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Lawson improving with experience
The second baseman has never been promoted in-season––he spent the summer of 2007 in Spokane before moving up to Single-A Clinton in '08, High-A Bakersfield in '09, and now Double-A Frisco.
While Lawson has steadily climbed the organizational ladder, he has also improved with each of his full seasons.
In 44 games this season, Lawson leads the RoughRiders with a .314 batting average. He also has 11 doubles, three triples, three home runs, and 23 walks.
"I feel good right now," Lawson said. "I didn't have a ton of expectations coming into the season. I'm just really happy to make a team, especially the Double-A team. It's closer to home and I grew up watching Double-A ball in Springfield. It was just a big goal to make the team."
A native of Springfield, Mo., Lawson both grew up and played his college ball in the city, as he starred at Missouri State University. In fact, he played his collegiate home games in the same ballpark as the Springfield Cardinals.
He was able to return to home earlier this season, when Frisco visited the Cardinals.
"It was awesome," Lawson said of playing in his hometown. "That was one of my number one goals just entering pro ball. I thought that maybe I could make it to Double-A and come back and play where I played in college and where I grew up."
While Lawson is currently enjoying plenty of success, it has taken lots of hard work to get to where he is. The former 14th round pick scuffled in his first full season, posting a rather modest .251/.322/.354 line in 100 games with Clinton in 2008.
Not surprisingly, Lawson believes the biggest jump between levels came between short-season and full-season ball.
"The hardest jump was from short-season to my first full season," he said. "It was not knowing the length of the season––not knowing how to go about things every day. Everyone there was my age.
"Fortunately in Bakersfield, I was able to play with the same guys for a second year. And now I'm playing with a bunch of guys that have been around for a long time. You just get more comfortable as you go."
In addition to getting more comfortable, the 24-year-old has also learned quite a bit about how to maximize his tools along the way.
"I've learned to slow the game down and learned how to take every game one pitch at a time," Lawson said. "That's the best way to avoid ups and downs throughout the season––to try and stay as competitive as possible throughout a long season. You treat every pitch like you have a job to do."
As Lawson slows the game down, he has learned to become a more selective hitter. Though the infielder batted .293 with Bakersfield last season, he had just 32 walks versus 127 strikeouts.
This year, in his first 169 at-bats, Lawson has drawn 23 walks while striking out 30 times. The difference is pretty remarkable, particularly considering the jump from High-A to Double-A.
"My role on the team probably isn't to be a big power-numbers player," he said. "I think I'm best served helping the team with on-base percentage, working counts, and being a tough out. So striking out probably isn't the best thing for me."
Currently sporting a strong .407 on-base percentage, Lawson says he tries to take after fellow teammates that also show excellent discipline at the dish.
"Having good at-bats with two strikes is important, kind of like Renny [Osuna] does," he said, referring to Frisco's utility infielder. "I like the way he goes about things, so watching guys like that really helps."
The 6-foot-0, 195-pound Lawson doesn't have the most physical tools, but he gets the most out of his talent and has already become a fan-favorite in Frisco because of his hustle and high-energy style.
Simply put, Lawson is a baseball player.
Because of his excellent range, smooth footwork and sure hands, Lawson has earned a solid reputation for his defensive play at second base. In fact, via Baseball America, Cal League managers named Lawson the best defensive second baseman in the circuit last season, when he posted a .980 fielding percentage in 126 games.
While Lawson has been Frisco's primary second baseman this season, he has also played eight games in left and and one in center. The added versatility not only helps the Frisco club, but it could also benefit Lawson's career.
"I've played infield my whole life, but I think that if I can play other positions, then that makes me a more valuable commodity to the team," Lawson said. "Just to get in the lineup somewhere is good for me."
Even with his solid start to the season, Lawson knows there is still plenty of room for improvement in his overall game.
"I want to be a better baserunner in situations," he said. "And I want to be a better defensive second baseman, whether it be individual plays like a backhand or just being comfortable turning double plays."
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