Pros and cons of calling up top D-backs prospect Jordan Lawlar for playoff push
Aug 25, 2023, 7:44 PM | Updated: 8:12 pm
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks added some energy to their lineup last year by calling up top prospect Corbin Carroll on Aug. 29 after he played 33 games in Triple-A Reno.
Carroll hit a go-ahead double in his MLB debut and helped Arizona establish an identity of using speed as a weapon down the stretch.
This year, top Diamondbacks prospect, 21-year-old shortstop Jordan Lawlar, made his way to Triple-A Reno this month after getting drafted in 2021 out of high school.
There are two key situational differences between Carroll last year and Lawlar now: The Diamondbacks are fighting for a postseason spot with five weeks to go and Lawlar has had much less Triple-A experience at this point.
Players need to be up on the 40-man roster by Aug. 31 in order to be postseason eligible, unless there is an injury replacement. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s off the table in September when rosters expand.
Carroll described his cup of coffee in the bigs as a beneficial experience that helped him gain confidence for 2023. But calling up Lawlar before September would essentially equate to bypassing Triple-A. He only had 32 plate appearances with Reno entering Friday. To compare, Carroll had 157 before getting called up last year.
D-backs farm director Josh Barfield said there are pros and cons to calling up any prospect down the stretch of a season.
“On the pro side, you get a little taste of what it looks like and what the expectations are up there,” he said. “It takes a little bit of that doubt away from a young player, especially if you have success.
“I think some of the cons are if you go up there and you’re not going to get a chance to really play much or if you go up there and you’re not quite ready and struggle a little bit. You gotta go back down to the minor leagues, there is a little bit of that time period where you mentally gotta regroup. Some guys do a great job with it, for some guys it’s a lot harder to reset. I can see it both ways.”
Jordan Lawlar’s season
Lawlar was promoted on Aug. 15, and his early returns in Triple-A have been positive with a .280/.406/.520 slash line. He homered in his debut.
“He hasn’t missed a beat, he’s had really good at-bats since he’s been up here,” Barfield said. “He’s done that for the most part all year, he had about a month stretch early on where he really scuffled, it was the first time he’s ever really struggled. But he was able to work his way through that. I think he learned a lot through those struggles. … We felt like he was ready for the next challenge.”
Welcome to Triple-A, Jordan Lawlar!
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 16, 2023
It took a while for him to get going, though, as he went 29-for-146 (.199) to start the year in Double-A Amarillo.
Barfield said there was even consideration to put him on the Development List, taking him out of in-game competition to work out the kinks. Arizona did this with in field prospect Deyvison De Los Santos, who earned the organization’s player of the month award for July after a poor start.
Lawlar stuck around and adjusted with seven multi-hit games out of 10 to begin June. Even with the slow start, Lawlar produced an .840 OPS, 15 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 89 games with the Sod Poodles before moving up.
“I know he’s a competitor and for a while there, it got really rough,” Barfield said. “I think he got away from some things approach wise, swing path wise with some of his direction. Those things make him really special and he had gotten away from those and it took a little while to find it again.
“I give a lot of credit to Drew Hedman and Nick Evans our hitting coordinators and Terrmel Sledge, his hitting coach there in Double-A, they spent a lot of time with him grinding before and after games, looking at video and having a lot of conversations to get him back on track.”
— Reno Aces (@Aces) August 20, 2023
Lawlar’s D-backs fit
Arizona has an opportunity to earn a playoff spot for the first time since 2017, owning the third National League Wild Card spot entering Friday.
The D-backs are thinking outside the box to make it happen. Arizona has uncharacteristically gone to bullpen games and openers to assist with a young and injury-impacted rotation.
The Diamondbacks have two shortstops who platoon with switch-hitter Geraldo Perdomo and righty Nick Ahmed. Perdomo — who made the All-Star Game — can and has played third base and second base which gives the D-backs flexibility.
Neither player has had much success against left-handed pitching, though. Perdomo has a .659 OPS vs. southpaws and Ahmed .423. Lawlar crushed lefties with a 1.126 OPS in Double-A this year, albeit in a very hitter-friendly environment.
Perdomo and Ahmed have both been very strong defenders per outs above average, while defensive refinement has been a point of emphasis for Lawlar.
Rosters will expand to 28 players in September. What does Lawlar need to show before getting a chance?
“Defensively, continuing to make huge strides. … I think part of the reason he’s gotten so much better this year is his work ethic, the attention to detail,” Barfield said. “I think he did a lot of it on athleticism through high school and didn’t really know the fundamentals, all the fine details of playing shortstop, and I think he’s doing a good job of learning.
“Offensively, being able to go up there and have consistent at-bats compete, be a tough out, be able to consistently make them beat you in the strike zone. If you go to the big leagues and you’re a guy who that chases or tries to do too much, you’re gonna get exposed really quickly. He’s done a good job so far, and we just want to see him continue to build on that.”