The View From Behind the Backstop: Dustin Lawley

Clinton Riddle

Dustin Lawley led the organization in home runs in 2013 and won the Sterling Award for St. Lucie, but can this 25-year-old slugger carve out a major league career?

Dustin Lawley

3B/LF, Binghamton Mets (AA)

6'1", 205

Age (2014 season age): 25

Acquired: 19th round, 2011

Date(s) seen: 4/10/14-4/13/14 @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats: 2-16, 2B, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB, K, HBP

2014 so far: 48 PA, .200/.250/.333, 6 K/1 BB

The short of it: It's always a good idea to be a bit wary of 24-year-olds having breakout years in the Florida State League, but Lawley may have enough real power to carve out a major league bench role.

The long of it: It was definitely time to update my report on Lawley. I saw him in Savannah in 2012, and he looked like a run-of-the-mill late-round college pick with a bit of pop, which he derived from a rather noticeable armbar in his swing. Those type of profiles tend to top out in Double-A, but those type of profiles also don't usually hit 25 bombs in the Florida State League. Now, a big Age-24 season in Advanced-A is hardly unusual, and per Baseball-Reference he was a full year older than the average player in the FSL, but that kind of power is at least intriguing and worthy of another look.

Lawley is a thick, right-handed hitter whose body type I guess could best be described as "mostly trunk." He doesn't have particularly short arms, like say Phil Evans, but the physique is more pro bowler than former college centerfielder. He makes it work though, and while he wasn't tested much in his outfield appearances, Lawley looked serviceable at third base. He has pretty soft hands, a decent first step, and the arm was strong enough to handle the position. Since he profiles best as a four corners type, the ability to play third base competently will be helpful.

At the plate, Lawley's armbar is less pronounced, but he now has one of the odder swings I've seen. There is very little weight transfer, or much use of his legs overall. Rather, he loads with his hips and then fires them forward as he triggers his swing. It's a move you might use with a hula hoop, but it doesn't seem to cut into Lawley's power. He gets pull-happy, and needs to extend to really tap into the pop, but he hit an absolute moonshot to left-center field on a two-seam fastball down-and-in that didn't run in enough.

Lawley does have to sell out a bit for that power though. The swing is still a bit long, so he will cheat and start early some times, making him vulnerable to soft stuff away. He also had issues handling major-league-quality velocity. You can beat him with good fastballs. Walks are not going to be a big part of his game, and the two-strike approach remains grip-it-and-rip-it. He has also shown a rather severe platoon split for his minor league career. Of course with this profile, that is not necessarily a bad thing. He actually reminds me a bit of Nick Evans, but Evans was more athletic and showed more bat-to-ball ability with at younger ages than Lawley.

The optimistic projection: Lawley's defensive flexibility and pop against southpaws keep him on a major league bench for a few years.

The pessimistic projection: Too many strikeouts and not enough in-game power against better stuff mean Lawley tops out as an upper minors bopper.

What to look for during the rest of the 2014 season: If the K/BB rate keeps going in the wrong direction against more advanced pitching.

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