January 16, 2013
The Keeper Reaper
First, Third, and DH for 1/16/13
Lawrie had an excellent 2011 major-league debut (albeit one tempered by two separate hand injuries that cost him more than a month’s worth of games), posting a .293/.373/.580 line with nine homers and seven steals in 171 plate appearances. Fantasy owners gobbled him up in the early rounds of the 2012 draft—even in expert leagues—and Lawrie seemed to be paying them off over the first half of the season. Through the end of June, he was hitting .293/.341/.438 with eight longballs and 11 steals in 320 plate appearances.
Signs of trouble were already emerging, though, as Lawrie’s 9.4 percent walk rate in 2011 had already been nearly cut in half to 5.3 percent, and his BABIP sat at .321. The latter was consistent with his elevated rates from the minors (where his BABIP averaged .341), but it was still high for the majors. Sure enough, Lawrie hit .244/.299/.355 the rest of the way, his BABIP falling back to a more expected .294 even as he regained some patience, walking 7.4 percent of the time. He again lost more than a month to an injury—this time to an oblique strain—which bears some of the blame for his .224/.297/.336 line when he returned.
Other indicators for Lawrie were a mixed bag in 2012. He balanced his eroding patience with a contact rate that rose from 77.9 percent in 2011 to 83.6 in 2012. His 9 percent HR/FB rate—more than cut in half from his 17 percent rate in 2011—shows that few of his 11 home runs were lucky. That, combined with his 30 percent flyball rate, doesn’t indicate a power breakout is on the horizon. And, as Derek Carty observed in December, his new manager could diminish his steals.
As always with highly touted top prospects, it’s easy to forget that Lawrie is only 22, so there’s plenty of time for development down the road, but that youth also makes his injury history that much more disturbing; health is a skill that Lawrie still needs to demonstrate at the big-league level. After ranking 195th overall in mixed leagues and 86th in AL-only leagues in 2012, Lawrie could end up being undervalued on draft day, but he’s unlikely to deliver top-notch value in 2013. His long-term outlook, however, remains good enough to make him a solid keeper in most leagues; owners in the shallowest of leagues or who want to win now are the only ones who should kick him back into the player pool.