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Arguing with Myself: Brett Lawrie

Several years ago I wrote an article for an old blog in which I literally argued with myself about Jimmy Rollins. I played the role of both the bull and the bear and imagined these two selves having a debate. I suddenly remembered that article while wondering what to write about for today’s post and thought it may be entertaining to try it again. As you read through the dialogue, try to figure out which side, if any, I am actually on and let me know in the comments if you were right. So, without further ado, I present to you Bull Mike and Bear Mike arguing about Brett Lawrie‘s 2012 fantasy value…

Bull: Brett Lawrie!!@@11!! He’s one of the top prospects in baseball!

Bear: Calm down dude. He was ranked just 40th in Baseball America’s pre-season top 100 prospects list. Do you really think 292 excellent Triple-A at-bats should vault him that much higher?

Bull: Yesssss. He wOBA’d .460 and jacked 18 homers, with a .308 ISO during his stay!

Bear: Woah there cowboy. Sure, sure he was quite impressive. But, this was in the PCL, in a park that literally inflated every aspect of offensive production. Oh, and is it any coincidence that his performance represented an enormous surge from his previous two seasons in Double-A and Triple-A, where he combined to hit just 2 more homers in 634 additional at-bats?

Bull: He was just a baby man! He was only 19 in 2009 and 20 in 2010, so he was still improving as a hitter and power frequently develops last. His 2011 season, in which his power surge even carried over to the Majors, I might add, is exactly what you want to see from a top prospect. Getting better as he climbs the ladder.

Bear: I don’t know, that sure is a huge increase in power, I cannot believe he could sustain anywhere near that level next year.

Bull: He doesn’t have to! He is already a fly ball hitter (44.9% fly ball rate in 2011) and makes average contact, which is actually pretty good for a power hitter. So even a decline in HR/FB ratio to the lower teens will still allow him to knock out home runs in the mid-20 range.

Bear: We still cannot completely ignore his sub-.200 ISO marks in 2009 and 2010. Heck, his Double-A ISO was just .164 in 2010! How many times have we seen a hot prospect breakout in half a season in Triple-A, kick butt in a small sample after being promoted to the Bigs, and then flop the following year? We have to remain cautious with (almost) rookies.

Bull: Whatever. We haven’t even talked about his speed yet. In his professional career, he has stolen 69 bases in 1,596 plate appearances, which prorates to 26 steals over a full 600 plate appearance season. Just like David Wright in his glory days!

Bear: Well, of course, you have neglected to mention Lawrie’s caught stealings, of which he had 29 of them. That gives him a 70% success rate, which borders on harmful to the team. You think he will be allowed to run as much with the Jays given his apparently mediocre base-stealing skills?

Bull: Speaking of neglecting, you conveniently left out the fact that he stole 7 bases in 8 chances during his short time with the Jays. Maybe he learned a thing or two? Either way, he clearly had no problem continuing his theft-happy ways.

Bear: Bottom line is that we love to try unearthing the next big thing and after Lawrie’s breakout 2011 campaign, it is easy to see how he has become a sensation. Don’t get sucked in and ignore the red flags in his history, as he could break the hearts of many a fantasy owner.

Bull: Lawrie is the exception. His five-category contribution potential is rare and places a floor under his fantasy value. He may not yield a profit depending on your league, but he appears to be much safer than the typical hitter who just barely qualified for rookie status the previous season.

So how do I actually feel about Lawrie?

Since it would be a cop out to say I’m in the middle, I will tell you I lean closer to the Bull side. Obviously, Lawrie won’t sustain the type of power he displayed in Triple-A or with the Jays in 2011. It is also hard to completely buy into such a power spike given his lackluster showings in previous seasons. However, as the Bull said, he is still very young, and Lawrie’s breakout is exactly what you want to see from the next superstars while they are still in the minors. I think the most intriguing aspect of Lawrie’s game for fantasy purposes is the speed. A third baseman who’s a real threat for 20/20 is exciting and makes it tougher to predict he’ll be a bust or not earn close to what most owners paid for him.