He’s Not Timmy Trumpet, But D-Backs Prospect Jordan Lawlar Can Play

Jordan Lawlar
Arizona Republic

Jordan Lawlar’s fifth stop in what was essentially his first professional season ended prematurely on Friday. Playing for the Arizona Fall League’s Salt River Rafters, the 20-year-old shortstop suffered a fractured left scapula after being plunked by a pitch. The injury — the second to put him out of action since he was taken with the sixth overall pick of the 2021 draft — will leave him on the shelf for a reported six to eight weeks. Fourteen months ago, he tore a labrum in the same shoulder after just a pair of games with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rookie-league entry.

The progress he’s made in the interim is a testament to his talent. Advancing from the Arizona Complex League to Double-A Amarillo, with two stops in-between, Lawlar slashed .303/.401/.509 with a 138 wRC+ and 16 home runs in 459 plate appearances this season. A self-described “pure hitter who likes to just be athletic in the box,” the Dallas-area native is currently No. 42 in our Top 100 Prospects rankings.

Veronica Gajownik knows him well. An outfield and hitting coach in the Diamondbacks system, the former Team USA infielder worked with Lawlar in Amarillo this year, and more recently in the AFL.

“He wants to get better,” said Gajownik, who is on Salt River’s coaching staff. “He has a very open mind, and the determination to do what it takes to get to the big leagues. The effort level is great to see from someone his age.”

Asked about any early-career adjustments he’s made, Lawlar said that they have been almost exclusively mental. Mechanically, there has been “nothing too crazy” — his setup is similar, and his right-handed stroke remains geared to driving balls into the gaps. His primary approach is to think opposite-field gap and from there react accordingly, depending on the pitch and its location. “It’s more of an external cue, kind of a general target point that I like to keep my thoughts towards,” was how he explained his M.O.

Lawlar’s learning curve has included refining his approach toward different movement profiles; riding fastballs and two-seamers can’t be attacked exactly the same way. He’s also more focused on waiting for pitches he can do damage on. He views that aspect of his development as necessary to his success. Whereas he used to “sometimes just go up there, swinging,” he now knows that a more-nuanced plan is “100% how it needs to be.”

That plan doesn’t include thinking to the point of paralysis by analysis.

“I’m analytical, but I play best when I keep it simple,” Lawlar told me. “I like numbers. I like a lot of… I guess you could say that I can be very mechanical in my thinking, but sometimes it’s better to clear your mind and just play. I like to be more of a feel guy. At the same time, my mind has always been into numbers and math. Things like that.”

Gajownik’s coaching philosophy is a good fit for how Lawlar approaches his craft. While well-versed in hitting analytics, she doesn’t believe in overburdening players with information. More than anything, she wants them to trust the process, building on their skill-sets by simply going out there and playing the game. That’s precisely what she wants to see from Lawlar.

“He’s a really good hitter, so I’m excited to see where he’s going to be at in another year,” Gajownik said. “With him learning his approach, especially at his age… He went through four different levels of pitchers this year — the complex. Visalia, Hillsborough, and Amarillo — and he did a good job of handling each league, handling each jump to the next level. So he does very a good job of adjusting. He just needs to continue to get more experience.”

Lawlar largely agrees with that assessment. Asked what he considers the next step in his development, the youngster pointed to more professional at-bats.

“It’s really just experience,” he said. “With experience, you find things out about yourself, about your game, that you may need to improve on. That’s the biggest thing. It’s why I’m here [in the AFL].”

Gaining more experience is now on hold, the fractured scapula ensuring that Lawlar won’t be further honing his hitting skills for at least another month or two. He may or may not use the downtime to hone his musical skills. Lawlar began playing the trumpet in middle school, and while he doesn’t pick up the instrument nearly as often as he once did, he’d progressed to a point where he was “pretty solid.”

As good as Timmy Trumpet?

“No,” he admitted. “I like listening to him, but I can’t do that.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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