It's understandable if a player struggles when he gets moved up to a level that may be advanced for his age, which makes it all the more impressive when a player in that situation excels.
And then there's Brett Lawrie.
With the Brewers' Double-A Huntsville affiliate last year, Lawrie was the Southern League's second-youngest regular while hitting .285/.346/.451. For an encore, the 21-year-old has torn up the Triple-A Pacific Coast League after coming over to the Blue Jays in the offseason trade that sent Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee. Lawrie, the PCL's youngest position player and second-youngest player overall to 20-year-old Astros righthander Jordan Lyles, has hit .337/.395/.615 through 169 at-bats for Las Vegas.
Lawrie's latest feat came Tuesday afternoon against Round Rock, going 3-for-3 with a walk and finishing a double short of the cycle. Lawrie hit an opposite field home run in the third inning, his ninth of the season, and added his third triple of the year in the eighth, helping spark a rally that saw the 51s overcome an 8-3 deficit for a 9-8 win. Lawrie walked and went on to score the winning run in the ninth.
While Cashman Field in Las Vegas is one of the minors' most noted launching pads—six of his nine homers have come at home—he's still been plenty productive on the road. Lawrie's hitting .377/.434/.638 away from Vegas, compared to .310/.367/.600 at home.
Lawrie's also making the adjustment to third base in Triple-A after having played second base during his time with the Brewers. He went through some initial struggles with six errors (four fielding, two throwing) in his first 12 games at third, but he's gotten more comfortable since. Lawrie's made only one error since April 20, a span of 27 games.
AROUND THE MINORS
• Lefthanders Manny Banuelos (Yankees) and Casey Crosby (Tigers) had a nice duel in the Double-A Eastern League. Both starters threw six shutout innings in a game Erie eventually won 1-0. Banuelos fanned seven hitters against just three walks and two hits in his longest outing of the season, dropping his ERA to 2.25 in 32 innings. Crosby wasn't quite as dominant, allowing four hits and three walks with just three strikeouts, but the results were the same as he improved his ERA to 3.79 in 35 2/3 innings.
"He was locating his fastball early in the game," Erie catcher Bryan Holaday said of Crosby to the Erie Times-News. "He did a good job of mixing it inside and outside. Toward the end, he started finding his off-speed stuff. Once he started throwing his breaking balls and changeups for strikes, it made it really tough for (Trenton)."
• Lawrie wasn't the only Blue Jays prospect to dominate on Tuesday. Righthander Deck McGuire, Toronto's 2010 first-round pick who's actually seven months older than Lawrie, tossed seven shutout innings for high Class A Dunedin, his best start in his young pro career. McGuire limited Jupiter to two hits and didn't walk anyone. He retired the first 11 hitters he faced before giving up a ground-rule double with two outs in the fourth. He went on to finish his outing by retiring eight in a row, picking up the win to improve to 3-2, 2.32 in 42 2/3 innings.
• Double-A Tulsa righthander Juan Nicasio (Rockies) keeps on rolling. Texas League hitters haven't been able to handle his power fastball and effective changeup all season, and last night was no different. Nicasio was going against Northwest Arkansas, a club that just faced him 10 days earlier when he struck out seven in seven innings while allowing two runs on seven hits, yet they fared worse this time.
The Naturals just scraped together just two hits in seven innings while whiffing nine, putting him into second place in the minor league strikeout race with 60. The Naturals did push across two runs in the fourth, an inning in which they had only one hit but got some help from a walk, a balk and a stolen base. Nicasio didn't figure in the decision, but he did maintain his lead in the TL's ERA race at 1.99 in 49 2/3 innings. Yesterday was also the fourth time in his last five starts that he's completed seven innings.
• Double-A San Antonio third baseman James Darnell (Padres) is 1-for-3 with a walk in four plate appearances against Nicasio this season, and not many other TL pitchers have been able to slow him down. Darnell homered twice, giving him eight on the year, and had six RBIs in the Missions' game against Corpus Christi on Tuesday, upping his line for the season to .371/.469/.667 in 132 at-bats. He finished the game 2-for-4. Darnell leads the TL in hitting and ranks seventh in the minors with a 1.135 OPS.
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