A’s new faces: Brett Lawrie

As the only proven major leaguer in a trade that sent Josh Donaldson packing to Toronto, new third baseman Brett Lawrie has big shoes to fill.

The 25-year-old has been underwhelming since entering the bigs in 2012, though his original call up came with some rather lofty expectations. It’s become relatively clear that, while Lawrie wasn’t the biggest piece of the Donaldson deal, the expectations remain high in Oakland.

The Good

Some of the disappointment surrounding Lawrie is injury related; he hasn’t logged more than 450 plate appearances since 2012, nor has he played more than 125 games since then. As a result, it’s viable the world hasn’t seen Lawrie’s peak. His isolated power rating has gained steam since his rookie season, from .132 in 2012, .142 in 2013, to .174 in 2014.

It’s a trend reminiscent of Donaldson, who slugged his way to 29 homers last season.

Lawrie, though, comes from a home run paradise in Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Despite a few more at bats on the road than at home, he still has 16 jacks in visiting ballparks to 18 at home since 2012.

In all, though, Lawrie has shown he can hit in ballparks that are neutral or pitcher friendly.

The biggest factor in his power is the type of pitcher he’s facing. Lawrie hit 10 homers while facing righties last season, compared to only two versus southpaws.

The Bad

The biggest knock on Lawrie is durability. There’s no good in a power hitter who’s constantly improved if he’s parked on the trainers table.

There was a report or two that followed the Donaldson trade that Billy Beane wanted Donaldson to play more than the 156 games he did.

Bringing Lawrie aboard kind of puts the kibosh on that speculation since it’s a stretch to believe Lawrie will do better than his career best 125 games.

He’s also never displayed a keen eye for pitches, and has a reputation as wild swinger. He’s shown to be an average hitter thus far in his career, and it’s purely optimism that leads one to consider any substantial increase in performance.

The Verdict

There’s nothing wrong with optimism, so long as there are contingencies in place. Lawrie is a more cost effective third baseman that Josh Donaldson, though the 2014 All Star didn’t command a whole lot in arbitration.

And while Donaldson had a major slump halfway through last season, Lawrie is a big downgrade at the hot corner.

Beane may have long term expectations in mind, which seems most reasonable, but the general gut instinct is that Lawrie will not exceed a .280 BABIP nor .180 isolated power.

Fans should expect an average hitter, average defender, with room to grow. Anything more is a bonus, and would be fairly shocking.


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