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Top 50 Jays Prospects, Jays Journal Edition: #2 Brett Lawrie


Our top ranked position player comes in next on the top 50 prospects countdown…

Image courtesy of the Toronto Star

#2: Brett R. Lawrie

Third Baseman / 21 years old / 6′0″ 213 lbs

Born: January 18, 1990 in Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Bats: Right    Throws: Right

High School: Brookswood Secondary School

College: Signed a letter of intent with Arizona State University

Drafted By: The Milwaukee Brewers in the 1st round (16th overall) of the 2008 amateur entry draft

Jersey Number: #13 for the Huntsville Stars

Quick Facts:

  • Sister Danielle is a standout softball pitcher for the University of Washington Huskies
  • Played on the same BC club team as Tyson Gillies, one prospect sent to the Phillies in the Cliff Lee-to-Seattle trade
  • In addition to playing baseball, he enjoys playing basketball and golf
  • Looks up to Dustin Pedroia and fellow Canadian Russell Martin
  • Played in the same World Junior Championship as Royals first round pick Mike Moustakas in 2006
  • Played for the same BC club as Jake Eliopoulos and James Paxton, two Canadians drafted by the Blue Jays in 2009 who wound up not signing
  • Played with Blue Jays prospect Michael Crouse in the 2008 World Junior Championship
  • 2010 Southern League Post-Season All-Star
  • 2010 Southern League  Mid-Season All-Star
  • 2010 Futures Game Selection
  • 2009 Futures Game Selection
  • 2009 Midwest League  Mid-Season All-Star

Career Statistics:

Year Age Level G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
2009 19 A/AA 118 424 54 116 18 6 13 65 41 84 .274 .340 .436
2010 20 AA 135 554 90 158 36 16 8 63 47 118 .285 .346 .451

Huntsville Stars Team Stats Ranking for Brett Lawrie:

  • 1st in games played (135), at-bats (554), runs (90), hits (158), doubles (36), triples (16), total bases (250), strikeouts (118), and stolen bases (30)
  • 2nd in errors (25)
  • 3rd in RBI (63) and SLG (.451)
  • 4th in walks (47) and AVG (.285)
  • 5th in home runs (8)
Interviews:
  • An interview with the Fan 590 I recapped back in December can be found here.

Video:
  • Three videos worth seeing from an article I posted back in December can be found here.
  • MLB.com 2010 Top 50 Prospects video on Lawrie can be seen here.
Extra information and previous experience:

As a Jays fan first and a Brewers fan second, it was definitely exciting when the Jays managed to acquire Lawrie from the Brewers. He is a personal favorite of mine, as I have been following him before he was even drafted by the Brewers back in 2008.

Lawrie embarked on his path to fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing professional baseball in his early years of high school in British Columbia, Canada. He was a standout on the Langley Blaze, a team in the BC Premier Baseball League. By the time he was in the eleventh grade, he had already impressed on the international stage by leading Canada’s junior national team to a bronze medal in the 2006 World Junior Championship. He was named to the tournament’s World All-Star team and tournament MVP overall after he hit .415 with 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 7 RBI, 9 runs, 27 total bases, and a .699 slugging percentage in 8 games.

In addition to being successful with the Blaze and capturing the RBI award for the BC Premier League in 2006, Lawrie was recognized for his contributions to Canada’s national team by being named Canada’s 2006 World Junior National team MVP.

After continuing to play with the Blaze while finishing high school in 2007, Lawrie was already considered the number one Canadian prospect by amateur cross checkers and professional scouts. Blaze coach Doug Mathieson provided some reasons as to why this was.

“Brett is the best hitter we have had on the Blaze in our history. His bat could play at a high level now. [He] has always been a standout player. His biggest improvement is being more consistent and working hard in the off-season on his strength. Brett has an above-average arm, is an above average runner, has power and bat speed and is very athletic,” Mathieson said.

Lawrie also managed to tour Arizona State University’s campus in 2007 and wound up signing a letter of intent with them later in the year. It was a decision that just felt right for Lawrie and his family, but he wasn’t going to let his commitment to ASU stand in his way if he was drafted the following year in 2008.

“My preference, obviously, is to go in the draft… but if something doesn’t go right college is a good backup plan. But as of right now, I am 100 percent on the draft,” Lawrie said in an interview prior to the draft.

Once the calendar did change to 2008, though, Lawrie wound up having perhaps the busiest year of baseball out of any young player in recent memory.

First up in 2008 was spring training with the Canadian junior national team, where he finished with a .700 batting average. Then, he embarked on a trip to the Dominican Republic with the Canadian junior national team where he went 17-for-35 (.486) at the plate with 8 home runs and 24 RBI in 8 games. He was up against professional pitching from Major League Baseball Dominican Summer League teams, and he really opened eyes when he hit 5 home runs in one day during a doubleheader in the tournament.

Canada junior national coach Greg Hamilton was definitely impressed with Lawrie and his display in the Dominican Republic.

“[Lawrie] is a high school player hitting with a wood bat and dominating professional pitching. I have never seen a player hit five home runs in a doubleheader from foul pole to foul pole.”

“He is an exceptional hitter with an athletic confidence that is rarely displayed at such a young age. He has tremendous athletic confidence and total belief in his ability to excel at the highest levels of the game. [He has] no fear in any situation, and plus bat speed, which produces power to all parts of the ballpark. [Brett has] excellent hands to hit and the ability to square the ball up at the point of contact,” Hamilton said.

Lawrie arrived back in Canada just days before the 2008 MLB draft, when he was pegged to go in the first round because of his strong bat and overall makeup. There were slight concerns over his defensive abilities and where he would play on the diamond, but that didn’t deter the Milwaukee Brewers from selecting Lawrie in the first round (16th overall) of the 2008 draft — just one pick before the Blue Jays selected David Cooper — making him the highest drafted Canadian position player ever. It was also the fourth-highest draft position for a Canadian player ever, behind only pitchers Jeff Francis, Adam Loewen, and Philippe Aumont.

Lawrie had to wait to make his professional debut with the Brewers until the 2009 season, though, because his plate was full with national team commitments for the rest of 2008.

Lawrie was the starting catcher for Canada’s junior national team in the 2008 World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where he raked a .469/.500/1.000 line with 16 RBI, 4 triples, and 3 home runs in 8 games. In addition to throwing out 4 of 8 attempted base stealers and hitting 3 triples in one game, Lawrie led the tournament in home runs and batting average, which unsurprisingly earned him a spot on the tournament’s All-Star team.

Lawrie’s whirlwind 2008 got even better the following month in July, when he was told he would represent Canada in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Lawrie had been told previously that there was less than a 1 percent chance he would make the team, but he had an ally on the Olympic team’s coaching staff. Greg Hamilton, one of Canada’s Olympic coaches, was Lawrie’s longtime coach with the junior national team.

“He’s an exceptional talent and beyond just his skill, his ability plays right now and he’s the type of player, even though he’s 18, he’s got no fear and you put him in a larger environment he’s going to compete and he’s not going to be overwhelmed,” Hamilton told CBC in an interview at the time.

Before boarding the plane to Beijing, though, Lawrie had to take care of signing his professional contract with the Brewers, eventually agreeing to terms with the team in early August 2008. His $1.7 million signing bonus represented the fourth-highest bonus ever awarded to a Canadian player.

Lawrie saw little action as a backup LF/DH in the Beijing Olympics — where his sister Danielle represented Canada in women’s softball — and went 0-for-10 with 2 RBI. Regardless, it was quite an experience for Lawrie as he was the youngest player in the entire tournament by over three years and, in certain instances, he faced pitchers more than twice his age.

Considering the amount of things Lawrie was able to accomplish in 2008, it was no surprise he captured Canadian Junior National team MVP honors for the second time in three years.

He finally got acquainted with the Brewers organization upon his return from the Olympics, and was eventually named a backup for Team Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Even though he barely saw any action — his only appearance being as a pinch runner in one inning — it was still a special experience for Lawrie before he reported to spring training with the Brewers.

There was some confusion as to what position Lawrie would play on the field, though, as he had been drafted as a catcher and had agreed to play there professionally at the time, but personally requested to be shifted to second base. He felt the move would expedite his journey to the Major Leagues, and the Brewers complied.

One detail that often goes overlooked about Lawrie’s extensive list of national team appearances over the years is that he has used a wooden bat in all of them. This definitely helped him when he started his professional career, as the Brewers elected to have him skip rookie and short season ball altogether and start the 2009 season with their Class-A affiliate, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Image courtesy of MiLB.com

Baseball America ranked Lawrie as the No. 81 prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2009 season, and he definitely did not disappoint.

Lawrie was forced to make his professional debut in the Midwest League — known for being hard on young hitters, especially in the first half of the season given the colder temperatures — but he stormed out of the gate hitting .326/.375/.616 in his first 86 at-bats.

It didn’t take Lawrie long to impress Timber Rattlers manager Jeff Isom.

“”He’s a special kid. He’s got that hit gene. He’s a lot of strides offensively. He’s a kid that’s going to find a way to put the barrel of the bat on the ball. You kinda just let him go and do his own thing. He’s swinging the bat well. He hits the ball hard, finds holes and drives the ball in the gap.”

“You see the improvement on a daily basis. What makes him so special is you can tell him what he’s doing wrong and then he adapts and changes right away. He applies everything that you say right away. You won’t have to tell him a second time, whether it’s positioning or the little nuances of the game. He makes adjustments on the fly, picks up things, retains information—and throw in he’s a great athlete. The kid’s done a great job and continues to improve daily,” Isom said in an interview with Baseball America.

Lawrie cooled off as the season went on, but it was understandable considering he was the youngest player in the entire Midwest League. In 105 games overall with the Timber Rattlers, Lawrie hit .274/.348/.454 with 18 doubles, 5 triples, 13 homes runs, and 65 RBI, while showing some speed on the base paths and stealing 19 bases.

Many consider the jump from Hi-A to Double-A as the most significant in minor league baseball, but Lawrie managed to avoid a stint at the Hi-A level entirely. Instead, his strong performance with Class-A Wisconsin earned him a late-season promotion straight to Double-A Huntsville. He wound up hitting only .269/.283/.308 in 13 games, but the motivation for the move was to get him at-bats against only American League opponents as the designated hitter. The promotion briefly exposed Lawrie to better quality pitching as well, which served as practice for his stint with Team Canada in the 2009 Baseball World Cup being held in Europe later that year.

Image courtesy of Celebrate Huntsville

After being ranked as the Brewers’ 2nd best prospect by Baseball America at the end of 2009, they ranked Lawrie as the 59th-best prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2010 season. Despite being sent back to Double-A Huntsville and being the second-youngest player in the entire Southern League, once again Lawrie did not disappoint.

Lawrie hit .285/.346/.451 in 135 games with the Huntsville Stars, adding 8 home runs and 63 RBI. On top of stealing 30 bases, Lawrie led the Southern League in hits (158), triples (16), runs (90), and total bases (250). Lawrie clearly showed he was anything but intimidated by the higher level of competition, and the accolades kept rolling in, as he was named to both Mid-Season and Post-Season Southern League All-Star teams.

Lawrie would have been ranked as the Brewers’ top prospect by Baseball America, but the Jays acquired him in a trade for Shaun Marcum prior to the release date of the Brewers organizational prospect rankings. Like Anthony Gose, Lawrie was a player that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos had been eager to acquire for quite some time.

“Brett’s someone that we’ve been trying to acquire for a long time. After I got the job last year, he was one of the players that we targeted. He was a 19-year-old athletic player that could run, throw, power, plays the game as hard as anybody that you’re going to see and will rip your heart out to win,” Anthopoulos said in an interview with Shi Davidi of The Canadian Press.

With Lawrie, the Jays have a very athletic and versatile player. He is an excellent gap hitter with strong hands and a quick bat, which will easily be the tool that gets him to the Major Leagues and keeps him there. He has above-average speed, and has yet to come anywhere close to his power potential, which ranked an impressive 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has a keen eye, aggressive offensive instincts, and a strong swing through balls in the zone, with some scouts describing his offensive approach simply as “fearless”.

Lawrie still has areas he needs to improve on and that’s expected, seeing as he just turned 21 last month. He’ll have to work hard on his defense — especially since the Jays have him at a new position at third base — to get it to an average or above-average level, as he won’t ever need to be a Gold Glover at any position he plays in the Majors.

Expected 2011 Team: Triple-A Las Vegas

Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Everyday MLB 3B/OF, potential All-Star

Assuming the Blue Jays can cement Lawrie at one position and have him work meticulously on his defense there, his bat will carry him and it has the potential to be something very special at the Major League level.

Scouts have debated whether Lawrie is the best Canadian hitting prospect since Justin Morneau or Larry Walker, and he has drawn comparisons to Craig Biggio and Jeff Kent. Some baseball reporters have also said that Lawrie is a better version of Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla.

Regardless of what kind of player he develops into with Toronto, the Jays have something very special on their hands in Lawrie.

-JM

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Tags: 2008 Beijing Olympics Brett Lawrie Canada Baseball Huntsville Stars Langley Blaze Milwaukee Brewers Toronto Blue Jays Wisconsin Timber Rattlers World Junior Baseball Championship

  • theo adorno

    If Lawrie becomes everything he is supposed to be and he helps the jays win a championship at some point in his career he will be hands down the most popular athlete in Canada.
    Here’s hoping that he becomes the candian sporting icon that Morneau and Walker never got to be!

  • Mylegacy

    Jared – did I mention I’m kinda fond of this series?

    Today Brett drove in a run! I LOVE the guy – but – I have had serious concerns about his ability to play “any” position…however…WOW OH WOW…he is absolutely taking to 3rd like he’s played it for years! The kid is even a better athlete, player, stud than I had hoped!

    His eventual peak production is almost scary to predict. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his best year be something like: 332/430/645 45 homers, 110 runs, 140 rbi with Gold Glove defense. AND – I expect a decade of so – where he flirts with those numbers.

    He arrives June 2011 – and the rest will be history!

    • http://www.jayjournal.com Jared Macdonald

      Mylegacy,

      If Lawrie isn’t a reason to be excited about this season I’m not sure what is. This is definitely going to be the most exciting Jays season in recent memory, regardless of where the team finishes in the standings.

      As for Lawrie, I like the way your suggested line for him looks, but even I’d say that’s a little ambitious, and I’m probably one of his biggest supporters. Regardless, a .290/.370/.500 line or better could definitely be possible, he’s easily going to be an elite bat in the Majors.

      On top of following him for a while and doing extensive research on him for this article, virtually every single manager and coach that he has interacted with has been impressed with his work ethic and drive to be the best he can be. Sure, he’s confident bordering on cocky, but he understands his ability and he’ll do whatever it takes to get better.

      He’s a fantastic athlete and extremely versatile, and just wants to play in the Majors, period. He’ll do whatever he can at any position and put in as much work as necessary to get there.

      You’re right about June 2011 as an expected time of arrival to the Jays, 2 months in Vegas for Lawrie will be like a full season for other prospects in terms of development. Look for either a Rzep/Scrabble trade/option, McCoy sent down, or Rivera released to accommodate Lawrie in June.

      Oh, and he’s only 21!

  • Stump

    I too am looking forward to seeing Brett become an everyday 3rd Baseman for the Jays and settle in with some of the other “young guns” and bring a bunch of pennants for the Jays in the next 6 – 8 years and hopefully a world series crown or two as well!!

    He is definitely the real deal!!

    Go Jays go!!

  • Scott

    Brett Lawrie will be Scott Rolen without the Gold Glove. Hard-nosed player that doesn’t quit. A “dirtbag”, as JP Ricciardi so eloquently put it when the Jays acquired Rolen.

  • Rick

    I hope the Jays leave him in Vegas this year and only bring him up as a Sept call up, there is no hurry the Jays aren’t going anywhere this year but next year with the pitching staff one year older Lawrie will be a starter and and Gose and Hava will be in the same boat as Lawrie this year. Bottom line 2 years until the Jays turn the corner.

  • VagabondBansal

    It seriously can turn into the perfect storm for the Jays right now. Its exciting beyond belief, to see a very young core of players, that could all be special in their own right. Snider, JPA, and Lawrie all give me hints of superstardom. Add this to the “cant-say-enough-about” pitching depth, a 50 HR RF, and power-hitting (hopefully again) 1B and 2B. This team in 2-3 years is going to be the toast of the town.

    P.S. I had no idea that Lawrie had such extensive experience with the wooden bat and professional pitching. The kid is a stud, and I have a feeling his defense at third will reach gold glove caliber. He’s gonna take all the criticism and use it to his advantage. Guarantee’d.

  • Rob

    Lawrie is the most exciting infield prospect we’ve had in a long time. I can’t remember having an infielder prospect that projects as an all-star 3B.

    I’m really looking forward to him getting called up in June so that Bautista can move over to RF.

    It’ll be interesting to see how everyone gets a roster spot too.

  • http://jaysjournal.com matgermain

    If anyone can change the fortune of the Jays in 2011 it’s Lawrie. I agree with all comments above, and would add that he may very well become the most marketable player the Jays have ever had. If he takes as much to 3B as it seems he has early on, the Jays look particularly great!

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