The true mark of a good fantasy baseball manager isn’t just knowing where to pick the top players, but also knowing when to take a chance on a guy that will fly under the radar on draft day. Being prepared and knowing which players are due for comeback or breakout years are what make the difference between a good team and a winning team.
With that said, this series is intended to help you identify some of those sleepers. During the last edition, we talked about Johan Santana. This time around, we’re looking for a player that may be able to yield some offensive help.
Brett Lawrie – 3B – Toronto Blue Jays
Third base is going to be one of those solid fantasy positions where you can get a great player in the first 10 available, but the drop off is severe from there. Still, there are a few sleepers to be had here for the patient drafter, including Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie and another that will be highlighted in a later edition. Just how underrated will Lawrie be on draft day? Well, because Jose Bautista will qualify for the 2012 season at the hot corner, he won’t even be the best available on his own team. Still, just ask the Milwaukee Brewers if they would like a do-over on the trade that sent Lawrie to Toronto for Shawn Marcum.
Lawrie showed in a 43-game audition that he had the stuff to hold his own in the American League East, hitting .293 with 9 home runs and 25 RBI in just 150 official at-bats. 2012 will be a good chance for him to show if he’s the real deal though, as the Blue Jays will be relying on him to help protect uber-slugger Jose Bautista. Most teams are going to take the chance with the youngster as opposed to facing the most dangerous hitter in the AL the last two seasons. The power for Lawrie is legit though, as he powered 18 homers out at Single and Triple-A before getting his big shot. Did I mention he also stole 25 bases across all levels last season?
Lawrie will be just 22 when he enters the 2012 season and as just 1200 at-bats to his name in the minors, so he may experience a bit of a sophomore slump to begin the season as teams get a real scouting report on him. The key as with any young player is how well he adjusts to those reports and puts holes in them.
Lawrie’s defense at the hot corner leaves a little bit to be desired, but that could be said for any young third baseman. Still, not many of them have to play on the turf at Rogers Centre either. Overall, Lawrie made 22 errors last season; his first season after his defense at second base pushed him to third. Long-term, he projects more as a corner outfielder, but that truly has no bearing on his value in fantasy leagues unless your play in one that detracts for errors.
Lawrie plays in the offensive juggernaut that is the American League East and plays his home games in one of the best hitter’s parks in the game. He may not be a .300 hitter for a full year, but somewhere in the low .280’s wouldn’t be expecting too much. The key for him will be the combination of both power and speed at a position that doesn’t generally give you both.
Overall, Lawrie projects as a solid mid-rounder after you’ve used the first few rounds to grab the best possible available players. Even if you’ve selected another third baseman, he may be a solid choice as either a utility hitter or as later trade bait when you need to make a move. Either way, he’s not a guy that should make it to the waiver wire after the draft and you should keep him on your watch list.
- Brett Lawrie, baseball-reference.com