Brett Lawrie: Why the Toronto Blue Jays' 3B Is on the Verge of a Big Breakout
Let's be honest. Brett Lawrie was over-hyped this spring.
Many Jays fans—and legitimate baseball people for that matter—were describing Lawrie as the next big superstar in the MLB. He was a bright, shining Canadian hope for Toronto Blue Jays fans who were salivating at the idea of having a young, bona fide slugger at third base.
His 43-game rookie campaign certainly came with fireworks, and the stats he posted in 2011 justified the hype surrounding Lawrie during spring training.
However, maybe it was too much for Jays fans. Some fans expected him to have 10 home runs by now.
It was wrong to expect Lawrie to better or equal the pace he set for himself in 2011, but if Jays fans looked closer, they'd realize that their young star is putting together a very solid recovery to his rocky start. He's becoming a very consistent hitter and that's never a bad thing.
Here's a look at why Brett Lawrie is on the verge posting some big numbers.
He's Showing How Good of a Hitter He Is
Here's a stat most Jays fans probably aren't aware of.
After 22 games in 2012, Brett Lawrie has at least one hit in 18 games. He has hits in 15 of his last 16 games and has posted a .305 batting average over that time. Clearly, the Jays' third baseman doesn't have a problem at the plate.
The thing about Lawrie's hits are that only three of them have gone for extra bases. He has two home runs, one triple and no doubles. After his hot spring training, the fact that Lawrie has zero doubles through 22 games is surprising to say the least.
Despite his low slugging percentage, Lawrie's still hitting the ball well. With his talent, power and speed, it's really only a matter of time before the extra-base hits start piling up.
It's not a technical problem like timing or bat speed with Lawrie, it's just that his hits haven't been able to find the gaps in the outfield. He's driving the ball to every part of the diamond with a professional approach that will translate into more production in the near future.
His Plate Discipline Is Improving
At the beginning of the season, it looked like Lawrie was a little too excited.
He was starting his first full season with the Blue Jays as the lone Canadian on the roster, he had a ton of media attention and was being hyped as a potential breakout candidate in 2012.
It may have been just a little too much for Lawrie to maintain proper focus.
He was swinging at everything. He would find himself getting behind early in counts and swinging at 0-2 changeups. He had nine strikeouts in 10 games to start the season. In 2011, Lawrie struck out 31 times in 43 games as a rookie.
In the last 11 games, Lawrie has struck out only six times. Call it settling down or a coaching adjustment, but Lawrie's plate discipline is much improved lately.
On top of his improved strikeout numbers, he's raised his on-base percentage from .258 after the seventh game of the season to .326 following the Jays' 22nd contest.
Avoiding the punchout and being more selective will only help to boost Lawrie's numbers going forward.
The Team's Offense Has Struggled
While Lawrie has 15 hits in 16 games, the players around him haven't been consistent enough to give him opportunities to produce efficient at-bats.
Jose Bautista in particular has not hit well and Adam Lind, who has struggled to get on base his entire career, has a below average mark of .309 in 2012.
Edwin Encarnacion, who has been the Jays' best hitter so far this season, has often cleared the bases before Lawrie has a chance to create runs.
Encarnacion has had 47 plate appearances with runners on, compared to Lawrie's 39. The fact that Lawrie is hitting consistently in the seven-spot, combined with the struggles the middle of the Jays' order is having in creating scoring chances, shows why he hasn't put up massive numbers so far.
It's only a matter of time before Bautista starts to hit, and with Yunel Escobar's struggles at the top of the order, perhaps Lawrie may get more at-bats in the two-hole behind Johnson.
The team's struggles offensively might also have an effect on Lawrie psychologically. It's well known that Lawrie is an energetic, extroverted person who feeds off of his teammates. It wouldn't be outrageous to suggest that if the team starts hitting more consistently, Lawrie will do the same.