By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Brett Lawrie, Third Baseman, Toronto Blue Jays
2012 season: 125 G, 494 AB, .273 BA, 11 HR, 13 SB, .729 OPS
When Brett Lawrie debuted in the Majors in 2011, it looked like he would be a superstar for the Blue Jays. The former first-round pick lived up to his pedigree, batting .293 with nine homers, seven steals and a .953 OPS in just 43 games. Lawrie was set to be an impact player for the perennially up-and-coming Blue Jays.
Then last year happened. Almost all of Lawrie’s statistics took a dive: average, isolated power, walk rate and stolen base percentage, among others. The most surprising dip was in the power department; in 82 additional games, Lawrie managed to record just two more home runs than he did in 2011. Looking over his home run totals for his professional career (including the minors), it’s easy to see the outlier: 13 in 2009, eight in 2010, 27 in 2011, 11 in 2012.
So which Lawrie is the real one? Is he the superstar from 2011 or the adequate player from 2012? The answer is that he’s probably somewhere in between. It would be easy to write off his 2011 season as a fluke, but it’s highly unlikely that he performed so well simply because of luck. Some of Lawrie’s poor output can be explained by regression to the mean, but several injuries – including a strained oblique that put him on the disabled list – probably had something to do with it as well.
The other good news for Blue Jays fans is that Lawrie still played good defense last year, despite his other inconsistencies. He also registered as an adequate to above-average baserunner based on different metrics, despite the fact that he was only successful on 62% (13-for-21) of his stolen base attempts.
What all this means is that Lawrie still has a ton of potential. He’s still only 23 years old, and he has 168 big league games under his belt. His line in those games – a .278 average with 20 home runs and 20 steals – is something that just about any young player would sign up for. Fully healthy and with a good amount of experience under his belt, Lawrie is fully capable of putting a season similar to that composite line. He always hit for average in the minors (.295 in 328 games), while the power and speed have been there before. And even if he puts up another disappointing offensive season, Lawrie’s well-rounded game still makes him an asset.
Lawrie could be seen as a microcosm of the entire Blue Jays team. If everything goes right, the potential for a monster season is there. If not, the likelihood of an above-average year is still pretty high.
Next up on March 4: Baltimore Orioles