Profiling Brett Lawrie

Profiling Canadian infielder Brett Lawrie, recently obtained by the Toronto Blue Jays in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Brett Lawrie (pronounced “Lorry”) was the selected by the Milwaukee Brewers 16th overall in the 2008 amateur draft (video).  Incidentally, the Blue Jays were set to take Lawrie with their pick (17th).  Instead they selected David Cooper.

The Langley, British Columbia native is 6’0″ tall and 215lbs.  Originally a catcher, Lawrie has been moved to second base in the Brewers minor league system.  That being said, some scouts suggest he is a better fit for a corner infield position.  Reports suggest his arm strength has regressed;  he is not a likely candidate to play third base.

Baseball America grades his bat as a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale, with power as his best tool.  The right-handed hitting Lawrie is also quick on the basepaths, being timed at 4.15 to first base from the right side. In 2010 he stole 30 bags in 43 attempts to go alone with 11 triples.

Lawrie spent last season in AA at only 19 years of age.  By midseason he led the Southern League in hits (102), extra-base hits (39), triples (11) and total bases (164).  Lawrie’s biggest weakness is his defense and scouts have noted that his throwing arm has regressed, projecting him as an outfielder should he prove to be liability in the infield.  He led all second basemen in errors, with one badly misplayed ball ending up breaking his nose.  Good thing there’s Brian Butterfield!

According to John Manuel of Baseball America,  many scouts compare him to Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla.  Convinced he would hit as a pro, one scout said “real thing to remember is that Lawrie’s best position is in the batter’s box—a lot like Uggla.”  Some scouts also see him as a Jeff Kent type without the defense.

ESPN’s Keith Law has had plenty to say about Brett Lawrie over the past 2-3 years:

Lawrie hit well in the Midwest League for a 19-year-old, and if he had a clear position he might have spent the second half in high-A. The Brewers did move him up two levels in mid-August, after which he scuffled. Lawrie has a good swing, almost a classic left-handed swing but from the right side, with tremendous rotation and raw power. I’ve seen him overstride in BP, but he quiets down a little in games, still taking all-out swings but with such a good swing path that he covers the plate and struggles only with changing speeds. He’s an intense, aggressive, “one-speed” player who might benefit from dialing it down a notch every now and then, and the lack of finesse in his game is part of what holds him back as an infielder. He played all over as an amateur but settled on second in part because he thought he had a faster path to the majors there. There’s still a realistic chance he’ll have to move to first or an outfield corner, limiting his projected value

Lawrie was moved from catcher to second base

I don’t think he’ll ever be above-average defensively at second, and he’s pretty maxed-out physically, but his bat looks like it’s going to play just about anywhere in the big leagues, and his offensive downside is very limited.

He really has no position. Good bat, potentially a special bat, but he might end up in LF.

Law has also mentioned that Lawrie has had “friction” with many of his coaches.  This has been backed up by Kansas City-based writer Rany Jazayerli on Twitter:

Is this a case of “where there’s smoke there’s fire”? Similar things had been said about Jose Bautista but we know how he turned out.

This is how Lawrie fared in AA this past season:

Video profile of Brett Lawrie

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