by Connor Henry
As the MLB season races to a close many teams promote prospects to give them a taste of the big leagues and see what potential they have. For dynasty leagues this can be especially useful because it can give a quick preview of who to target in the offseason and who may become a useful player in the coming years. Two players who have gotten my attention in the past month are Brandon Lowe and Jeff McNeil, who have very different skillsets but offer intriguing upside in certain categories. Let’s look into their stats in the Majors this year:
Lowe has shown that his power breakout in the minors this year was no fluke. In just under 100 plate appearances he’s smashed 4 HR equating to a .220 ISO and fueling his .818 OPS despite a lackluster .244 batting average. An ISO over 0.200 to go along with a 0.330+ OBP sounds great, especially when it’s coming from a 2nd baseman, but let’s not forget that he’s also stolen two bases. While speed may not be his calling card, Lowe has shown plenty of power (.304 ISO in Triple-A this year) and should garner enough starts to be both middle infield and outfield eligible going into 2018.
McNeil, on the other hand, has taken a different approach to his MLB debut. After posting a .250+ ISO this year in the minors, he has only has only hit 2 HR through 173 plate appearances but instead has lowered his strikeout rate to a Daniel Murphy-esque 8.7%. With his incredible contact approach, McNeil has hit an outstanding .340 this year in the Majors while sustaining an OBP near .400 and an OPS close to .900. Similar to Lowe, McNeil is not known as a speedster yet his 4 for 5 on the base paths this year lead me to believe that his ability to read pitchers can allow him to swipe some bags at a yearly rate similar to his teammate Todd Frazier. After this amazing debut, McNeil certainly deserves the chance to prove he is the long-term solution for the Mets at 2nd base. Each player’s batted ball data is shown below.
|Player||BABIP||LD%||GB%||FB%||IFFB%||Soft Con. %||Hard Con. %|
These two are each showing fantastic batted ball tendencies as well. Both have above average line drive rates and elevate the ball enough to support a solid home run rate. Surprisingly enough Lowe is sporting the lower BABIP despite a higher line drive rate and lower pop up rate, but with such a small sample size I believe he might experience some positive regression. McNeil, on the other hand, could experience some BABIP regression but I certainly do not expect regression to any value below .330 based on the skills he is showing thus far.
If there is anything to be skeptical of when looking at the above batted ball data it would be the soft contact rate, which for both of them sits above league average. However, with close to league average hard contact rates I believe this can be chalked up to a lack of MLB experience. Both have shown the skills to sustain above league average BABIPs, which is very impressive for rookies. Next we’ll look into the plate discipline theyhave exhibited.
Lowe’s contact skills, unlike his batted ball data, need improvement. Despite an impressive walk rate he is sporting an extremely low 63% contact rate. Couple that with a league average 49% swing rate and you have a sky-high swinging strike rate. Thus far in his MLB debut it hasn’t led to an enormous strikeout rate, but if no improvement takes place in his contact rate his strikeout rate is bound to climb. Encouragingly enough, Lowe only struck out at a 23% clip in the minors this year so I’m hopeful he can improve his contact rate and settle into a 25% strikeout rate type of hitter.
McNeil, on the other hand, is showing amazing plate discipline. While you may point to his 36% O-swing rate as a red flag, he is swinging at 85% of pitches in the zone and 57% of all pitches. Pair that with an 86% contact rate and you have a player who will almost never strikeout. I’m interested to see if he becomes a little bit more patient with his approach. With some subtle adjustments he could raise that walk rate back up the 9% he showed in the minors while not suffering too much in the strikeout department.
Overall Brandon Lowe should be a source of power, OBP and the occasional stolen base and Jeff McNeil should thrive as a source of AVG, with the occasional home run and stolen base. Both of these hitters could have value in the coming months depending on the depth of your league, however, I recommend both are claimed in all dynasty leagues based on the potential they have each shown in their rookie campaigns.