a strike though looked like a ball. 0-1

Pitch 2 – Fastball way outside, taken. 1-1

Pitch 3 – Big curve ball, bends into the inside corner, taken for strike two. 1-2

Pitch 4 – Off speed pitch bounced in, taken. 2-2

Pitch 5 – Fastball a bit up (and maybe outside) called strike three, it looked like a ball.

Tough at-bat with a couple questionable calls (at first glance), Lawrie goes down looking and is now 1-3 with a single and RBI.  Lawrie continues to look poised at the plate and appears he will be a gamer at the plate, a guy who can grind out an at-bat and never given an out away.  This might infuriate some Jays fans but he reminds me of Vernon Wells and Aaron Hill mechanically with a touch of Josh Hamilton (maybe it is the tatoos!).

Another tough play in the field for Lawrie, another ball bounces off his glove, allows a run to score without getting an out.  Gets another chance, shows good hands on a sharp ground ball, gets the ball quickly to second base for one out, Aaron Hill struggled to get it out of his glove, can’t turn the double play.

Eighth Inning – Brett Lawrie comes to bat with 2 outs and runners at first and second base.  Now pitching for the Orioles is Chris Jakubauskas, a big righty with terrible stats so far (6.10 ERA, 1.76 WHIP).

Pitch 1 – Breaking ball low in the dirt, taken.  1-0

Pitch 2 – Fastball upstairs, handled by Brett Lawrie with a hard hit single to left field, Colby Rasmus thrown out at the plate!

Two out base hit and almost another RBI, Lawrie with a rocket to left field on a pitch up in the zone is now 2-4 with two singles and an RBI.

Final Box Score Line for Brett Lawrie – 2/4, 2 singles, 1 RBI, 1 K.

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Yesterday afternoon Toronto Blue Jays prized hitting 3B prospect Brett Lawrie continued his monumental start at the ‘AAA’ level going 2-4 with 2 homeruns, driving in 4 and walking once.  Lawrie, only 21 is one of the youngest players in the league and has shown he has all of the tools and talent to one day become an integral part of the Toronto Blue Jays line-up. 

Though some have called on the Jays to bring the youngster up as soon as humanly possible I feel general manager Alex Anthopoulos and company have handled the kid perfectly.  Through 43 games Lawrie has absolutely raked, slashing 346/403/633 with 15 2Bs, 11 HRs and even 9 SBs to boot.  What more could a team ask of its star prospect with an ISO approach .300?

 

“I’m very pleased with how he’s responded to us asking him to be a little more selective in his at bats,” said Anthopoulos. “I’m more excited about him today than I was in April when he was hitting .430.”

I feel the exact same as the Jays have felt, Lawrie has been impressive but if he thinks he will be able to walk all over AL East major league pitching on a nightly basis without a much more selective approach he is going to be sadly mistaken.  As it stands now Lawrie has a less than stellar 6.9 BB% and while his K-rate is only 19% what has me most excited is seeing the adjustments and progress he is making at the plate.

 “When I look at a game report for Lawrie the first thing I look at is the number of pitches seen per plate appearance,” said Anthopoulos. “When they’re not going to give him a lot to hit we need to see that he’s made the adjustment, and he’s starting to do that.”

Over his past ten games (and 40 ABs) the Jays top prospect has slashed 375/490/800 (including  7 extra-base hits) and though it is a small sample size the most impressive stat that stands out in my mind is the 9 BBs to go with only 7 Ks – a stellar 18+ BB%.  If Lawrie continues this trend and focuses on taking quality at-bat after quality at-bat we might have a true star in the making.

While I don’t think Brett Lawrie is destined to become the major league leader in the walk category given his natural ability to square the bat on the ball in a very consistent matter any added patience and increase plate discipline could see Lawrie go from good to great, especially at a valuable corner infield spot like third base. 

So when will we likely see Brett Lawrie on the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre?  When he is fully ready to take over on a full-time basis and not a second sooner, and if that also happens to save his pending “super two” status even better, but that would be purely coincidental of course (wink, wink).  Be patient Jays fans this invaluable seasoning and progress being shown by our star prospect could go a long, long way in helping Lawrie be the best player he can possibly be.

Prospect guru John Sickels took in a recent Las Vegas 51 game and wrote a glowing scouting report on Brett.

**UPDATE, Ken Rosenthal reports Brett Lawrie will be called up as soon as Friday June 3rd, 2011**

 
Ken Rosenthal

@Ken_Rosenthal Ken Rosenthal
All signs point to #BlueJays promoting Lawrie on Friday. Move not official yet. #MLB
 
**02Jun2011 UPDATE** The saga continues, Brett Lawrie was beaned by a pitch during a game 31May2011 and injured his hand.  Turns out it was only a bruise so hopefully nothing to worry about.

Perhaps I am a bit of a contrarian but I am not as high as most experts are on the overall strength of the Toronto Blue Jays current batch of prospects.  The system is probably in the best shape it has been in quite some time and Alex Anthopoulos has done a masterful job of restocking a cupboard of prospects that was once considered a laughing stock.

But I am just not that convinced that it will ultimately produce any potential star players and there isn’t one guy that I feel is a must have, outside of Brett Lawrie.  The list is deep, which is good and I hope if a potential young cost controlled player becomes available (like a Justin Upton) the Jays wouldn’t hesitate in cleaning out the system a bit to fetch a nice asset.

But depth doesn’t excite me, and after the top two (Brett Lawrie and Kyle Drabek) the list really goes downhill in my opinion.  Even the top two names that have far and away the most potential of the group can leave bit of a sour taste in your mouth.  It’s not to say that any prospect out there is a sure thing, but there are a lot of other teams who have a more exciting basket of potential impact players.

The Yankees have Jesus Montero knocking on the team’s door, and further down their list have extremely promising arms like Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos and Andrew Brackman.  Not to mention a young catcher named Gary Sanchez who would likely rank 2nd or 3rd on the Jays list.  I just don’t see a Jeremy Hellickson, Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Santana, Mike Stanton, Starlin Castro or Domonic Brown type in this group.

Top Blue Jays Prospects 2011:

#1 INF Brett Lawrie

Brett Lawrie is a naturally gifted athlete who just happens to play baseball, and play it well.  The kid has moxie and tools that rate off the charts with his hit tool rating the best.  Currently a line drive gap power hitting machine a lot of those doubles should eventually turn into long flies and Lawrie could be a high 20s HRs type of player.

Drafted as a catcher by the Milwaukee Brewers, he was quickly switched to second base at his request and the biggest question mark surrounding Lawrie isn’t if he can hit enough it is where is he going to play on the diamond?  Most feel a corner outfield spot will be his eventual landing spot and the kid does come with a few warts.

 Lawrie while highly touted has shown immaturity and is on his second organization before reaching the ‘AA’ level.  He refused an assignment to the Arizona Fall League this year and decided he would prefer to be a second basemen as opposed to attempting to play catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers.  The reviews are mixed if Lawrie can handle a middle infield role and he has already been shifted to third base to ensure a speedy road to the major league level.

The kid is young, only just turning 21 in January/2011 and judging any of his behaviour without thinking of how I acted at the same age would be short-sighted so I am willing to let bygones be just that.  However, playing a corner infield spot means his bat is going to have to be that much more impactful and power is the hardest skill to project and normally last attribute to arrive.  He is cocky, confident and seemingly brash and I like that, posting a .361 wOBA as a 20-year old in AA might do that for you. 

Brett Lawrie won’t be an average ballplayer if he makes it I think he makes it big and if he doesn’t I don’t see him even in baseball in five years.  I am expecting an impactful, solid offensive career for the kid and I think he is the Toronto Blue Jays best hitting prospect to come along in years.  He is our top prospect as a potential top or middle of the order hitter who can play every day, hopefully at a premium position like the keystone corner.

#2 SP Kyle Drabek

Second on the list is Kyle Drabek who for me is one of the most underwhelming “top” pitching prospects in baseball.  Don’t get me wrong I think he could still develop into a solid #2/3 starter but the talk of a potential ace is a bit of a reach based on the numbers he has been putting up in the minor leagues.  In particular the mediocre to poor minor league strikeout numbers are disturbing.

Of course not everybody can be Stephen Strasburg or Clayton Kershaw coming through the system in terms of strikeout numbers but it is a great way to gauge the pitcher’s overall stuff and how they project in terms of future major league success.  I hope for the Jays sake Drabek proves me wrong but he is certainly not taking a typical path to stardom.  Besides 61.2 IPs in ‘High A’ ball (as a 22 year old in 2009) where his K/9 was 10.8 the overall minor league resume is lacking.

Kyle Drabek Age Level IP K/9 BB/9 FIP
2009 22 AA 96.1 7.1 2.9 3.83
2010 23 AA 162.0 7.4 3.9 3.87

 

I am sure some pitchers have gone on to solid careers with mediocre minor league strikeout numbers but the probability isn’t great and the number of examples isn’t plentiful.  For a right handed starter to succeed without high strikeout numbers he would need to have extreme groundball tendencies and play in front of a solid defence.  Drabek has improved in this regard as his groundball ratios have improved over the past two seasons. 

A must inclusion for Toronto in the Roy Halladay trade, Drabek is being counted on to develop into a big time inning eating starting pitcher.  I was holding out hope that the Philadelphia Phillies would have panicked and offered their top prospect in toolsy outfielder Domonic Brown and it is a bit worriesome that Drabek’s name was being thrown around more than a few times for such a highly touted prospect. 

If Drabek were a lefty  I’d be more optimistic but at this point I see a solid #3 starter who will give us innings, a 6 K/9, 2.5 K/BB and a FIP in the low to mid 4.00s – very solid but not ‘ace’ like.  Alex Anthopoulos did well to ensure Drabek was included in the deal that sent the best pitcher in baseball out of Toronto and the future is still very bright for the son of Doug Drabek. 

Kyle Drabek possesses a very solid fastball and can hit the mid 90s on a regular basis so there is room for improvement going forward if the secondary stuff can improve and help him miss more bats.  This is a guy who could end up making me and this scouting report look very foolish with only a few tweaks and subtle improvements.  After all, he already went through TJ surgery so we should cut him a bit of slack I suppose.

Well, those are the two best in the system and after that I feel it drops off dramatically.  Here is the best of the rest as we rank 3-10.

#3 SP Deck McGuire

Drafted out of Georgia Tech in the recent 2010 MLB Amateur draft the consensus around the world of scouting is that McGuire was an excellent selection who possesses a crafty 4-pitch arsenal that projects to be a workhorse type mid-rotation guy.  I think the ceiling here is a poor man’s Matt Garza.  A solid, exciting name but a guy who has never even thrown one professional inning yet he ranks near the top of almost all of the most respected Blue Jays prospect rankings.

#4 C Carlos Perez

The Jays currently have a plethora of solid young catching prospects and I feel the 20-year old Venezuelan Perez has the most upside of all of them.  A potential 10-12 HR guy who can play strong defence and is a strong athlete.  Has shown solid patience in his young career at the plate and he could profile as a solid mid to bottom of the order hitter with a bit of pop.

#5 SP Zach Stewart

Acquired in the Scott Rolen trade from the Cincinnati Reds Zach Stewart’s stock dropped a bit in 2010 as his K/9 plummeted to only 7.0 in 136 ‘AA’ innings as he posted the worst FIP of his career at 4.18.  Stewart will turn 25 years old this summer and the time for him to arrive is now, another guy who likely wouldn’t crack many teams’ top ten lists.  There has been talk he is best suited for a late inning relief role also but I think the Jays will exhaust all possibilities of becoming a starter before that happens.

#6 CF Anthony Gose

I am higher on Anthony Gose than probably any other evaluator so far this offseason but I don’t understand the trepidations with Gose who at worst will provide gold glove calibre defence at a premium position and steal a few bases.  However if the bat develops into even slightly below league average we are talking about a potential 5.0 WAR player who is still only 21-years old who just posted a .363 wOBA in 113 PAs for the Jays ‘AA’ team.

Gose athleticism ranks off the charts and the only question mark with him is the plate discipline and overall bat tool.  Acquired for 1B Brett Wallace I’m rolling with him and I like this type of talent, very toolsy.

#7 C Travis D’Arnaud

Probably the most complete all-around game of the Jays catching prospects, D’Arnaud has the potential to develop into a plus defender who would only need an average bat to provide decent value to his club.  I think he should develop into a useful hitter but a guy who will always bat near the bottom of the lineup but he is still only 22-years old and has time to continue his development.

#8 C J.P. Arencibia

This guy ranks all over the place on various lists, as high as #3 on Marc Hulet’s Fangraphs ranking while down to 8th on Baseball America’s.  I feel the general consensus regarding Arencibia is ‘meh’ and I feel the same way.  Already turned 25 years old Arencibia had virtually fallen off the prospect map after a horrible 2009 where he posted a 236/284/444 slash line in 500 ‘AAA’ PAs.

When the team moved to the little league park in Las Vegas his numbers subsequently jumped with them.  I am not buying it and I don’t think he ever hits enough to justify the worst facet of his game, and that is game calling and defensive skills.  Terrible plate discipline, bad defense and one park/league infused season justifies ranking him so low.

There are others to be at least mindful of but they are either still too young or just drafted to give them a meaningful scouting report or ranking.  Among them are:

 OF Jake Marisnick – toolsy, big ceiling, big risk.

SP Asher Wojciechowski – between him and scrabble the Jays are doing their best to empty ink cartridges.  Strong upside from the College right hander.

SP Aaron Sanchez – strong high school righty, just drafted in 2010.

SS Adeiny Hechavarria – suspect bat tool but legit glove.

OF Eric Thames – the bat is exciting.

SP Chad Jenkins – stock fell a bit with pedestrian K-rate in advanced ‘A’ ball.

SP Adonis Cardona – top 16-year old Venezuelan signing in 2010, years away.

The Jays system has depth again and the Alex Anthopoulos plan and era are in the early stages so I fully expect given him competency that the Blue Jays farm system and draft excellence will continue to be at the very forefront of the plan.  Even in 2-3 years a lot of the names will start to look more exciting as they reach higher minor league levels and the system starts to hopefully do its job and churn out big league regulars.

Right now though I feel the system is solid but a tad on the overrated side.