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2014 Fantasy Baseball Profile: Brett Lawrie

Will Brett Lawrie finally reach fantasy heights in 2014?

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Brett Lawrie is a hot button player in fantasy baseball. He has been since he burst on the major league scene with a .293 average, nine homers and seven steals in just 43 games as a rookie (2011). Since that time he’s been roundly viewed as a disappointment as injury after injury has stalled his progress. Will the talented player that Lawrie is ever fully emerge in the big leagues or will he forever be doomed by expectations that had him penned as a future All-Star?

Brett Lawrie is a six foot tall, 220 lbs bundle of energy. He can’t sit still, is aggressive on the field, and never seems to be satisfied as he boasts a bravado that leads to him being seen as arrogant by many. Given that he was ranked as the 40th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America during his last minor league season (2011), it is obvious that the bravado was supported by immense talent. Over 340 minor league games Lawrie hit .294, got on base at a .361 clip and posted a .489 SLG. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story though. In 2011 he appeared in 73 games between High-A ball and Triple-A and to say that he mashed would be an understatement. In 73 games he hit .347 with a 1.060 OPS as he blasted 18 long balls, stole 13 bases, scored 64 times and drove in 62 runs… in 73 games remember. Clearly he didn’t need much more seasoning, not after tearing up big league pitchers in his 43 cup of coffee in 2011.

Heading into the 2012 season some in the fantasy community were ready to knight Lawrie as a top-5 third baseman and a top-40 player overall after just 43 games of big league experience (that’s true, even though I was never in that group. You know who you are). That projection proved to be far too aggressive. Lawrie was solid hitting .273 with 11 homer and 13 steals, he even scored 73 runs, but for those expecting greatness this just wasn’t close to being good enough. Hampering Lawrie’s outlook was the fact that injuries, partly due to his all out style of play, caused him to make it out onto the field for just 125 games.

The 2013 season was even worse. The sky-high expectations were muted, but his performance dipped from ’12, and the injuries once again held him down. Lawrie appeared in a mere 107 games hitting just .254 with 11 homers and nine steals while crossing home plate 41 times. As a result of two moderate seasons and being three years removed from the hype Lawrie’s value is at an all-time low in the fantasy game.

Let’s break down Lawrie.

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1 – He is extremely talented, period. There is the ability within Lawrie to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in a season. In fact, even with his moderate levels of production over his first three seasons, per 162 games, Lawrie has averaged 18 homers and 17 steals.

2 – Lawrie is seemingly always hurt. Here is a list of some of the injuries that have caused him to miss time.

2011 – Broke middle finger on right hand.

2012 – Groin, Knee, Back, Calf, Oblique.

2013 – Started the season on the DL with a rib issue. Sprained ankle.

It doesn’t matter how talented a guy is, if injuries are part of his package, and at this point it’s pretty hard not to think that is the case with Lawrie, then we have to be cautious with that player and keep expectations in check.

3 – Lawrie has been jerked around an awful lot in his young career, and that’s never a good thing for a player who is trying to establish himself. The Blue Jays have done Lawrie no favors here.

Lawrie is a third baseman. At the same time he was asked to work on playing second base all last offseason and even saw action in six games there in the bigs before the club decided just to leave him at third. Pick a position and let him go Blue Jays. Leave him at third.

Lawrie, like many other young players, has no lock down spot in the batting order. You hear players all the time, in every sport, asking their coaches to just let them know what their responsibilities are. The good coaches do that. They define the players roles and let them play. The Jays have been catastrophic failures in this regard (kind of like my attempt to ask the head cheerleader to be my date to Senior Prom). In 2013 Brett Lawrie spent at least three games in every spot in the batting order. Here are the numbers.

1st – nine games
2nd – three games
3rd – 16 games
4th – five games
5th – 20 games
6th – 22 games
7th – 10 games
8th – 10 games
9th – 12 games

I’m not making that up. The Blue Jays seem content on practicing psychological warfare on the kid in 2013. What, are they trying to make him a real life Jason Bourne? How the hell is Lawrie supposed to produce when he had no idea what would be asked of him when he showed up at the ballpark every day? How can anyone, let alone a youngster, excel doing that? I don’t remember the last time a player saw action in all nine spots in the batting order in one season. It seems like a sad joke doesn’t it?

The Jays need to make a plan and stick with it. Period. If they do that it will go a long way toward establishing Lawrie. At the same time, Lawrie must stay healthy, something he has been unable to do to this point of his career. If he does stay healthy this guy is still a 20/20 talent, and there aren’t many at third base that could make that claim. As such, I view Lawrie as a potential top-5 option at third base. You cannot draft him as such of course. The good news is you may or may not even have to draft him within the top-10 at the third base position. This creates an opportunity where you can buy Lawrie at a depressed cost and potentially see a nice return on that investment. I’d be a fan of a move like that. However, you must roster another capable third baseman if you are taking Lawrie. He has yet to show an ability to stay healthy or to play through injury, so if he’s on your club do yourself a favor and grab a backup that you wouldn’t be depressed to have starting for you for a significant portion of the 2014 fantasy baseball season.

By Ray Flowers


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