It was the bottom of the sixth with one out and the bases loaded. Rookie sensation Brett Lawrie dug in with an opportunity to shine. A hitter’s count emerges, and everybody in the ballpark started to anticipate that something big was about to happen. The half-empty Rogers Centre was doing its best impersonation of a sold-out crowd. It must not have been Rob Ford bobblehead night.
What happened next was the city of Toronto witnessing the birth of its next star in the making.
Lawrie indeed went deep in that at-bat, but the towering grand slam is not what won fans over, it was the level of emotion he displayed while rounding the bases and into the dugout, not to mention the amount of excitement it created across the city. Ever since that moment in August of 2011, he could do no wrong in the eyes of the Toronto Blue Jays faithful.
It’s been three years since Lawrie arrived on the scene, and the grace period is about to hit its conclusion. A fanbase can only give out free passes for so long, and a level of doubt soon begins to rise. The upcoming 2014 season will prove to be a defining moment for the Blue Jays franchise as well as the direction of Lawrie’s career, which so far has been a three part combination of power, speed and an episode of Lost.
There is no denying that the third baseman has the tools needed to become a big-time talent, but the inconsistencies in his game continue to keep him from ascending to the next level. His flashes of brilliance in the second half of 2013 that saw him absolutely zone in and rake to the tune of a .946 OPS in the month of August only help mask his dreadful start to open the year. His slash line before going on the DL for the second time at the end of May was an unacceptable .209/.268/.374.
Part of the blame can be attributed to that very fact as Lawrie has the inability to stay on the field. However, the real issue is that Lawrie’s potential will never be maximized if he is unable to fix his erratic and free-swinging plate discipline. Only Vladimir Guerrero can pull that off.
You can be a bull in a china-shop while guarding the line at the hot corner; you can have that hockey player mentality while trying to steal home, but what needs to slow down is his approach in the batter’s box.
Lawrie dominated in the minors and quickly burst onto the scene in his rookie year, but he has showed over his last two campaigns that his shining moments are not yet sustainable enough to put it all together for a full season. There are concerning downward trends in his on-base and slugging percentages, as well as his walk-rate; casting a shadow on what type of player Lawrie will eventually become.
The 24-year old has the potential to be a perennial All-Star and is capable of becoming the face of the Blue Jays franchise. A world where Lawrie is discussed in the same sentence as Evan Longoria and David Wright is highly possible. His final 61 games of .291/.315/.422 to go along with five long balls and seven steals is a solid enough foundation to build
around. If Lawrie ever combines his Pete Rose-mentality with a little discipline, he could be special. It’s make or break time for the third baseman and 2014 is the year we find out.