LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Brett Lawrie was taken in the first round of the 2008 Draft, No. 16 overall, by the Brewers, he was known mostly for his bat and his athleticism. Not much has changed in that regard for the 20-year-old from British Columbia.
As an amateur, Lawrie had played a variety of positions but never had a true defensive home. Many teams liked him behind the plate, where his arm strength -- which was a plus at times -- and his agility would make him a very good catcher in the future. He didn't play for the Brewers the summer he was drafted, going straight to instructional league play after suiting up for Team Canada. That fall, he immediately began making the transition to second base.
While that's still a work in progress, the Brewers were pleased with how Lawrie developed after his first full season, and a scout who saw him play in 2010 on more than one occasion thinks he'll be just fine. He still needs refinement and to improve his hands, but he's fearless and has the chance to be an average second baseman defensively.
In the end, though, it's his bat that has allowed him to move fairly quickly and will get him to the big leagues. The No. 26 prospect on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects rankings before the 2010 season, Lawrie is an above-average hitter with plus bat speed and strong hands that give him above-average to plus power potential. He can hit to all fields and should hit for average and power in the future. He's an above-average runner who stole 30 bases this past year, though he may not be a major base-stealing threat down the road. One scout compared him to former big league second baseman Bret Boone.
The Brewers pushed Lawrie fairly aggressively, largely because of his hitting skills. He began his career at full-season Wisconsin in 2009, and after hitting .274/.348/.454 in 105 games at age 19, Lawrie was double-jumped to Double-A to close out the '09 season. That's where he spent all of 2010 as one of the youngest regulars in the Southern League. Lawrie was a midseason and postseason All-Star in the league and attended his second straight XM All-Star Futures Game. He finished the year with a .285/.346/.451 line, and while he hit just eight home runs, he did have 36 doubles and 16 triples in a tough league for hitters. He has absolutely punished left-handed pitching in his brief career, with a .333 average in 243 at-bats against southpaws.
There has been some buzz about Lawrie's attitude, and not in a positive way. The Brewers reportedly wanted Lawrie to play in the Arizona Fall League this year, but the prospect begged off. Still, some of it might be in the eye of the beholder. What one person may see as bad makeup another might see as the kind of confidence a team would want from its players. If one observer was turned off by Lawrie's apparent bad attitude, another called him a true gamer with leadership ability. Regardless of where one stands on that issue, though, it's a fairly universal belief that the Blue Jays got a very good young hitter in return for Shaun Marcum, one who could be big league-ready in the not-too-distant future.