What to expect from Jordan Lawlar in the Majors

September 7th, 2023

The D-backs sit only half a game back in a crowded National League Wild Card race, so they decided to pull an Ace from their deck.

Arizona is calling up No. 10 overall prospect Jordan Lawlar from Triple-A Reno to make his Major League debut Thursday in Chicago against the Cubs, who currently hold the second Wild Card spot.

The 21-year-old shortstop joins the big club after a brief but productive run in the Pacific Coast League. Lawlar went 24-for-67 (.358) with five homers and three steals over his 16 games with Reno following a mid-August promotion from Double-A Amarillo. His final act at the Minors’ highest level was a two-homer showing at Albuquerque on Tuesday, the first multihomer performance of his career at any level.

Drafted sixth overall out of a Dallas high school in 2021, the right-handed slugger was pushed aggressively through three levels in his first full season last year and got additional looks in the Arizona Fall League before a fractured left scapula ended that pursuit. He opened this season back in the Texas League, where he was nearly four-and-a-half years younger than the average player, and he struggled some out of the gate before really turning things around by the start of the summer.

Since the beginning of June, Lawlar hit .321/.410/.561 with 14 homers and 23 steals over 66 games. He’s been one of only 15 Minor Leaguers to eclipse the 14-14 mark over that span, joining fellow Top 100 prospects Jackson Chourio, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Ronny Mauricio and Ceddanne Rafaela on that list.

It’s that speed, in particular, that could play quickest for Lawlar in The Show. He recorded a home-to-first time as low as 3.87 on a bunt single with Reno and was more typically in the 4.15-4.30 range on truly competitive runs. He recorded eight Bolts -- runs above 30 ft/sec -- during that short 16-game span in the Pacific Coast League. For reference, only Corbin Carroll (103), Jake McCarthy (52) and Buddy Kennedy (four) have recorded more than two Bolts for Arizona’s Major League club in 2023.

Lawlar’s approach in 2023 has been solid. He cut his strikeout rate to 21.7 percent at Double-A and then again to only 15.0 percent in the small Triple-A sample, all while walking more than 11 percent of the time at both stops. He didn’t expand much with Reno either, swinging at only 19.3 percent of pitches outside the zone per data from BrooksBaseball.net. Major League average O-Swing rate is 28.7 percent this season.

Of Lawlar’s 57 batted-ball events at Triple-A, only 19 (33.3 percent) went above the hard-hit standard of 95-plus mph, but he did record five barrels in his 80 plate appearances as well. The data is important context here, because both Reno and Amarillo play in some of the most notorious launching pads of the Minors. Ten of Lawlar’s 15 Double-A homers came in Amarillo, where he slugged .561 in 43 games compared to .391 in 46 games on the road.

At his peak, Lawlar projects for 20-plus homers, but it may take just a little longer for that power to play in more pitcher-friendly settings in the bigs against more advanced arms.

Defensively, Arizona manager Torey Lovullo has already declared Lawlar to be Thursday’s starting shortstop and will “inject him into the lineup when I can for the right matchup in the right situation.” The youngster got his first and only look at third base in his final Reno start on Tuesday, and evaluators remain split on whether he should remain at short or move over to the hot corner long-term.

Arizona designated Nick Ahmed for assignment Wednesday to clear a spot on the shortstop depth chart and despite being a 2023 All-Star, Perdomo has just an 87 wRC+ over 173 plate appearances since the start of July and has struggled against left-handed pitchers as a righty hitter with just a .314 slugging percentage in such situations this season. In that sense, Lawlar could be the club’s shortstop on days against southpaw starters with the occasional move to third during other favorable matchups.

One year ago, the D-backs called up Corbin Carroll to get his Major League feet wet. Now, Arizona made a similar call with their current top prospect with a different goal in mind -- get it back to the postseason for the first time since 2017.