I haven't been this excited about a Blue Jay debut since, well, last Tuesday when Colby Rasmus joined the team. Yep, it's been a long time since we've added a young exciting player to the lineup.
The best part, to me, it this signals the end, at least for the moment, of the stop-gap players in the everyday lineup. No more Kevin Millars/Corey Pattersons taking up at bats that would have been better given to younger players. The oldest player that ought be in our lineup regularly, the rest of the way, is Jose Bautista, and he's just 30.
You all know Brett Lawrie's story. Canadian boy from Langley, BC. Picked 16th overall in the 2008 draft by the Brewers. He moved through their organization quickly, even though his defense at second base was lacking and there were suggestions of attitude problems. Traded to the Jays this winter for Shawn Marcum, plus or minus, the best starting pitcher on our team.
The Jays, smartly, moved him to third base in spring training. You know the sign of a good organization? They see a player whose bat could carry him and any position and they are smart enough to move him out of one that strains his defensive abilities. I mean, his bat is good enough, they could have overlooked how poor his glove was at 2B, but why leave him at a spot where he is awkward, where his defensive troubles could bleed into his offense and where he is far more likely to be injured, with guys sliding at him, while he tries to turn double plays. Put him in a spot where he can focus on his offense.
His offensive numbers, at Vegas, sure make it look like he is more comfortable in the least demanding defensive position. His hitting line is amazing: .353/.415/.661.
What can we expect to see from him. I ran his Vegas numbers through a Minor League Equivalency calculator and got this: .280/.333/.503. That would be pretty amazing for a 21 year old who is getting his first look at major league pitching. I really don't care what he hits this year, as long as he is in the lineup almost everyday and he gets a feel for what major league pitching is like.
What I don't want is, if he has a bad couple of weeks, for the Jays to send him back to the minors. I think that the best way to wreck a prospect is to be sending him up and down, depending on how he is hitting that week. Batters have a split second to decide to swing or not swing and then have to figure how to get their bat to a ball that could be moving anywhere from 100 to 75 mile per hour and bends in various directions. I don't want to add the thought to his head that he might be sent back down to the minors if he doesn't get a hit.
Gregg Zaun thwipped this yesterday:
I think snider should have been in the show all year. Sink or Swim. Then reevalute post season.
and this today:
I do have a soft spot for rooks who've been hyped. Undo pressure. In a rebuilding year let them play so you can evaluate properly.
Seems pretty reasonable to me. We weren't going to win this year, so let the young guys play enough in as relaxed an atmosphere as possible and see what you have. Fans, yeah we can make snap judgements, 'this guy will never be any good', but organizations should trust their scouts and evaluators and give the guys they say can play every chance to show they are right. If you don't trust your evaluations of players, you got to get new people into those jobs.
What do I expect from Lawrie's defense? When I saw him this spring, he clearly had the range, the arm and glove to play third. I thought he had things to learn about the position. I know that Brian Butterfield worked with him a fair bit and that he felt Lawrie was a quick learner. I only heard good things about the work he put in at Vegas to improve his defense. I don't think there will be a Gold Glove coming to him in the next couple of years, and I'm sure he'll make the odd error, but I think he will be as good as anyone else we've seen play third for the Jays this year.
I'm very excited to see him. Much like Colby Rasmus, I'm not worried worried about the numbers he puts up this year. All I want is for both of them to get a good feel for things before next year. Brett doesn't need to worry that he has to carry us to the playoffs, he's just another piece to help us move in that direction.