In the wake of the Oakland Athletics' big trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, we are left with four new players and little information on them. Fortunately, Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter is here to open our eyes and shed some light on things. Here's his rundown on the prize of the deal, infielder Brett Lawrie, as well as a few quick words on the prospects Oakland received. Note that we'll have further scouting reports on the prospects coming in the next day or two.
Take it away, Tom:
I'll state off the top that, as a Blue Jays fan, I really like this trade, not that the A's aren't getting some players with potential.
If you asked me a few weeks ago which Jay was the least likely to be traded, I would have said Brett Lawrie. Maybe mostly because he's Canadian (though, as he was born at the opposite end of the country; his home town is actually much closer to Oakland than Toronto). I thought he was the one guy who was a safe bet to be on the team in 2015 and beyond.
Lawrie is one of my favorite players to watch. When we traded for him, we were told he had limited defensive ability but we were told how great his bat was going to be. He's pretty much turned out the exact opposite. On defense, he makes a highlight reel play per day. He has great reflexes and a great arm at third base. He'll make some errors, which generally come from trying to do too much, too quick. He played some second for us, but he's better left at third.
With the bat, he's a Red Bull infused mess of tics and wiggles. His swing has so many moving parts that, at the start of the season, it seems to take him a long time to get his timing down. Unfortunately for Brett, it seemed like every time he had finally worked out his timing, he'd end up getting injured and would have to start all over again when he returned.
He does play the game like there is no tomorrow. He is full speed all the time. He goes top speed to first on every hit. He runs the bases like he doesn't understand that the other team can put him out. That makes him fun to watch but it adds to his injury troubles. He's played in 302 of the Jays' 486 games in the last three years. He has to find a way to stay in the lineup. If you can find a way to keep him healthy, you'll have a good player. Maybe if you can get him to cut back on the Red Bull intake he'll be able to keep himself calm enough to stay on the field.
Brett has suggested that the hard turf at Rogers Centre is part of the cause of his injury troubles. I don't buy it. His major injuries have been: a broken finger (twice: once fielding, once hit by pitch), a wrecked ankle from sliding into second on a steal, an injured leg from falling into a Yankee Stadium camera pit and two oblique strains. The oblique strains would worry me the most. They caused him to miss the start of the 2013 season and the last two months of the 2014 season.
The term that comes up the most is "intense." If I was a teammate, I'd want a locker on the opposite side of the clubhouse. If he could learn to turn that off occasionally, he'd be better off. If you want to make some money, after about the second week of spring training, sell his A's teammates on Brett-cancelling headphones. If you can't do that, buy the rights to sell Red Bull to the team. Brett alone will send your kids to college.
"COACH SAYS WE'RE OUT OF RED BULL BUT I'M GONNA CHECK UP HERE CAUSE MAYBE THERE'S STILL MORE NOPE OK WELL IT WAS WORTH A TRY."
Of the prospects you're getting, Franklin Barretto is the best of the group (and also the furthest away from the majors). He played for Vancouver in the Northwest League, short-season A-ball, hitting .311/.384/.481 with 29 steals in 73 games. He's a shortstop now; he might end up moving to second or center field, but he has enough offensive upside for any of the three spots. He has a good bat, good speed, some power and doesn't turn 19 until February. He was No. 5 on our 2014 Bluebird Banter Top Prospect List. He could be a star. The only real worry is that he doesn't walk much, just 26 times in 328 plate appearances, but he's young enough to improve.
Sean Nolin was No. 7 on our prospect list. He turns 25 the day after Christmas. He made 17 starts in Triple-A Buffalo, putting up a 3.50 ERA with 35 walks and 74 strikeouts in 87⅓ innings. He also pitched one inning for the Jays in 2014. He's always had good numbers in the minors, but it didn't seem like the front office really liked him all that much (they have been wrong before). He's a big guy, 6'5 lefty. He doesn't throw all that hard, low 90s. He seems like the type of pitcher who will have to throw a bunch of major league innings to figure out how to get MLB batters out, but, given time, he should be okay at the back end of the rotation.
Before the 2014 season, Kendall Graveman wasn't considered a prospect, after being an eighth-round draft pick in 2013. This year he picked up a four-seam fastball and suddenly became a prospect. He pitched in four levels of the Jays' minor league system and was a September call-up. As much as I tend to discount great seasons that come out of nowhere, as well as the idea that adding a new pitch can turn a non-prospect into a star, Graveman might be the guy who makes or breaks the trade for Oakland. He had 1.83 ERA in 27 starts across four minor league levels with 31 walks and 115 strikeouts in 167⅓ innings. Even in a breakout season, he didn't get enough strikeouts to get me really excited about him. The A's should start him in Triple-A and see if he can repeat his 2013 season.
Thanks for the report, Tom! Does anyone else feel like Lawrie is quite similar to Donaldson in a lot of ways, between intense defense at third and a wild swing that needs to be refined? The A's got Donaldson's swing in order, so maybe they can do it again. (Also, the part about acquiring him as an all-bat third baseman and then watching him become an ace defender with offensive troubles reminded me of Eric Chavez.)