Rookie right-hander Casey Lawrence made his major league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays on April 8th. It was inauspicious, Lawrence walking in the winning run in a 3-2 extra-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. A follow-up outing on the ninth resulted in two hits, two walks, and two runs in 1.1 innings of work. Can Lawrence improve on this rough debut?
His background is certainly unusual. Lawrence was signed by the Blue Jays as an undrafted free agent in 2010 out of Albright College. He moved slowly but steadily up the system, used mainly as a starting pitcher and generally successful in the role due to his control. He split 2016 between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo, posting a combined 4.17 ERA in 162 innings with a 108/38 K/BB.
The Jays brought Lawrence to spring camp as an non-roster invitee and he performed decently, posting a 3.86 ERA in 16.1 innings with an 11/7 K/BB. He was scheduled to be the Opening Day starter for Triple-A Buffalo but skipped that when he was promoted to the majors.
Lawrence is listed at 6-2, 170 pounds, age 29. He uses a traditional arsenal with a sinker, slider, and change-up at the ready. He has always been a strong ground ball pitcher but the key over the last year has been an increase in velocity thanks to mechanical tweaks, reportedly hitting the mid-90s according to MLB.com although he’s topped out in the majors at 92 according to PITCHf/x.
Command and control have been Lawrence’s strongest traits so the walks in the majors are unusual for him, perhaps a result of (understandable) nerves. If he can resume his strike-throwing ways he can be a useful asset in the bullpen as a long reliever.