Prospect of the Day: Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays fans are anxiously awaiting the promotion of phenom Brett Lawrie. He was supposed to be promoted this week, but he was hit by a pitch this past Tuesday and has a bruised left wrist, leaving him day-to-day at Triple-A Las Vegas. Current rumor is that the Jays will give him a couple of extra games at Vegas to make sure the wrist is OK, then bring him to the majors. So, what's the furor about?
Lawrie was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round in 2008, out of high school in Langley, British Columbia. Despite his Canadian origins, he was considered a polished hitter for a prep and one of the best bats in the draft, though it was uncertain what position he would play. He was drafted as a catcher, but he asked to be moved to second base. No one doubted his bat, though, given his explosive bat speed.
Lawrie reached Double-A in his first pro season, then spent all of 2010 there, hitting .285/.346/.451 with 36 doubles, 16 triples, eight homers, and 30 steals at the tender age of 20. He showed the need for better plate discipline with a 47/118 BB/K ratio, but he showed a good eye as an amateur and it didn't seem like it would be a long-term problem. Doubts persisted about his glove, as well as a mercurial, intense personality that rubbed some people the wrong way. He was traded to the Blue Jays in December '10 for Shaun Marcum.
The Blue Jays converted him to third base in spring training and sent him to Triple-A Las Vegas. The results were amazing: .354/.415/.677, with 15 homers in 52 games and 11 steals in 12 attempts. In late April the Blue Jays asked him to concentrate on improving his plate discipline, and he immediately did so, boosting his BB/K from 4/23 in April to 14/17 in May. Although he's had some rough moments with the glove, he has clearly demonstrated the range and arm strength to handle third base, just needing more experience to lower his error rate. Perhaps most importantly, the Blue Jays have been very happy with his personality, noting his intense work ethic and drive to succeed.
For further information, particularly about his defense, please check this personal scouting report I wrote after seeing him play a couple of weeks ago.
Lawrie is a clear Grade A prospect at this point and has nothing left to learn in the minors. As soon as the Jays are comfortable with the status of his wrist, expect to see him manning the hot corner. He'll make some errors and like all young hitters he might have some growing pains with the bat, but his potential is immense, and he's showing every sign this year of fulfilling that potential.