Toronto Blue Jays’ Brett Lawrie Is Baseball’s Next Big Thing

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane for a second. When The Sandlot gang saw Wendy Peffercorn lather up at the pool, most of the boys thought Wendy had no idea what she was doing. Squints, however, knew exactly what Wendy was doing. If you are wondering why this analogy has anything to do with Brett Lawrie, let me fill you in.

The Blue Jays acquired Lawrie from the Milwaukee Brewers in the Shaun Marcum deal. Granted, Marcum is a pretty good pitcher in his own right, but Brett Lawrie had all the potential to become the next great third baseman. Fortunately for Jays’ fans, their general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, knew exactly what he was doing.

Last season, with an OPS over 1.070 in AAA, Lawrie got his Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez on. The Blue Jays saw enough of their new toy to give him a spot on the major league roster, and Lawrie never looked back. He slugged .580 and had a 2.7 fWAR in 171 plate appearances with the big squad, earning an everyday spot for the team this season.

Now, even though it’s Spring Training, Brett Lawrie still crushes a lot. In 22 at-bats this Spring, Lawrie has 13 hits, six doubles, and four stolen bases. That 13-for-22 effort is good for .591 average – and by adding in those six doubles – his slugging percentage is over .900. Not bad, Brett. Not bad.

Surely, Spring Training means very little in the big scheme of things. But paired with his numbers last season in AAA and MLB, it’s reassuring to see Lawrie’s success carrying over for 2012. With Evan Longoria being the only exception, I believe Lawrie will be baseball’s best third baseman in 2012, which says a lot because I am an Adrian Beltre fanboy.

To put it simply, ignoring all the statistics, Lawrie has all the tools to become baseball’s next superstar. I’m sure Blue Jays’ fans know where Lawrie is hitting in the line-up, but I’m not 100% sure. However, if Lawrie is hitting ahead of Bautista, he will be even more dangerous.

Line-up protection is baseball’s version of the afterlife. Some believe in it because of what they have seen, while others take the scientific approach and say it’s a myth. I believe line-up protection exists in some capacity, but it’s not as important as others proclaim. In the case of Lawrie, if he works the count like he is capable of doing, he will see a lot of fastballs because no one will want to face Bautista with a man on base, especially a man as fast as Lawrie.

FanGraphs has Lawrie projected as a 6-win player, and I don’t disagree with that prediction whatsoever. Depending on how the Jays’ season goes, and the competition involved, Lawrie might become a MVP candidate with a 30-30 type season.

I, like many of you, should hop abroad the Brett Lawrie train before it runs you over the tracks.

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