Lawlar relishes chance to play in future home park

October 16th, 2022

PHOENIX – For the first time since the D-backs selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2021 Draft, Jordan Lawlar jogged out to shortstop at Chase Field for game action on Saturday.

Lawlar, MLB’s No. 12 prospect, laced a two-run double in the top of the second to help Salt River claim a 4-1 victory over Surprise as part of the Arizona Fall League’s tripleheader event at the home of the D-backs.

“The first inning, there may have been a little bit of nerves,” Lawlar said. “But we fought through it and then I got pretty comfortable out there.”

Lawlar was back on big league dirt in the desert for the first time since throwing out a first pitch shortly after inking his deal with Arizona. Just over 14 months elapsed between his two appearances, but much had already changed for the 20-year-old – namely, a posterior labrum tear that sidelined his pro career after just two games. 

“It’s definitely a surreal moment to be out here after everything I’ve been through with the shoulder, sitting behind [home plate] watching so many games,” Lawlar said. “It’s amazing to be out here.”

After striking out in the first against Surprise starter Quinn Priester (Pirates No. 3 prospect), Lawlar banked the intel and carried it over to his second time at the dish. The D-backs’ No. 3 prospect laid off back-to-back offspeed pitches outside the zone to draw the count even in the second, before slashing a two-run double down the left-field line, plating a pair of runs.

In-game adjustments from one at-bat to the next are part of the reason that the D-backs view Lawlar as a future cornerstone; he joins an exciting young crop of talent such as big league outfielders  (MLB’s No. 3 overall prospect), and , and the No. 2 overall pick from the 2022 Draft, Druw Jones (MLB’s No. 11), as potential core contributors in the seasons to come.

Lawlar and Carroll have become particularly close, having rehabbed their respective shoulder injuries together during 2021. The two texted ahead of Lawlar’s Chase Field debut Saturday, with plans to hang out on the diamond in downtown Phoenix for years to come.

Lawlar donned uniforms at four different levels in 2022 ahead of reaching the Fall League. He mashed his way through Single-A Visalia (.351/.447/.603) before impressing in a 30-game stint at High-A Hillsboro (.862 OPS, 13-for-14 on stolen-base attempts). He scuffled in his first taste of Double-A (.212 average, 32.9% K rate), but he reached what many believe to be the biggest jump in competition across the Minors shortly after his 20th birthday. 

“It definitely sharpens your hit tool,” Lawlar said of facing advanced talent in the AFL. “It lets you see better pitching, balls that move a little bit more than you're used to. So I think that’s going to [help] when you get to the big leagues.”

After all, getting to The Show -- and staying there -- is the name of the game. Hitting ahead of Lawlar on Saturday was top-ranked Rockies prospect Zac Veen (MLB's No. 23), who similarly was promoted to Double-A during his age-20 campaign. Over just two weeks with the Rafters, the pair of Top 25 overall prospects have formed a bond both on and off-the-field. Lawlar made a prediction for future Chase Field matchups to come between the duo:

“Because [Veen] is in the away dugout here, I was like, ‘This is going to be you and me in a few years here, we’re going to be playing against each other. Hopefully we’re going to be beating you.’”

Salt River starter Joey Wentz took the four-run frame that his offense provided and ran with it. No stranger to a big league mound, the Tigers’ No. 24 prospect -- who made seven Major League starts this year -- struck out eight batters over four scoreless frames. He worked around a first-inning double to retire 11 of the final 13 that he faced.