Lawlar flashes power, speed on AFL Opening Day

October 3rd, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As a Dallas-area high school shortstop with five-tool potential, Jordan Lawlar drew Bobby Witt Jr. comparisons en route to the D-backs selecting him sixth overall in the 2021 Draft. That all-around ability was obvious in his Arizona Fall League debut on Monday.

Playing for the Salt River Rafters, Lawlar went 2-for-3 with a home run, three runs, three RBIs, two walks and two steals in an 11-6 loss to the Surprise Saguaros. He's a more polished hitter than Witt was at the same stage of their careers, and he showed off his power with a 410-foot blast with an exit velocity of 106 mph off an 85-mph slider from right-hander Tahnaj Thomas (Pirates) in the seventh inning. He also displayed his mature approach and plus speed, though he only had one grounder hit to him at shortstop.

"It was exciting being out on our Spring Training field, around some fans, clapping, cheering us on," said Lawlar, the ninth-youngest player in the developmental circuit at age 20. "It was a great experience. I had played here a couple times, in big league games. I had one squib hit off Lance Lynn. That home run was better."

After losing most of his 2021 pro debut with a shoulder injury, Lawlar advanced from Single-A Visalia to Double-A Amarillo this year despite his youth and inexperience. He batted .303/.401/.509 with 16 homers and 39 steals in 100 games, missing three weeks while dealing with a benign growth on his rib.

Ranked No. 12 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 and third on Arizona's Top 30, Lawlar said that spending the final month of the season in Double-A helped him not only adjust to the pitching he'd face in the Fall League, but also to more intense baseball strategy as well as teaming with older players. He's looking to build on that in Salt River while making up for some lost at-bats and refining his defense at shortstop.

For all his physical ability, Lawlar didn't identify any of his individual tools as his best attribute.

"I'd say it's being able to stay even-keeled," he said. "That's not a tool you grade, but I think it helps you carry on for the long run and that's definitely important to me."

Surprise battered Salt River pitchers for 13 hits, including three from center fielder Johan Rojas (Phillies No. 5), who also stole a base and turned in the defensive play of the game when he made a diving catch in the gap to rob Jordan Walker (MLB No. 6, Cardinals No. 1) in the bottom of the seventh.

The Saguaros got home runs from DH Trevor Hauver (Rangers), a 431-foot bomb with an exit velocity of 106 mph, and right fielder Aaron Zavala (Rangers No. 11), a 415-foot shot also at 106 mph. Center fielder Parker Meadows (Tigers No. 16) also homered for the Rafters, drilling a ball 415 feet at 105 mph.

Right-hander Quinn Priester (Pirates No. 3), the AFL's highest-rated pitching prospect at No. 44 on the Top 100, got the Opening Day start for Surprise. He gave up three runs (two earned) on three hits and three walks in three innings. He worked at 92-94 mph with his fastball and recorded two of his three strikeouts with mid-80s sliders, both against slugging first baseman Deyvison de los Santos (D-backs No. 6).