Lawrie turning into a complete player

Lawrie turning into a complete player

Lawrie turning into a complete player
TORONTO -- Brett Lawrie is starting to turn into the complete package that many envisioned that he'd be.

Lawrie teased fans with his energetic and exceptional play over a brief period last season and showed a glimpse of the type of player he is bound to become.

His play of late has impressed manager John Farrell.

"He's become more confident with games played at [third base]," Farrell said. "I don't think we work on his range -- his range is what it is because of his athleticism. ... He's been outstanding regardless of what statistical evaluation will show just watching his range.

"He's got the ability to make not only the average or everyday play but the well-above average and spectacular play. We are fortunate to be able to watch him day in and day out."

Lawrie's biggest knock before he arrived last season was his defense. The 22-year-old switched positions multiple times in the Minors and had to learn third base on the fly, but he has silenced the skeptics with his phenomenal play -- and the defensive stats support him.

According to Baseball Reference, Lawrie's 2.5 defensive WAR (wins above replacement) is tops among all players in the game. His 3.0 WAR, which combines both offensive and defensive elements, is third in baseball, behind former MVPs Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto.

Fangraphs, another website that tracks advanced statistics, uses a tool called UZR (ultimate zone rating) to evaluate a player's defensive value. Lawrie is the second-best defensive third baseman in the Majors according to that metric.

"This didn't happen just because we put him over there, he made it happen," Farrell said about Lawrie's ability to play third.

Farrell sees a young, mature player coming into his own, one who is starting to figure things out at the plate as well. But he admits there is still work to be done.

"He has shown some signs of late of driving the ball with a little bit more consistency," Farrell said. "He probably isn't on time as much as last year, and that is a continued work in progress.

"When a guy comes up to the big leagues the first time, they are typically on a roll, and they are unknown. Now all of a sudden, you start the first full season, where pitchers have a little idea of a given player -- they are able to command their stuff with much more consistency. I think it's harder for a position player in their first full season to get on that same type of roll that they might have shown in 150 at-bats a year ago. That is just the level of competition."

Lawrie burst onto the scene in 2011, with nine home runs and a .958 OPS in 150 at-bats. This season he has four homers and a .698 OPS, but he has picked it up of late.

Entering play on Saturday, Lawrie had collected a hit in eight of his past nine games and has squared up on some balls really hard, including a three-hit effort against the Orioles on Friday.