This week, I had the opportunity to talk to Colorado Rockies reliever Justin Lawrence.
Lawrence is a righty that throws sidearm. His pitch arsenal consists of a mid-to-high 90s Sinker that can sometimes reach the triple digits (53.6%) and a mid-80s slider (46.4%).
Lawrence was born in Panama and moved to the United States at two years old. He attended high school in Jacksonville and played college baseball at Jacksonville University as well as Daytona State College.
He was selected in the 12th round of the 2015 MLB draft by the Colorado Rockies.
Between 2015-2021, Lawrence was in the Rockies’ farm system primarily appearing in relief, but also occasionally appearing as a closer.
Lawrence appeared in 215 games in his minor league career, pitching a 5.04 ERA with 38 saves.
In 2020, Lawrence was suspended from the Rockies after testing positive for PEDs. During this time, he was a coach for an under-18 baseball team. Lawerence loved his time coaching and would consider continueing a coaching career after his playing career.
Lawrence made his major league debut in April 2021 against the Diamondbacks.
This year, Lawrence has pitched a 3.38 ERA, 1.725 WHIP, and 12.2 K/9 in 12 games.
I talked to Lawrence about his experiences as a pitcher.
Here’s the interview:
Q: Did you develop a passion for coaching during your time off from the game. Is this something you would maybe pursue after your career?
A: I wouldn’t say that I developed a passion for coaching, rather I feel like I already had a passion for wanting to help others and give back. So I think the transition to coaching was very easy for me because I feel like I was doing just that. It is something that I could see myself doing in the future.
Q: How did your unorthodox style of pitching develop? Did you work on having a sidearm style or is that something that happened naturally?
A: It developed after trying to find a way to get on the field more in my freshman year of college. Being a stock over the top righty with not a lot of velocity wasn’t getting the job done.
Q: Your sinker has good speed and movement and your slider is a killer pitch. At a glance, it feels like you have the repertoire to be a closer. Do you want to have that role in the majors?
A: I’ve been a closer at different levels of the minors, but at every level, I’ve either been an 8th inning guy or a closer so I’m used to pitching in leverage innings and would love to transition to that role in the big leagues.
Q: What is the most memorable at-bat you have had?
A: Definitely striking out Freddie Freeman. I have been a Braves fan with my mom for most of my life and I remember watching his debut and all of his accolades since then. To strike him out with my mom in the stands was easily the most memorable.
Q: Only 11% of players from rounds 11-20 make it to the majors. What is the biggest thing you have to do to make it as a late-round draft pick?
A: Believing in myself, and knowing that if I believe in myself and continue to push for my goals that the round I was drafted will have nothing to do with the outcome of my career because I’m in control of it.