Brett Lawrie was supposed to be the next great third-base option for fantasy owners to lean on. We all anxiously anticipated his debut with the Toronto Blue Jays, only to see a broken hand delay his arrival for a few additional weeks (before a knee injury ended things prematurely).
However, when he was on the diamond he showed that the talent lived up to the hype. In 150 at bats, Lawrie sported a .293/.373/.580 batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage and a .318 batting average on balls in play. He hit nine home runs with 25 RBI and 26 runs scored, and he stole seven bases.
If he’s that good or not is an interesting question, but it has become abundantly clear that Lawrie is a player that all fantasy owners need to take note of. Acquired in the deal that sent Shaun Marcum to the Milwaukee Brewers, Lawrie clearly is a player on the rise.
Lawrie hit primarily seventh upon his debut (80 at bats), though in a deep lineup that’s not a huge detriment to his value. We all know that Adam Lind and Jose Bautista are going to hit in the middle of the lineup. Colby Rasmus will probably be in the second spot (at least initially), hitting behind Eric Thames.
That leaves Edwin Encarnacion and Lawrie to fill in the fifth and sixth holes, with J.P. Arencibia and Yunel Escobar coming in behind them. In other words, the lineup is going to provide more than enough protection and opportunity for Lawrie to perform.
Opportunity is obviously only half the battle. Is his skill level there to be an elite option?
One area where he gives owners a huge advantage is in the speed game. A former second baseman, Lawrie stole 30 bases in a season at Double-A in 2010 and showed the potential to be a 20+ stolen base guy upon his arrival to the Major Leagues. With Lawrie's move to third base, how man other players at the position give you that upside?
At one point you would’ve thought the New York Mets David Wright would do it, but with his back issues that no longer feels like a certainty. Emilio Bonifacio obviously can (he could easily surpass 40 atop the Florida Marlins lineup), but he offers nothing in the power or RBI departments.
Who else possibly could accomplish it? The Arizona Diamondbacks Ryan Roberts? In other words, Lawrie's ability to steal bases immediately gives him an advantage over the rest of the field.
The fact that he also brings home run potential makes him that much more appealing. He hadn’t shown that much power prior to 2011, but he hit 27 home runs between Triple-A and the Majors. Granted, 18 of them came in the Pacific Coast League, so we want to take that with a grain of salt. His number in the Major Leagues also appears to be a little bit inflated, coming courtesy of a 17.0% home run/fly ball ratio.
However, at Double-A in 2010, he had 59 extra base hits (35 doubles, 16 triples and 8 home runs). He’s getting older and gaining strength, meaning the additional power is not completely unbelievable. Given his history, I wouldn’t call it a given that he exceed 20 home runs, but he has that type of upside and should at least come close.
As I stated before, he hits in a deep lineup, so no matter what spot he settles into he should bring the potential to both score and drive in runs. Anticipating him reaching at least 80 RBI and runs scored is realistic. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him far exceed either number.
He also brings a solid average to the table. A fall in power is going to hurt him a little bit, but he doesn’t strike out a lot (18.1% in 2011) and wasn’t excessively lucky last season. All he needs to do is add a little bit of luck and he could easily replicate last season’s mark. Even if he regresses a little bit, the average is going to be more than usable.
You put everything together and get the following prediction for next season:
.282 (155-550), 19 HR, 85 RBI, 80 R, 23 SB, .324 BABIP, .342 OBP, .473 SLG
We all know that third base is among the weakest positions in all of fantasy sports. Now you get a young option with the potential to go 20/20/80/80, at worst. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him surpass the projections and entrench himself as a top-five option by year’s end, either. It’s a no-brainer to get your hands on him and consider him one of the better options in the league for 2012.
What are your thoughts of Lawrie? What type of numbers do you expect from him in 2012? Is he a player you feel is a must own?
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Make sure to check out our other 2012 projections: