Being one of just a few Toronto Blue Jays regulars who is managing to finish the season (for now) on the field instead of on the DL or needing some sort of surgery, Brett Lawrie practically deserves a full round of applause for having lasted this long in this nightmare 2013 season without breaking down at the end.
As for what he’s brought to the field and at the plate, however … well, let’s just say it’s a mixed bag.
With a .255/.308/.402 triple-slash and a 1.2 fWAR through 410 PA after a delayed start to the season thanks to an ankle injury, 2013 could be more or less called the mulligan year to 2012’s down year. That said, there are only so many labels one can put on entire seasons before they become excuses, and Lawrie is treading dangerously close to that territory as the sample size increases on his confounding performance.
You see, it’s not as though the third baseman doesn’t have the tools to be a star. He was nearly there in his unforgettable 43-game, 2.5 fWAR debut in 2011, and whether it’s game-to-game or month-to-month like his fantastic Player of the Month-worthy August (.346/.397/.495), it’s crystal clear that the youngster has the athleticism and skills to become a top 3B in the game.
… which is why it’s all the more confusing when he continually squanders momentum and positives by reminding everyone that there is still mountains of work until he gets there.
It’s all part of the process of development for MLB players, I suppose, but the lack of consistency is particularly worrying for the Blue Jays going forward because of a couple of things; one, when Lawrie isn’t quite right, he’s basically not really good enough to be playing the big leagues at all (.664 OPS through July 31, .570 OPS, -0.2 fWAR in September).
Secondly, those downs are quickly outnumbering the ups, which is to say that instead of development since the big splash he made, the Blue Jays have only seen regression.
That’s not for the lack of trying, of course. There’s no doubting that Lawrie is one of the most excitable, 110-percent players on the team regardless of how he’s doing on the field and at the plate, and it’s this kind of drive and attitude that’s allowed him to show the occasional slashes of brilliance with his raw skills.
However, when he’s being out-valued by Mark DeRosa‘s eight games in September, and the fact that almost all of his 1.2 fWAR comes from August … you can see the problem with how he might fit into the 2014 Blue Jays.
That’s because despite everything that happened this season, Toronto is still expected to compete next year and beyond, and moves will more than likely be made to compliment this core group that GM Alex Anthopoulos has assembled. One simply does not look to rebuild with the likes of Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion on the field, and R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle on the mound.
One also does not go very far if one’s third basemen performs at below replacement levels for the majority of the season, and while Lawrie is far from done or a bust in any way at just 23, there are only so many growing pains that the team will be able to handle next season without risking shutting another year on their window of opportunity to make some noise in the AL East.
Unfortunately, Lawrie’s up-and-down ways (though mostly down) haven’t given the team a whole lot to go on as far as what to expect, which only makes the offseason work that much more difficult.