2015 Fantasy Baseball: What to Make of Brett Lawrie
It feels like Brett Lawrie has been around forever, so it is easy to forget that he is still just 25-years-old. Earlier this week, I traded for Lawrie and Mallex Smith in a dynasty league. I gave the opposing owner Daniel Norris, so this is a play on speculation and moving an arm for a few young bats. The more I looked and continue to look into Lawrie, however, the more confident I am that he is ready to produce right now and should be able to continue serviceable fantasy production in the future.
Lawrie got off to a very bad start in Oakland, as he ended his first month as the heir to Josh Donaldson’s third base throne with a measly .229/.270/.325 line. Since then, Lawrie has been on the upswing though as he has hit .313/.336/.438 with two home runs and a stolen base. The increased production has been nice aside from a hard to believe 31-4 strikeout to walk ratio in that time frame. This slow start and second month improvement should be no surprise though, as Lawrie has a 74 wRC+ in the month of April for his career and a 99 wRC+ in May. June has traditionally been his best month, with a career 154 wRC+, which is hopefully a sign of good things to come.
This version of Brett Lawrie seems starkly different from past versions, which is nothing new when you look at Lawrie’s career progression. He started his career off with solid walk and strikeout rates, then proceeded to be a below average hitter the next two seasons and last year had a 101 wRC+ and 12 home runs in 70 games with no stolen base attempts. Needless to say, it is difficult to predict what Lawrie is going to be on a year to year basis.
When you consider that Lawrie started his career off with a 9.4% walk rate and 18.1% strikeout rate, the decline of the former and increase of the latter down to a 3.3% walk rate and 27.5% strikeout rate is certainly a concern.
Aside from that very real concern, the positives I see with Lawrie come from his batted ball profile. So far, Lawrie has stayed up the middle more than he ever has in his career at 40% of batted balls being to centerfield, more than both the league average and his career mark. He has also skimmed down his infield fly ball rate, which was an astronomical 18.1%. So far this year, Lawrie has hit just two infield fly balls, a 4.2% rate that is much lower than his 11.4% career rate. It is likely that his .377 BABIP is unsustainable, but his batted ball profile has improved from last year so a number much higher than his career mark of .302 is not an unreasonable expectation.
The hope with Lawrie is that he is a reasonable option at third and or second with some power and some speed. We would like to see him run a bit more, but the only thing it seems Lawrie really needs to do to have his best season since his rookie campaign is straighten out his strikeout-to-walk ratio. If that regresses back toward his career norm, Lawrie is going to be a nice addition to most rosters, and I will be very happy with my trade, despite it being more of a long term play.