Sep 29, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie (13) throws out Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar (not pictured) in the ninth inning at Rogers Centre. Tampa defeated Toronto 7-6. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Is this the year that the Toronto Blue Jays’ third baseman Brett Lawrie, 23, breaks out and becomes a star? Is too much expected of the blue birds only Canadian member? Who knows? One thing is for sure, Brett Lawrie will not go gentle into that good night. He will make his presence known… good or bad. This writer believes that if Lawrie is successful then so will the Jays.
During his first full rookie season as a Jay in 2012, Lawrie was a defensive marvel at third base. He was fourth in defensive WAR, third in double plays turned, fifth in putouts, second in assists, and first in total zone runs. He hit .273 with 494 plate appearances. He batted in 48 runs, had a OBP of .324, a slugging percentage of .405, with 11 HR and 13 stolen bases.
Last year, Lawrie missed 54 games, first to a ribcage injury during training in March, then he got injured spraining his ankle sliding into second base in May. He only hit .254, scoring 41 runs, but did manage 11 home runs and 46 RBI’s. Defensively, Lawrie earned only one MLB honour, he came fifth in range factoring for third basemen with 2.60. It took until August before he played as well as 2012. He improved the deeper he got into the season. His season mirrored the Jays’ own experience. He was beat up, beat down but showed glimpses of being a champion.
Fangraphs’ wizards project Lawrie having a WAR of 3 for 2014. This seems reasonable but Lawrie may exceed this number if he stays healthy; hence, why he is training so hard this off-season. The Jays’ management message was clear to all its players… get in shape to stay healthy and reduce injuries.
Lawrie has power in his bat and he is a very able hitter, but he needs to cut down his strike out rate. Hopefully, Jays hitting coach Kevin Seitzer will give him better insights on how to go deeper into the count. Lawrie has speed and can steal but he needs first base coach Tim Leiper to caution him when he should because he needs guidance. Lawrie has had some senior moments when on the base paths. Defensively, Lawrie can play second but is better on the hot corner even though there are games when his hands are like concrete. Then again, Lawrie showed flashes of genius with some of his game saving plays in August, 2013.
One thing is for sure. Lawrie plays all out, but he is learning to tone it down to avoid injury. He is a young man who needs guidance, like a thoroughbred who needs handling. He needs a minder to settle him down and to garner consistent play.
Who will play Brett Lawrie’s big brother this year? Anthopolous found someone in 2013. Brett Lawrie, due to his age and his immaturity, had Mark DeRosa take him under his wing. DeRosa did a great job. He focused Brett, kept him from being suspended, and no doubt tried to get him to cut down on Red Bull, shooing him away from tattoo parlours and getting Lawrie not to take tweets from disturbed fans too seriously. These two ball players had a great relationship. DeRosa called Lawrie an animal, but in a nice way. Lawrie gave DeRosa tons of hugs and stated on social media that he would miss Mark a lot.
This writer is a big fan of Lawrie. He is a true athlete. His off-season workout regiment is amazing. He became the Jays’ regular third baseman at the age of only 21 in August 2011. He could be a star. This was why Milwaukee made Lawrie him their first draft pick in 2008 and why Jays’ GM Alex Anthopolous went out of his way to get him. Lawrie has great talent and is still young. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be young and acting young when one is young. A lot; however, is wrong with youth without limits. If the team is to do well this year then so must Lawrie. He is literally the weathervane of the Toronto Blue Jays.