2008 Draft Day Spotlight: Brett Lawrie
Canadian high school hitter Brett Lawrie has been on fire as the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft approaches on June 5. He recently hit .486 (17-for-35) on Team Canada's national junior team's spring tour in the Dominican Republic, while playing against Major League Baseball Dominican Summer League teams. Lawrie had eight homers and 24 RBIs in total and was the talk of the baseball draft world after hitting five home runs in one day during a doubleheader last week. He sprayed the homers from foul pole to foul pole.
Thanks to the timely hitting, Lawrie may be selected within the first 15 picks of the draft, and is easily considered the top draft-eligible amateur in Canada. According to Baseball America, Lawrie possesses one of the most pro-ready bats amongst the prep ranks in North America.
Lawrie returned to North America from the Dominican Republic on Friday night. He took time out of his increasingly busy schedule to speak with Baseball Analysts from a hotel suite in Minnesota.
MH: You just got back from the Dominican, where you were playing with Team Canada’s national junior team, didn’t you?
Lawrie: Yes, we did. Yesterday.
MH: And how long were you down there?
Lawrie: We were down there for nine days.
MH: Was that your first time in the Dominican?
Lawrie: Nope, it was my third time, actually.
MH: And you’ve done a similar thing each time with the club?
Lawrie: Yeah, but I haven’t hit eight home runs like that before.
MH: And how was the trip?
Lawrie: It was fun. It was good to get some at-bats and get together with the guys again. We’re coming up to a world championship pretty quick… It was a fun trip and I think we bonded well as a team. We played unreal and we should have been 8-0 down there, but we were 7-1; so it was a good trip. We played real well as a team and we did what we needed to do for a win. No one was selfish - we just played hard.
MH: Were you happy with your own personal results?
Lawrie: I couldn’t be more happy. I was seeing the ball really well. I wasn’t going out there looking to hit home runs. I was just going up there trying to hit the ball squarely and the results happened. It worked out for the best.
MH: Were you surprised by the success that you had?
Lawrie: I wasn’t overly surprised, because I know I can do that. I do it in my batting practices and stuff. It was just a matter of doing it in a game situation. I was really just seeing the ball well; I didn’t have to adjust to anything. I just played and it worked out for the best. It was a fun time.
MH: Did you notice a difference in the quality of pitching, compared to what you had been seeing? I mean, these were professional pitchers.
Lawrie: Yeah, they’re professional pitchers… but I’ve seen them for a while now. They’re just other pitchers to me. I’m not overwhelmed by them. Maybe for some guys who are seeing them for the first time it’s like, “Oh God, I’ve never seen this before.” But I’ve seen it since I was 15, so while I was down in the DR it wasn’t overwhelming at all. It was just another day.
MH: Have you been surprised by the increased interest from scouts? Your name is starting to come up a lot in the media now.
Lawrie: A little bit, but I don’t really focus on that aspect, you know, hearing my name and seeing it in the papers, or on the computers or at Baseball America and stuff. I’m just working towards June 5 and I’m just going out and playing. I can’t control what people are saying and doing, so I’m just doing what I can; I’m on the field and playing my game.
MH: What do you have planned for the rest of the week leading up to the draft?
Lawrie: I have some workouts that I’m doing right now and hopefully I should be home [in British Columbia] on the fourth [of June].
MH: What do you plan to do on Draft Day?
Lawrie: If everything goes as planned I’ll be at home... with my family. But I’m not too sure yet.
MH: So you think you’ll be watching the draft on TV or online?
Lawrie: Yeah, I’ll be watching it on TV.
MH: Now, you’re committed to Arizona State, right?
MH: What attracted you to that college program?
Lawrie: Well, I’ve been to Arizona a number of times with my Langley Blaze team that I play with back home. I’ve had a chance to see the campus and I’ve gotten a tour. I’ve been all around and seen the campus, the field and the facilities. I’ve trained there in the off-season. It just felt right; you get that sort of feeling in your stomach that it’s right. In my mind, and in my family’s... we made a decision that it worked for me. So I signed the [letter of intent] and away we go.
MH: Do you have a preference right now, whether to go pro or go to college?
Lawrie: Yeah, my preference right now, obviously, is to go in the draft… but if something doesn’t go right college is a good back-up plan. But as of right now, I am 100 percent on the draft.
MH: What is the most attractive reason, for you, to go pro now?
Lawrie: I know I can hit over .400 against those guys when I’m 15, so who says I’m not going to do it when I’m 20, you know? I can play with those guys; I know I can. On almost every trip I’ve hit over .400 against them. Not much is going to change. I’m just playing and trying not to do too much… I’m just having fun.
MH: Do you have a preference where you get drafted? Is that something you’re worrying about?
Lawrie: It’s not a huge thing. Right now I’m not focusing on that sort of thing. I can’t control what people do. Whatever happens on the day, happens… I’m just ready to rock and roll. I’m ready to do what I want to do: I’m ready to play pro ball.
MH: Do you have any specific teams that you hope to play for?
Lawrie: Not really. I respect all the teams and I’m just looking forward to playing pro ball and I’m ready to go.
MH: Are there specific teams that are showing a lot of interest in you?
Lawrie: Yup, there have been. Obviously there have been a few, so hopefully they come forward and some other teams will probably come out of the hole at the end but we’ll just see on the day.
MH: Did you have a team that you followed while growing up in B.C.?
Lawrie: Not really. I’d rather play the sport than watch it, you know… If a game was on I’d just watch it. I wasn’t thinking about who was playing; I’d just watch the game.
MH: I’ve read a lot of scouts' opinions about your ability. Everyone is enamored with your bat, obviously. But there are questions about your defensive abilities and lack of a position. Do you have a preference where you would like to play?
Lawrie: Yeah, I can play the infield… I’ve played it with Team Canada. I can play second base, I can play the outfield; I can play anywhere and I’m really versatile. I can play third base real well. I’ve challenged myself in the last little bit with catching. As of right now I’m a catcher and I want to always have the ball in my hand. It’s been great. I’ve been able to control the pitchers and have a good relationship with them on Team Canada. I’m having fun and I want to catch.
MH: Do you have any specific career goals at this point, aside from playing professional baseball?
Lawrie: I really don’t. All I want to do is play in the big leagues and I want to get there as quick as I can. I don’t plan on staying in the minors for five years. I plan on doing it in a year-and-a-half.
MH: You mentioned you really didn’t have any favorite teams, but did you have any favorite players while growing up?
Lawrie: Everyone always has their favorite players. You have Alex Rodriguez… One of the guys I really like to watch is Russell Martin, a Canadian guy [with the Los Angeles Dodgers]. He’s a catcher. He played on the national team, the national junior team. I spent some time with him in the off-season and I trained with him. The national team coach loves him as well. He didn’t start catching until he came out of junior college, so I’m kind of doing the same thing that he did. I got a chance to see the way he lives and it’s a pretty cool life. I’m ready to go.
MH: Did you learn anything specific from Russell?
Lawrie: Yeah, we had lots of talks about stuff like conducting yourself on and off the field. From a catching standpoint we worked on blocking, and a whole bunch of stuff. I also hung out with Dustin Pedroia from the Boston Red Sox. I went over to his house for dinner and I saw how those guys conduct themselves. It’s a real treat and a pleasure to be in the presence of those guys. They took the time out of their lives to have an 18-year-old kid live with them. It was a fun time; it was cool. They’re just guys. They’re not people who are trying to be billionaires. They just like to have fun and do the things that guys do.
MH: Have you had a chance to talk to people about what to expect with life in the minor leagues?
Lawrie: Yeah, I’ve heard numerous things. Everyone says it’s a grind. There’s no doubt about it, but I’m ready to play. You have other guys battling for your position… and that’s where my competitiveness comes in. If I can do what I can do with Team Canada, there is no reason why I can’t do it with a minor league team.
MH: Let’s write a scouting report on Brett Lawrie. What do you think are your strengths as a baseball player?
Lawrie: I have the ability to be the spark on a team, whether it’s a line drive into the gap, a home run or something like that. I think I have a really good feel for the clubhouse and I like to mess around with the guys… I’m a good teammate and I can pick guys up when they’re down. I know when it’s time to get serious. My bat, though, is obviously going to carry me.
MH: What part of your game needs the most work to get to that next level and to make it to the major leagues?
Lawrie: I guess consistency. It’s important to have the right mind set and attitude day-in-and-day-out…
MH: How long have you been playing baseball?
Lawrie: I’ve played baseball all my life… I’ve played a number of different sports. I played basketball - I was a big basketball player from Grade 8 all the way up to Grade 11. I can also play golf. Baseball is the big thing, though, I’ve played since I was six or seven. But I’ve never played with my own age group. I’ve always played with guys that are older and I think it’s helped with playing against professional guys.
MH: What made baseball win out over the other sports you’ve played, like basketball?
Lawrie: Well, for basketball, you look at the guys in the NBA and then me and I’m only 6-0, 200 pounds. Those guys are 6-8. I guess, though, I just really didn’t have the same love for other sports and with baseball you have a guy like Dustin Pedroia who’s 5-8 and 160 pounds competing out there. There is no reason why this 6-0, 200 pound guy can’t get it done either.
MH: Has your family been supportive in all this?
Lawrie: Oh yeah, I could never have done it without them. My mom, my dad, my sister… Everyone is behind me and everyone is in my corner. We’ve had fun as a group and we’re all ready to go. My adviser has been there every step of the way as well.
MH: When you’re not on a ball diamond, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Lawrie: I’m just like any other kid and I’m still in high school. I’ve got my graduation coming up and I’m looking forward to that. I just like to hang out with friends and I like to watch TV and play a few video games here and there. I like to hang out with the family and just have fun.
MH: Do your friends get on you about all this attention you’re getting?
Lawrie: Oh yeah, sometimes they do. It’s fun for them as well because they get to hear all this stuff. It’s a fun time and you only go through it once in your life. It’s been a real treat, all this stuff that’s gone on. My friends have been behind me as well and we have fun talking about it and we joke around.
MH: If you were not looking at a career as a baseball player, what profession do you think you’d go into?
Lawrie: I haven’t really thought about that, because I’ve always wanted to be a baseball player. I haven’t looked into other fields.
MH: I have one more question for you… and it might be a tough one so take your time. Why should a Major League Baseball club use its No. 1 pick on Brett Lawrie?
Lawrie: A team should use its No. 1 pick on me because I think I have that spark. I look at Dustin Pedroia as an example. He is the clubhouse. From what I’ve heard from all the other big league guys, he’s the spark in that clubhouse. I can see myself being that guy too. I know I can get it done and I have the tools, the abilities and the right mindset. I have a good head on my shoulders and I think I can help a ball team win. In the end it is about winning and good team chemistry helps you win a ring.
MH: Well, that’s all my questions. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Lawrie: Nope. I’d just like to thank you for taking the time.
MH: No problem. It’s been a real pleasure to speak with you and I look forward to seeing how Draft Day plays out for you.
Team Canada’s national junior head coach Greg Hamilton spoke briefly with Baseball Analysts:
MH: What are Brett's strengths as a ballplayer?
GH: He has tremendous athletic confidence and total belief in his ability to excel at the highest levels of the game. [He has] no fear in any situation, and plus bat speed, which produces power to all parts of the ballpark. [Brett has] excellent hands to hit and the ability to square the ball up at the point of contact.
MH: What does he need to work on to take his game to that 'next level?'
GH: Brett needs to define himself defensively. He has the potential to catch, play second, third or left in the professional game.
MH: Do you think he can be a catcher at the pro level and what do you think his best defensive position would be?
GH: Brett has caught for less than one year and at present catches the ball consistently and displays balance in receiving. He has enough arm strength to catch and once he polishes his footwork and blocking skills, he will be an average defender with an above-average bat. Having said this, I truly believe he can play professionally at any position… Again, he has no fear of a challenge and has plenty of athletic ability to develop necessary defensive skills at all listed positions.
MH: What impressed you most about Brett's performance in the Dominican Republic?
GH: He is a high school player hitting with a wood bat and dominating professional pitching. I have never seen a player hit five home runs in a doubleheader from foul pole to foul pole. He is an exceptional hitter with an athletic confidence that is rarely displayed at such a young age.
Another baseball man that has seen Lawrie play and develop is Doug Mathieson, the head coach of the Langley Blaze of British Columbia’s Premier Baseball League, which is one of the top 18-and-under premier baseball programs in all of Canada. The club has already produced a number of professional baseball players, including Cincinnati’s Kyle Lotzkar (a 2007 supplemental first round draft pick) and Philadelphia’s Scott Mathieson.
He also was kind enough to speak with Baseball Analysts regarding Lawrie’s potential.
MH: What are the biggest improvements that Brett has made in recent months?
DM: Brett has always been a standout player. His biggest improvement is being more consistent and working hard in the off-season on his strength. Brett has an above-average arm, is an above average runner, has power and bat speed and is very athletic.
MH: What improvements does he need to make?
DM: Brett will need to hone his defensive skills at whatever position he is given. His biggest strength is that he can hit.
MH: How does he compare talent-wise to some of the other former Blaze that you coached, who are now playing in pro ball or college?
DM: Brett is the best hitter we have had on the Blaze in our history. His bat could play at a high level now.
MH: Are you surprised that he is now being considered as an early to mid first round draft talent?
DM: No, he has really risen since our spring training trip in March, where he hit .550 against nine college teams and three pro teams and he has continued to pick up the pace, hitting a double and a homer at our scout day in front of 80 scouts, including cross checkers and a few directors.