Lawrie may be Jays-ready

Toronto Blue Jays prospect Brett Lawrie balances a baseball on his fingers during spring training...

Toronto Blue Jays prospect Brett Lawrie balances a baseball on his fingers during spring training in Dunedin in late February. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:14 PM ET

How impressive has Burnaby's Brett Lawrie been?

"He's going to be an impact player and soon at the big-league level," said a National League talent evaluator, fresh from seeing Lawrie and the Las Vegas 51s last week.

"Some of the Jays scouts were comparing him to Schmidt."

Schmidt who?

"Mike Schmidt," he said.

Wow!

The 6-foot-2, Schmidt hit 548 home runs and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1995.

At age 21, Schmidt was a junior at Ohio University about to go to the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round of the June draft.

The 6-foot Lawrie, 21, has already hit 25 minor-league homers.

On draft day in 2008, when he was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers, Lawrie was compared to Craig Biggio, who had 3,060 hits and stole 414 bases for the Houston Astros.

And Jeff Kent who had 2,461 hits, hit 377 homers and drove in 1,518 runs, and is also headed to Cooperstown.

So, really the Schmidt comparison is not too much of a stretch, he'd already been compared to players headed for enshrinement.

What should the Jays do with Lawrie? Promote him this month or next?

This week or next?

"Lawrie can run, has a quick bat and can lose a ball in a hurry, I can see the Schmidt comparison a little," said the scout. "He's a little bit of a front-foot hitter, so are others. The thing is, he isn't afraid of anything.

"From what I have seen, from what everyone says about the guy, Brett Lawrie does not fit the historical developmental curve."

Legendary scout Bobby Mattick was the conscience of the Jays from day one until his death in 2004.

No doubt his words are still rattling around hallways and conference rooms at the Rogers Centre where he was undefeated in arguments, even if he lost.

When the Jays faced similar 'do-we-or-don't-we?' decisions with prospects Carlos Delgado, John Olerud and Alex Gonzalez, Mattick told us his approach was always the same with a blue chip guy.

"I always thought with a prime, young prospect you'd better err on bringing a guy up too early," Mattick told us more than once. "You don't want to stunt his growth or cram him by leaving him at triple-A too long.

"If you bring the guy up, he fails and he's good enough, he'll be back soon enough staring you in the eye showing you, you were wrong."

Delgado hit eight homers and knocked in 21 runs in April of 1994 as an outfielder and by June he was back at Syracuse. The next year he played 43 games mostly as outfielder. Opening day 1996 he was the starting DH and stayed, playing first the next eight seasons.

A concern the Jays have about Lawrie is his fielding. He may be feasting off some arms hanging on, but a ground ball at Vegas should be the same as a ground ball at the Rogers Centre or Connorvale Park in Etobicoke. He has six clanks to date.

"You telling me Edwin Encarnacion doesn't make errors?" countered the scout. "I saw the game in New York Friday, first, (Encarnacion) didn't catch a line drive and then threw wild to second. It could have been two errors on the same play."

With the Team Canada Junior National Team, Lawrie hit five homers in a doubleheader in 2007 on five 90 mph plus fastballs, leading an old-time scout to joke: "I've got him rated as Babe Ruth, but I might be a little light."


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