The Toronto Blue Jays promoted third basemen Brett Lawrie from Triple-A Las Vegas yesterday, putting a Larry Walker sized weight on the Canadian born 21 year old’s shoulders. That isn’t to say he’ll be expected to be as good as Walker. He just happens to be the best Candian born player to debut for a Canadian team since Walker with the Expos in 1989.
Not only does Lawrie have the pressure of being the home country kid, he also was the main piece the Blue Jays got in return for trading Shaun Marcum to the Brewers. Marcum was a fan favorite and has continued to put up excellent numbers (3.66 xFIP) for his new team. Lawrie won’t be tarred and feathered if he has a sub-par two months, but he does have lofty expectations bestowed upon him. That being said, what can we expect from him going forward?
Looking at Lawrie’s .353/.415/.661 line at Triple-A without any context makes it seem far more impressive than it is, despite being young for the level. The Jays Triple-A affiliate plays in Las Vegas, one of the best hitters’ parks in the minors. It has a 115 HR park factor for right handed hitters. That’s basically the equivalent of Yankee Stadium to left handed batters. He had a .308 ISO at Vegas, and no matter how good of a hitter’s park Rogers Centre is he won’t come close to that figure. Being that he is just 21 years old I’m not comfortable telling you to take his A (.362 wOBA) and AA (.361) numbers as an indication of his true talent level. That said, he likely falls between those two numbers and his current .459 wOBA. Kids, especially top prospects, can improve greatly in a short period of time.
Lawrie had a preseason ZiPS projection of .254/.309/.400. If his current numbers were factored into that I imagine that triple slash line would improve. Currently the American League average is .256/.322/.401. That should be easily attainable for Lawrie. Third base hasn’t been a very deep position this season so any added production is welcomed. He’s almost certainly an instant upgrade over players like Casey McGehee (all three homer games aside), Danny Valencia or Placido Polanco. Jose Bautista will be shifting back to right field, with Eric Thames moving to left.
The call up of Lawrie means the demotion of Travis Snider. For all his minor league success – he has SMASHED Triple-A pitching – he hasn’t been able to figure it out in the major leagues. He has a career slash line of .248/.307/.423 in 877 plate appearances. His power is vanished, dropping from a .208 ISO in 2010 to just .123 this season. Hopefully, for his sake and Toronto’s, he’s able to figure things out back in Las Vegas.