Judging prospects is really, really hard. I don’t pretend to be very good at it. I rely on the observations of others to let me know how excited I should be getting about a particular prospect. I don’t know if other people think the way I do, but when I’m reading things about how a particular prospect is tearing up the league they’re in, I tend to envision what I think would be their peak at the big league level based on what they’re telling me, and how often I hear it.
What this is bringing me to is Brett Lawrie and how it sucks, just a little bit, to see him absolutely tearing up the big leagues at 21. Going into tonight he was hitting .317/.372/.663 (!), and he hit a walk-off homer in a Blue Jays win today to get to 8 in 120ish plate appearances. The dude is going to be a monster for a long time. When he was drafted, we heard a lot of hyperbole about how his bat was going to be special, and it certainly has been so far. I was disappointed to see him go to Toronto, of course. However, I was fully on board with the Marcum trade, and still am. This is one that’s going to work out for both teams. It’s the same way I feel about the Greinke trade and did about the Sabathia trade. It’s about the philosophy the organization is run by, taking advantage of opportunities to leverage talent in years with the best chances of postseason success. The Brewers are doing it now.
What I want to talk about here, however, is how we, as Brewers fans, deal with Lawrie’s success. The last big hitting prospect to come out of the system that I remember being similarly hyped was Matt LaPorta. LaPorta, by all accounts, had phenomenal control of the strike zone and unbelievable power. He was polished and going to be fast-tracked. People thought he could hit 50 home runs in the majors. His hitting ability wasn’t even in question, in fact, the only roadblock to a long successful career was going to be if he could play defense in the majors.
2008 was the year Mat Gamel really established himself as a legitimate prospect but LaPorta was the one who caught the imaginations of myself and many other Brewer fans. I remember commenting on Brew Crew Ball the day after the trade with something along the lines of “I hope LaPorta becomes a Hall-of-Famer, but we need Sabathia now and I don’t think we’ll ever regret this trade.” That’s how I felt about the Marcum trade, too, and to a lesser extent the Greinke trade (if only because there wasn’t a similarly hyped prospect in it).
LaPorta’s since spent parts of 3 years in the majors, and been given 972 plate appearances. He’s hit .234/.300/.394. With his less-than-stellar defense, he’s been worth a win and a half less than a replacement level player in those three years. Lawrie’s already been worth 2 WAR in about 15% of the playing time.
Heck, I hope Lawrie keeps tearing it up. We have our man Marcum now. To the playoffs!