Brett Lawrie: Is He A Top 5 Third Baseman In 2012?

TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 8: Brett Lawrie #13 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a double against the Boston Red Sox during MLB action at the Rogers Centre September 8, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

With about 20 games left in the season, I am going to push the Roto Roundup to the side, and start looking at some players who could have an impact in 2012 offseason rankings.

Last offseason, the Blue Jays traded one of their top starting pitchers in Shaun Marcum to the Brewers for outfield prospect Brett Lawrie. Soon after, the Blue Jays announced that they were moving him to third base. There were some who questioned the decision, and some thought Lawrie would not stick at third.

Well, from the looks of how well Lawrie is hitting playing third base this season, they made the right decision. Lawrie started the season at AAA Las Vegas hitting .353-.415-.661 with 18 HRs, 61 RBI, 64 runs, 13 SBs and 48 extra base hits in 69 games hitting in the hitter's haven that is the Pacific Coast League. You would not be ridiculed for questioning whether his triple slash line was boosted by hitting in all the hitters parks in the PCL. 

In his 292 AAA at bats, he had a BABIP of .383 with an excellent K rate of just 16.1% and a walk rate of 7.9%, which is respectable. Lawrie's ISO of .308 ranked 5th in the PCL behind hitters like Anthony Rizzo and Jerry Sands. So, how would Lawrie hit once called up to the big leagues?

More on Lawrie after the jump:

Well, if his first 111 at bats in the big leagues are any indication, Lawrie is going to continue to hit at the major league level, and hit very well. So well, that he is probably going to get plenty of love from the fantasy baseball writers this offseason. Here is what he has done in his first 32 games in the big leagues:

Triple slash line: .324-.400-.676 with a .354 BABIP

HR: 8

RBI: 21

Runs: 19

SBs: 5

Extra base hits: 19

K%: 19.2%

BB%: 9.6%

And he has hit this well hitting in the lower half of the Blue Jays lineup. I don't see that lasting much longer. He has garnered most of his at bats hitting 7th in the Blue Jays lineup. If you project his stats over a full season, per Baseball-Reference, he would hit 40 HRs, drive in 106 runs, score 96 runs and steal 30 bases. Of course, he won't do that this year. Or next. But, what can we expect from him in 2012?

I could see Lawrie hitting .290 with 25 HRs, 85 RBIs and 20+ SBs in 2012. Maybe I am a bit optimistic on him. But where would that put him in my third base rankings for 2012? Well, his teammate Jose Bautista will still have third base eligibility in 2012, so he will probably rank #1. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria will probably follow Bautista in my rankings, even though he has had a down year at the plate this season. I would also rank David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Aramis Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Beltre ahead of Lawrie in 2012. 

But, if Lawrie can reach my projections in 2012, he would be a top 5 third baseman next year, mainly due to his ability to steal bases. There might be some fantasy writers who may downgrade Alex Rodriguez for his poor performance at the plate this season, with good reason too. ARod's power numbers are in a free fall this season, as he has hit just 15 HRs in his 335 at bats, and his HR/FB rate of 15% is the worst of his career.

Mets third baseman David Wright is the only third baseman who could steal 20+ bases in 2012, but back injuries have sapped his power this season, as he has hit just 12 HRs in his 312 at bats. Looking at his ISO trend the past few years-.232-.140-.220-.189, one has to wonder if Wright will return to the power hitter he was in 2010. 

One can make a case against a few other third baseman to push Lawrie into the top 5 in 2012, but I am not ready to annoint him a top 5 third baseman based on 111 at bats. But if he can continue to hit like this the rest of this month, Lawrie will be getting plenty of love from this fantasy writer in the offseason. 

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