Key Stats: In 2011, Brett Lawire lit up the PCL to a tune of .315/.415/661 in 69 games. He blasted 18 HR’s, stole 13 bases and provided a .308 ISO. Of his 103 hits, 48 went for extra bases. “Hitter friendly PCL goodness” one may say… even so, his potential call up, his hand getting broken, and then his raking after healing was national news in the fantasy baseball world. His August call up was met with much rejoicing. In 43 big league games last year, in the not so hitter friendly AL East, he exceeded expectations, going .293/.373/.580 with 9 HR’s and 25 RBI. He stole 7 bases and was caught only once. In a Q&A with MLB Daily Dish, Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter said:
“Did I expect him to be that good? Well, I expected he would be exciting. He is surprisingly fast; I guess the 4 triples in 150 at bats points that out. He also stole 7 bases in that time, with 1 caught stealing. But no, I didn’t expect a .283/.373/.580 line in his first 150 at bats. I was also surprised with the range he showed in the field. Next year? I expect more of the same, Brett has a good eye at the plate, and he has good power and good speed. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t hit at least .280 with 25 homers and roughly the same number of steals. Mostly I expect him to be exciting and fun to watch.”
Skeptics Say: I couldn’t think of anything bad to say about Brett Lawrie. Looking at his stats on fangraphs I only saw things that made me like him more. His swinging strike rate was 8.3%, almost perfectly average among the qualified batters. Pitchers got a first pitch strike on him 46.8% of the time, that would have been the lowest mark in the majors had he qualified. I did a Google Search for “Brett Lawrie criticism” and all I could really find was “evaluators took issue with Lawrie’s character and on-field temperance, his plate discipline, and his defense.” Well, he worked out the plate discipline problem. We don’t care about defense in fantasy baseball, and his character certainly isn’t going to cause any problems in my make believe locker room (where beer and fried chicken are allowed).
Peer Comparison: Brett Lawrie’s ZiPS line for 2012 makes me swoon. .275/333/.498 with 27 HR and 24 Steals. Bill James projects Lawrie for 22 HR’s and 30 Steals. RotoChamp says expect 26 and 25. How many current 3rd baseman can claim 20/20 status? Since 2000, only five players have done it. Alex Rodriguez (3 times), David Wright (2), Aaron Boone (2), Mark Reynolds and Corey Koskie. Smart money says A-Rod can’t do it anymore, Mark Reynolds has only topped 20 steals once and hasn’t ever come close in any other season. I think it’s safe to say that David Wright and Brett Lawrie are the only third baseman in baseball that have a realistic chance at 20/20 and none of the previously mentioned projection systems have Wright pulling it off.
Team Outlook: The Blue Jays aren’t going to have any problems scoring runs this year. I would guess Toronto bats Lawrie 4th, behind Bautista. This could be bad I suppose since he could miss on some RBI chances with Bautista clearing the bases before he hits, or maybe he’ll get more chances with Bautista getting walked so much.
Projection: Lawrie is an elite talent that could very well find himself in the top 5 at his position this year, which says alot when your peers are some of the most prolific hitters in all of baseball. I’m gonna take a queue from Tom Dakers above:
.280 AVG, 25 HR, 80 Runs, 90 RBI, 25 Steals, .338 OBP and a .858 OPS in 570 AB’s.