Coming to a theatre near you Brett Lawrie starting second basemen for your Toronto Blue Jays?
Currently on a minor league rehab assignment for a rib cage strain our incumbent third basemen Brett Lawrie is taking his reps at second base with the intent of joining the big league club at the position. Alex Anthopoulos stated that if Lawrie looks good at second then when he returns to the bigs Jose Bautista will remain at third base and Lawrie will take over at the keystone corner.
While we still aren’t sure what type of batter Brett Lawrie will be with more than 1400 careers innings at third base in the major league one thing we are fairly certain – Lawrie plays a mean hot corner. A career 9.4 UZR in 1452.1 innings at third base is impressive especially considering he essentially began his time at third base position at the major league level.
While I love the idea of Brett Lawrie playing second base for the good of the team (and lineup) I doubt this will be a longer term fix. Coming through the ranks not many scouts questioned the offensive abilities of Lawrie but sticking at second base was seemingly a pipe dream.
Here are a few observations and scouting reports when Lawrie was still in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system:
According to John Manuel of Baseball America, many scouts compare him to Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla. Convinced he would hit as a pro, one scout said “real thing to remember is that Lawrie’s best position is in the batter’s box—a lot like Uggla.” Some scouts also see him as a Jeff Kent type without the defense.
Lawrie spent last season in AA at only 19 years of age. By midseason he led the Southern League in hits (102), extra-base hits (39), triples (11) and total bases (164). Lawrie’s biggest weakness is his defense and scouts have noted that his throwing arm has regressed; projecting him as an outfielder should he prove to be liability in the infield. He led all second basemen in errors, with one badly misplayed ball ending up breaking his nose.
Keith Law said in 2010:
Lawrie hit well in the Midwest League for a 19-year-old, and if he had a clear position he might have spent the second half in high-A. The Brewers did move him up two levels in mid-August, after which he scuffled. Lawrie has a good swing, almost a classic left-handed swing but from the right side, with tremendous rotation and raw power. I’ve seen him over stride in BP, but he quiets down a little in games, still taking all-out swings but with such a good swing path that he covers the plate and struggles only with changing speeds. He’s an intense, aggressive, “one-speed” player who might benefit from dialing it down a notch every now and then, and the lack of finesse in his game is part of what holds him back as an infielder. He played all over as an amateur but settled on second in part because he thought he had a faster path to the majors there. There’s still a realistic chance he’ll have to move to first or an outfield corner, limiting his projected value.
I don’t think he’ll ever be above-average defensively at second, and he’s pretty maxed-out physically, but his bat looks like it’s going to play just about anywhere in the big leagues, and his offensive downside is very limited.
Another downside could be the already fragile Brett Lawrie would be moving to a much more physically demanding position. Second basemen have to range much further to both sides, regularly laying out to make plays and being on the receiving end of hard slides at the bag on double-play opportunities.
This has to be one concern for the Blue Jays brass, and perhaps a major one. Can this team really deal with another injury considering its already fragile psyche (and fan base)? Lawrie has proven himself to be very capable (if not spectacular) fielding third basemen but is there any guarantee he can even play second effectively at the big league level?
The Blue Jays need his bat to be productive above almost anything else. I worry that his offensive development could be jeopardized if he struggles with the transition to a brand new (and more demanding) position. Again this might only be a temporary solution, and a sensible one considering our injury situation but trying Brett Lawrie at second base is far from a sure thing.
However given his impressive athleticism and tireless work ethic if anybody could make a concerted effort at this transition it is probably the crazy Canadian Brett Lawrie. It’s obviously worth a shot at this point.