Entering the 2012 campaign Brett Lawrie was one of the more sought after young players in the league. Not only was he playing a prime fantasy position, but he made a long-lasting impression after his recall in 2011 (.293, 9 HR, 7 SB over 150 AB). Unfortunately his season, which is not a complete disaster, hasn’t come close to matching the hype:
222 At Bats
.275 Batting Average (61 Hits)
5 Home Runs
8 Stolen Bases
.319 On Base Percentage
.383 Slugging Percentage
.313 Batting Average on Balls in Play
The numbers just aren’t there, as his OBP (.373) and SLG (.383) are both down significantly. It’s not that he’s having poor luck compared to last season (.318 BABIP in ’11) or that he’s striking out even more (16.4% strikeout rate, compared to an 18.1% mark in ’11). In fact, his line drive rate is actually up as well (17.9% vs. 16.9%). So where is the problem?
Obviously, as we can tell from the SLG, he isn’t generating as many extra base hits. In 2011 he had 8 doubles and 4 triples to go along with his 9 HR. Not only are the home runs down thus far, but he also has fewer doubles (7) and triples (1). The problem? For one thing, his groundball rate has jumped from 38.1% in 2011 to this season’s 51.6%.
That definitely helps explain the drop in power, as does his fall in HR/FB (currently at 8.9%). It is hard to produce a significant number of extra base hits when he is driving the ball into the ground that often.
Is it something that he can’t correct? Of course not. In early June his groundball rate is down to 39.4% (though he may be swinging for the fences, as his fly ball rate is up to 48.5%). That’s something we will need to keep an eye, but it’s a small sample size and not something that I would get overly concerned about.
What’s more important for fantasy owners is his .492 SLG in the minor leagues, including a .661 mark in 292 Triple-A AB (Pacific Coast League). It’s a slow start, but the potential is definitely there for him to get scorching hot and start racking up the extra base hits.
The other issue, with the OBP, is that the walks are down this season. Over his minor league career he posted an 8.0% walk rate and was at 9.4% in the Majors last season. This year, however, he’s at 5.0%.
Of course, there is a caveat to that number. In early June he’s upped the number to 9.5%, showing renewed patience as he’s been inserted into the leadoff spot. I’d look for that OBP to continue to rise, which will help him across the board.
The numbers have not been what fantasy owners had hoped for, but we are still just in early June. Do we really want to panic and pull the plug on a player with his type of upside? He’s already shown signs of correcting the issues and, while we need to keep an eye on the fly ball rate, I would anticipate the extra base hits to start to pile up. Once that happens, the numbers are going to start to look a lot better.
Yes, the RBI could be down as he’s currently hitting in the leadoff spot, but that’s the only potential issue. If someone in your league has grown frustrated with his slow start, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.