Lawlar's 'invaluable' experience fueling Opening Day dreams

February 21st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Steve Gilbert’s D-backs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

When he reported to big league camp last spring as a non-roster invite, shortstop was coming off a season in which he reached Double-A Amarillo and participated in the Arizona Fall League.

This year, Lawlar enters Spring Training not only on the 40-man roster, but as Arizona’s top-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline (No. 11 overall) and a 21-year-old with World Series experience.

It was all part of a whirlwind 2023 for both Lawlar and the D-backs.

Looking for a spark last September, the D-backs promoted Lawlar from Triple-A Reno and designated veteran shortstop Nick Ahmed for assignment to make room for him. Much like they did with outfielder Corbin Carroll in 2022, Arizona wanted to give Lawlar a taste of the big leagues in hopes of easing his transition to the Majors whenever his full first year arrived.

Lawlar got more than a taste. He made his big league debut at Wrigley Field in September, and while he struggled at the plate, he played outstanding defense at shortstop.

Lawlar played sparingly down the stretch and in the postseason, making 34 plate appearances in the regular season and two during Arizona’s run to the World Series. However, D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said the experience Lawlar got being in a pennant race and being in the postseason was important for his development.

“[It was] invaluable,” Lawlar said. “Just having a feeling for what the schedule is like, what it's like to be in the box in the big leagues, everything like that. There's no better teacher than experience.”

It will be an uphill battle for Lawlar to make the Opening Day roster as things stand right now.

Manager Torey Lovullo has said that Geraldo Perdomo will be the starting shortstop. The D-backs also acquired veteran third baseman Eugenio Suárez during the offseason and they have Ketel Marte entrenched at second.

While being a backup was valuable for him in September last year, Hazen wants Lawlar to get consistent at-bats at the start of 2024.

“There's gotta be a role,” Hazen said. “I think his performance last year, he did a good job defensively for sure. I think from an at-bat standpoint, I think there’s still some growth that needs to happen. And he's going to figure that out pretty quickly. He’s too good of a player not to be playing. He needs to play. And that might be with us, it might not be. We think he’s got a chance to be a stud in this league for a long time. We’ll see how Spring Training goes.”

Lawlar knows the decision as to where he starts the season is not up to him. Nor is it something that he’s focused on right now.

“Kind of like I always say, ‘Control what I can control,’” he said. “Show up to the field, knock out your routine and just try to get better at every facet of the game. Like I said earlier, ‘Run your own race and you just stick to that.’ Because at the end of the day, I know if I put in the work, I know I’ll be much better than I was the day before.”