Before I get into the Brett Lawrie call up, I’d like to place things into a clear and concise perspective for everyone. Travis Snider played his first game as a Toronto Blue Jays player on August 29th 2008, when he was a very young and raw 20 years old. He had just hit 54 extra base hits in 2/3 of a minors season, had 61 walks and 154 SO, and had hit .344/.386/.516 in AAA before being called up. As he is demoted in place of Brett Lawrie, who is slightly older (21), with almost exactly one more year under his belt, we must remember that there are no guarantees when prospects are called upon. There are many scenarios that could play out to an end of Lawrie being demoted, just as were played out for the man they used to call The Franchise.
Having said that, I am proclaiming here and now that this is the single most important call up in Toronto Blue Jays history! Not only is he the many that they traded Shaun Marcum, a very popular figure inside and outside the Jays clubhouse in Toronto, heads up for, but he is also the most prominent Canadian baseball prospect to make a debut in Toronto. Just as Larry Walker represented a great Canadian presence with the Montreal Expos, Brett Lawrie will bring the wondering eyes of many Canadian sporting fans to Rogers Centre, simply due to his birthplace.
There are other reasons that I believe he both carries a heavy burden as he is called up and also is the most important call up in Jays history. Here they are in no order of importance:
- He is playing a position that he has only played for just over half a season. Unlike Dustin Ackley how got acclimated to 2B from having played 1B (on the same side of the infield), Brett has moved across the diamond to a position they call the hot corner for a big reason. He has done a good job of late in AAA, but the game speed will be even faster in the majors and the reaction time lower, placing more pressure on his defensive skills. What happens if he struggles at the hot corner defensively? Will Jays fans turn on him as they did E5? I doubt it could get that bad, but it does increase the burden that Brett carries during his call up. However, so long as it doesn’t affect his hitting, he should be fine for the remainder of the season regardless of 3B struggles since the Jays would presumably like to have him there for 2012.
- Another reason he faces some pressure is that he is not the first to get called upon from his AAA group. He has watched David Cooper come up and struggle. Not only do Cooper’s stats compare well to Lawrie’s, but he was playing a position he was familiar with at the same time. So,not only is Lawrie dealing with a new position and being much younger than Cooper, but he also knows that what he has done in AAA means absolutely nothing. Add in the recent struggles of Eric Thames, another player who was red hot in AAA, and you’ve got a lot of doubts that could enter his head.
- Brett Lawrie is a cocky kid, and that’s part of what I love about him. He knows he can do well, and he goes out there and proves it every single time. His gritty attitude is exactly what the Jays need to get rid of their “nice guys” feel which has haunted them in recent years. However, that same cocky attitude is also what gets some players, such as Kyle Drabek, into trouble if they struggle. They simply can’t believe that they’re not being “perfect” out there, so they get harder on themselves and everything comes down like a house of cards. Hopefully, Lawrie will avoid this trap and will get through the struggles he will face with a determination to be level headed about it. If he does, there’s no reason for him to ever be demoted.
- As a Canadian kid playing for a Canadian team, I do believe that if things go as well as planned, he could have an extremely successful career in Toronto. If he does as well as he hopes to and is the legitimate super star people expects him to be, he knows that some of the greatest things could be in store for him. Things such as all-star game appearances, number retirements like he has seen with Roberto Alomar, and even the HOF. If he were to achieve this trio of greatness, his value to the Jays franchise would be higher than any other player in their history. He would sell more jerseys, attract more nationally based attention, and make the Jays franchise more money than any other player in their history – no doubt about it. In no way shape of form am I saying that this is what will happen since this is as steep a mountain as a player could want to climb. However, I do believe that it’s the self-imposed expectation that Lawrie is living with as he makes his debut.
- Finally, there’s getting acclimated to big league pitching. Not only will he likely hit in a different spot in the lineup than he’s used to in AAA, but he’s going to be facing guys he has never seen before in an environment he has never been in before. He knows every AB will be analyzed to death until he proves himself worthy of a call up, and he knows that each big league pitcher will challenge him until he knocks the ball around consistently. There’s a massive difference between AAA pitching and majors pitching. If he can take the advice he is given from scouting reports, use his abilities and talents to do well, and have the right plan when he heads to the plate, he’ll likely be fine. If not…..
Not only is he arriving with the Jays at a time when they finally have a face of the franchise in Jose Bautista, which helps lessen some of the pressure, but he also happens to be the kind of guy who’ll take Brett Lawrie under his wing and will help settle him down. Therefore, with all of the points I’ve made above, I actually believe that how Lawrie reacts to the help Bautista attempts to provide him with will mean more to his development at 3B and at the plate than anything else.
Still, know this, here and now: Brett Lawrie will become the most marketable Jays player in their history if things work out as planned. If the 2012 season is as successful as some Jays fans expect it to be and Lawrie is the mainstay at 3B, having a great season, he – and the team – will draw attention from all corners of the country. Jerseys with his name on it will be sold from St-John’s Newfoundland to Victoria British Columbia and everywhere in between. People who are not exactly baseball savvy will begin to watch baseball highlights, he will become part of sports chatter across the country, and he’ll help the Jays bring more fans than they have since the turn of the Century.
Sure, Brett Lawrie carries a heavy burden. He’s playing a new position in a new environment, has his cocky self-expectations (the highest of anyone around), plans to be a super star, has a Canadian nation holding him under the microscope, has a franchise who is looking for its future for success, and has the daunting task of figuring out major league pitching. But, he also has the support of all of his team mates, coaches, and most fans, as he steps onto the field for the very first time as a Toronto Blue Jays 3B.
Whether he realizes just how important his career could become to the Toronto franchise or not, I’m not so sure and actually hope he doesn’t. It would be one less burden for him to carry with his to Toronto if he doesn’t, and that may let him breath a little easier at the plate and at the hot corner.
I’ll be holding my breath along with all Jays fans as we watch this great Canadian’s debut. No matter how it goes, we can all be proud that he absolutely slaughtered the competition during his minor league career. If he never returns to the minors from this point forward, he will finish his minors career with the following stats:
1425 PA / 1278 AB / 378 Hits / 78 Doubles / 28 Triples / 39 HR / 190 RBI / 62 SB / 28 CS / 114 BB / 256 SO / and a .296/.360/.492 line
That line includes an 8.8% extra base hit rate per AB, a 20% strike out rate, a 9% walk rate, and a 55% SB success rate. What makes his stats most impressive, however, is the fact that they got better as he got more experienced and more challenged. This is the reason I believe he’ll do extremely well as he debuts in Toronto. Unlike many people who seem to fold a little bit under pressure, Lawrie seems to bottle it up and uses it as an energizing tool.
As he steps to the plate and faces all of the pressures I’ve listed above, and others I’ve likely missed, Brett Lawrie will bring with him the hope of a historical debut for himself, Alex Anthopoulos who acquired him at at a steep price, the Toronto Blue Jays, and Canada as a whole. Should he continue to exceed expectations and turn pressure into better performance, he will become a sports hero in Canada that may never be challenged by any other baseball player. Although Alex Anthopoulos has done a tremendous job in bringing in talent to Toronto overall, Brettt Lawrie will be the one acquisition that could take this franchise to an entirely new stratosphere of Canadian consciousness when sports are concerned.
Enjoy the debut everyone. It is, in my opinion, THE single most important call up in Jays history. No doubt about it. As I’ve said before, he could become what Derek Jeter is to the Yankees, what Joe Mauer is to Minnesota, and what Troy Tulowitzki is to Colorado!
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