Colorado Rockies prospect Justin Lawrence skyrockets to Triple-A
By Kevin Henry
Colorado Rockies prospect Justin Lawrence had a great surprise waiting for him when the franchise recently announced minor league rosters for the upcoming season.
After 55 games at Class A Lancaster last season, the 24-year-old right-hander was promoted directly to Triple-A Albuquerque for the 2019 campaign, which begins later tonight against Salt Lake City. After impressing during spring training, it’s apparent that Lawrence made the most of his time with the Colorado Rockies in Scottsdale.
“It was an absolute surprise,” Lawrence said in a recent telephone interview. “I didn’t find out until the rosters came out before we broke camp. I was walking over to the pegboard and I didn’t even get to it. One of my good friends, Ben Bowden, got there first and he had a look on his face. He said, ‘Dude, Albuquerque!’ And I said, ‘I guess so.'”
Lawrence saw action in seven games for the Rockies this spring, allowing five hits and striking out nine in 7.1 innings of work. For Lawrence, however, it was more about what happened off the field than on it that made the biggest impression upon him.
“It was an awesome experience. I was given the opportunity to be around some of those veteran guys and get to pick their brains and be in the locker room with them and see how they go about their business,” Lawrence recalled. “One thing I really learned is that it’s not just getting to the big leagues because you have it figured out. They’re there and still working on stuff every single day when nobody is watching. It’s a whole other world to learn being there around them and being able to learn from them.
“The last couple of seasons, I feel like I’ve been preparing myself to do the things I needed to do to get to the next level,” he continued. “People think you have to perfect your craft or be a perfect baseball player to get to the big leagues. That’s not the case at all. You have to have a refined set of skills to get there and continue to work on those every day.”
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And he believes that work and continuing to perfect his craft paid off for him this spring.
“Every offseason, I expect to come into camp and be lights out and open some eyes. Getting that jump up straight to Triple-A is a reward for the hard work I’ve put in and going about my business every day.”
Last season at Lancaster, Lawrence picked up 11 saves and struck out 62 batters while opponents hit just .188 against him in 54.1 innings pitched. A 12th-round pick of the Rockies in the 2015 draft, Lawrence has developed into a sidearm pitcher who is regularly clocked in the high 90s.
Both Lawrence and the Rockies know that his pitching style is unique and could be a Major League weapon in the not-too-distant future.
“There’s not a lot of sidearm guys in the big leagues right now,” Lawrence said. “They already bring that deception and you can see how successful they are. Sidearm guys are usually lower 90s so having that deception as well as the velocity to go with it, I’m kind of a hybrid and I have the ability to do both.”
Lawrence said that, as a reliever, he had a chance to hang with his Major League bullpen counterparts and there were a few who were especially encouraging this spring.
“Wade Davis,” Lawrence immediately offered when asked about someone who impacted him from the Rockies bullpen. “He’s a strong, intimidating-looking guy. The first week of camp or so it was still intimidating to bring up conversation. But when I did, he was all about talking and getting to know you. He actually asked me a question first. He’s all ears and a great help. He gives out a lot of good information. He stuck out to me the most but Dunner (Mike Dunn) and (Jake) McGee were open to conversation as well. None of those guys were like, ‘Oh you’re a minor leaguer and I don’t want to talk to you.'”
Now Lawrence will work on his unique skill set in Triple-A with the hope of joining those who taught him so much in spring training very soon at Coors Field.
Note: You can follow Lawrence on Instagram by clicking here.