With Alcides Escobar's arrival and Mat Gamel's earlier season stay with the team, the highest rated position player in the Brewers' farm system yet to play in the big leagues is Brett Lawrie. Lawrie was the Brewers' top pick in the 2008 draft, and he is currently a member of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
When the Brewers took Lawrie with the 16th overall pick, he became the highest Canadian position player ever drafted by a major league team.
While baseball is becoming more popular in Canada, the popular thought is all Canadians play hockey. That wasn't the case with Lawrie growing up.
"Hockey was never an option for me growing up," Lawrie said of the Canadian national sport. "We were a baseball household, and I found other sports to play during hockey season, like basketball."
Lawrie had competition in his own household growing up that helped shape him as a player and competitor as well. His sister, Danielle, is a star pitcher for the University of Washington. In three seasons with the Lady Huskies, Danielle is 96-37 with a 1.25 ERA and four no hitters.
"We would always compete with each other growing up," Lawrie said of his older sister. "Our dad would hit us ground balls at the park, and we'd drill on fly balls and hitting. That's why her and I are good at what we do. We kept fighting and it made us both better."
He has used that competition to have an already successful career despite only playing as a pro at the low minor league levels. He was a member of the 2008 Canadian Junior National Team as well as the 2008 Canadian Olympic Team. Having had that experience, it's easy to see why Lawrie is having success this year with the Timber Rattlers.
In 101 games this season, Lawrie is batting .265 with 11 home runs, 60 RBIs, and 18 steals. Not bad numbers at all for a player still in his teens. He'll turn 20 next January, giving him plenty of time to make the majors and be a star.
He made the Midwest League All-Star game this summer and then named to the roster of the World team at the Future's game during the MLB All-Star break. He led the comeback for the World team in the game, leading off the final inning with a double and scoring a run on a wild pitch.
Although he was primarily a catcher growing up, Lawrie has made a full-time transition to second base this season. Surprisingly, he was the driving force behind the position change and not Brewers' management.
"It was my idea. My advisor and I brought it up to the team, and they gave it a try in spring training. I made some nice plays, and they think I can handle it, so I've stuck there ever since."
Lawrie has handled the transition well and looks comfortable in the field. He doesn't foresee a move back behind the plate, but he's not opposed to moving around the infield or even to the outfield.
"Wherever they need me, I'll go," Lawrie said when asked about his future with the Brewers. "They won't move me back to catcher, but I can go anywhere in the infield. I'll even go to the outfield if they want me to. I haven't played there in awhile, but it's a transition I could make."
Lawrie gave himself a two-year window to make it to the majors after being drafted by the Brewers last year. The Brewers seem to be taking a more patient approach with him. It appears the absolutely earliest Lawrie could see the majors is 2011, still not bad considering he'll only be 21 by then.
Lawrie will have none of that talk though. Some may call him cocky, but he just sees it as having supreme confidence in himself. His belief in himself is very reminiscent of current Brewers' star, Ryan Braun.
"I know I can play this game, and I've proven I can play at this level. I'm ready for the next challenge. I don't know what the Brewers' plans are for first year players, but I'm hoping next year I'm able to move at a faster pace."
You don't have to watch Brett Lawrie play very long to realize he is a future star. How long it takes to become that star is up to Lawrie as much as it is to the Brewers' organization.
Fans should be excited to know that despite trades that have depleted the minor league system and players that have been called up this season, that there are still plenty of talented players on their way in the Brewers' system. Brewers' fans would serve themselves well to make their way to Appleton and see players like Brett Lawrie before they make it big in the majors.
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