With Brett (the Raging Red Bull) Lawrie slated to return to the lineup as early as Saturday, the Blue Jays have some decisions to make regarding their lineup. Recent scrap heap find Juan Francisco has filled in more than admirably in Lawrie’s absence. In the recent 4 game sweep of the Phillies, Francisco went 6 for 14, hit 2 homers and drove in 6 RBI. He is hitting .274/4/11 for the season. Now the “easy” solution would be to shift Francisco to DH which would allow Lawrie to return to the hot corner. The only issue is that with Adam Lind returning from the DL on Thursday night that no longer is a viable option. So the question remains, what to do?
Now I am usually against moving a player from position to position, but in the case of fielding the best possible (everyday) offensive lineup does it not make sense to move Lawrie to 2B?
The main concern here is losing Lawrie’s athleticism and stellar defense in favour of Francisco’s somewhat suspect glove and hands. For his career, Francisco has played 962.1 innings at 3B, made 17 errors and yielded a .937 fielding percent. Francisco also leaves something to desire at the 1B position where he made a 10 errors alone in 52 innings as a Brewer in 2013.
The other concern is that shifting Lawrie around (again) in his career could lead to further stalling in his development. Look at Travis Snyder for instance. The Jays tried him at all three OF positions and 1B before sending him to the Pirates. BJ Upton struggled for years as a SS and 2B before finding success as a CF. At the same time though, Lawrie was drafted out of HS as a catcher and moved to 2B early in his professional career as a Brewer. In fact he played his first couple seasons in the Blue Jays minor league system as a 2B before shifting to 3B. And why did he shift to 3B? To replace Jose Bautista who had moved from 3B to RF. Bautista also bounced from all three OF positions and 1B before finding a home at 3B and then again in RF. Lawrie also played 2B last season when he came off the DL to start the year.
This isn’t like giving Edwing the onebag mitt for the first time and have him learn how to scoop a ball out of the dirt. Hell it isn’t even like the ill fated attempt at having Edwing play a little LF. In the minors alone, Lawrie played 249 games at 2B, had 1156 chances, made 435 putouts, 680 assists and made 41 errors for a fielding percent of .965. Clearly the kid knows his way around the 2B position.
At the end of the day Chris Getz, Steve Tolleson, Johnathan Diaz and even fan favourite Muni Kawasaki leave a WHOLE lot to desire when it comes to being an everyday 2B. Don’t get me wrong, these guys are important utility guys to have off the bench or fill in for an inning or game, but they should not be in a position to get 350+ AB’s. Lawrie on the other hand is no slouch with the glove and has the ability to both lead and make the turn on a double play. Plus he brings a much more potent bat to the everyday lineup compared to the other candidates mentioned above.
For the moment the Blue Jays are one of the hotter teams in the MLB and look to extend their winning streak to 6 games as they welcome the Angels to town for a three game weekend set. I am not 100% sure what Gibby has in mind when Lawrie returns – remember this is a guy who currently has THREE catchers on the roster and sent our 4th OF (Gose) to the minors – but it will be hard to convince him not to talk Lawrie into making the move to 2B. At least for a couple games. After all, who knows if Juan Francisco will continue to mash the ball. He could be another scrap heap reclamation project in the mould of Joey Bats and E5. Then again he could turn back into a pumpkin. For the time being, I am just happy to enjoy the ride…