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Favorite scouting memories: Zack Greinke, Brett Lawrie

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Brett Lawrie hitting a home run in 2011
Brett Lawrie hitting a home run in 2011
John Sickels, SB Nation/Vox Media

In a recent All Questions Answered thread, a reader asked if I could describe my favorite game scouting memories.

That's a tough question; there are so many, but there are three that stand out particularly strongly in my mind, two of them involving Zack Greinke and one involving Brett Lawrie.

The first Greinke memory dates back to 2004 when I saw him make one of his last Triple-A starts for Omaha shortly before he was promoted to Kansas City for the first time. I can't find my old notes from this game but it is etched memory because Greinke looked like he was toying with Triple-A hitters, like a cat torturing a mouse or a sociopathic child pulling wings off a fly. Using a fastball, a hard curveball, a soft curve, slider, and change-up, he hit every velocity mark between 68 and 95 MPH in that game while repeating his delivery perfectly on each pitch. He was a surgeon. The opposing hitters were just totally overmatched and he moved up to MLB shortly thereafter.

The second Greinke scouting memory came two years later when he was back in the minors trying to rebuild his career following a disastrous 2005 season and troubles with social anxiety. He was pitching for Wichita in August of 2006; I charted this game and turned it into an article here at Minor League Ball: you can find the pitch-by-pitch account here. Although he wasn't as sharp in this game as he was in the 2004 Omaha contest, the key point was that he looked comfortable psychologically and appeared on his way back to success.

The third game that stands out is another Omaha game, this one from early in 2011. Then-Blue Jays prospect Brett Lawrie was on a tear for Las Vegas and on the verge of a major league promotion. The full report is here. Key observed points: his bat speed was outstanding, he showed a strong eye for the strike zone in this game, and despite committing two errors his defense at third base was actually quite impressive. At the time the public reports on his glove were negative but those reports turned out to be inaccurate.

There were a lot of reports about Lawrie's personality at the time so I paid close attention to that, writing:

Obviously there is only so much you can tell from just watching a player, but I kept my eye on him most of the game, even he wasn't the center of attention or involved in a play. Lawrie fidgets a lot. He seems to radiate intensity and energy. This can be somewhat off-putting, like when he fidgets during the national anthem when everyone else is still, but the upside is that his body looked alive far more than everyone else on the field, with the possible exception of Lorenzo Cain. Comparing Lawrie with Mike Moustakas for example, Lawrie just oozes energetic power compared to Moustakas' solid, staid affect.

Lawrie's intensity manifested itself negatively when he got into an argument with the umpire about a check-swing strike three call. It looked like he almost got ejected (which would have really irritated me, it was just the third inning), but he pulled himself back in time and stayed in the game. There are all kinds of stories/rumors about Lawrie's personality and antics, but he plays with fire on the field.

The report concluded:

To summarize, I really believe in Lawrie's bat. He has the tools to be a good defensive third baseman with experience. He plays very hard on the field. You don't have to be a nice guy to be a great player. If he avoids injuries, grows up a bit and learns to channel his energy and intensity, he's going to be a monster.

As you know, Lawrie did have to fight injuries, missing large portions of the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Hopes for his bat haven't panned out to this point mainly due to spotty plate discipline, but he's still just 25. I think the monster seasons are still in there, somewhere.

A fourth fun memory would be a series of games I saw in Tulsa a few years back when Chris Carter, then playing for Midland in the Oakland system, showed actual genuine pure hitting skills with a compact, powerful swing, didn't swing and miss at stuff outside the zone, and hit the ball the opposite way. That convinced me that he had the ability to be a complete hitter, alas an ability which has yet to manifest itself for more than two months at a time.

Anyway, those are my favorite scouting memories from recent years. What about yours?