Oakland Athletics: Time for Brett Lawrie to Break Out


There was a time where the idea of Brett Lawrie in an Oakland Athletics uniform would have fans salivating. In 2011, there may not have been a hotter prospect in baseball than Lawrie.

Playing for the Toronto Blue Jays’ Triple A affiliate in Las Vegas, Lawrie slashed .353/.415/.647 with a monstrous 1.076 OPS, and it didn’t stop once the Major Leagues came calling. Lawrie sported a .953 OPS in his 43 game stint in Toronto that season and was on pace for a 300-plus homer season if he played a full 162 games with the Jays.

Expectations were high for both the former Brewers’ prospect and the Blue Jays after the scorching start to Lawrie’s career. Unfortunately, he’s had a hard time replicating his initial success. Over the last three seasons, Lawrie has put up a below average .261/.316/.406 slash line, never quite recovering his impressive power potential from 2011.

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Lawrie has struggled since his promising start, but the bigger struggle has been just staying on the field. 2012 was the only year where Lawrie played in at least 125 games, and in 2014, Lawrie played in less than half of the Blue Jays’ games thanks to a broken finger and a strained oblique. With so many injuries, it’s easy to forget that Lawrie is only entering age 25 this season and still has plenty of potential.

Maybe all he needs to turn things around is a change of scenery, and he’ll get exactly that in 2015, thanks to the A’s.

It’s safe to say the deal that brought Lawrie to the A’s wasn’t the most popular move made in Oakland this offseason, as it sent their best position player and fan favorite Josh Donaldson over to Toronto. If Lawrie is able to stay on the field though, he could win the hearts of A’s fans very quickly.

According to Baseball-Reference, Lawrie’s 162-game projections have him hitting 20 home runs and posting a .748 OPS. While that still represents a drop in overall production from the hot corner, the A’s could certainly do worse. Plus, since Lawrie has never played a full season, those numbers could end up being even better.

Still, the loss of Donaldson will loom large if Lawrie can’t improve his game in 2015. Luckily, he already has a fan in A’s manager Bob Melvin, who spoke highly of the young third baseman:

"“I don’t know that you’ll find too many better athletes in the game of baseball”, Melvin said, “He’s fast, he’s a good defender. He’s got power.”"

Lawrie has all the tools to match or even eclipse Donaldson if he can stay healthy. It could be much easier for Lawrie to stay on the field this season too. Since joining the A’s, Lawrie has admitted that the artificial turf at Rogers Centre was a big reason for his frequent visits to the disabled list.

It’s not often that O.Co Coliseum is a step up from a player’s former home, but thus is the case for Lawrie. With less pressure from fans, no more astro turf and youth on his side, the stars may finally be aligning for Lawrie.

While fans hope that Lawrie can bring the same production that Donaldson brought, he’s sure to become a favorite based on his personality alone. Lawrie was adored in Toronto not only due to the fact that he’s a native Canadian but also for his intense playing style and passion he brings to the park everyday.

In an interview with Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News, Lawrie talked about his fiery playing style.

"“All the (Toronto) fans said I was a hockey player trapped in a baseball player’s body, because that’s how I go about my business and that’s just how I play,” Lawrie said. “My intensiveness, its that hockey player’s mentality. I took that as a positive, and I ran with it.”"

Lawrie’s playing style will play very well with the A’s fan base, but it means nothing if he’s not able to produce. High expectations have loomed over Lawrie his entire career, and being the only Canadian on the only Canadian Major League team certainly didn’t help his cause.

But for the first time in his career, Lawrie wont be hounded by fan hype like he was north of the border. Without the hype that once surrounding Lawrie and lowered expectations for the A’s in 2015, the timing is perfect for Lawrie to have his long awaited breakout season.

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