There is always going to be questions about service time manipulation when it comes to a young player joining a Major League roster. While the Rays’ Brandon Lowe made his Major League debut in 2018 (148 PA), it wasn’t a certainty that he opened the season with a spot on the Tampa Bay roster. However this news yesterday should ensure it:
#Rays in agreement with IF/OF Brandon Lowe on six-year, $24M contract with two club options, sources tell The Athletic. Lowe, 24, has only 148 plate appearances in majors. Started 0-for-19 last Aug., but rallied for .847 OPS in Sept. No. 93 on BA’s list of top 100 prospects.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 20, 2019
Now the question isn’t if he’ll play for the Rays in ’19, instead it’s how big of an impact he can make? He’s not considered an elite prospect, despite some strong numbers both in the Majors and minors in 2018:
- Double-A (240 PA) – .291, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 37 R, 8 SB
- Triple-A (205 PA) – .304, 13 HR, 35 RBI, 36 R, 0 SB
- Majors (148 PA) – .233, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 16 R, 2 SB
For those in OBP formats his ability to draw a walk is key, including a 10.8% walk rate in the Majors courtesy of a 29.1% O-Swing%. While that’s a strong number, it’s fair to wonder if he’s going to make enough contact to consistently tap into the obvious power potential. His 12.7% SwStr% over his time in the minors in ’18 ballooned to 17.6% in the Majors, and while it came in a small sample size the fact that the struggles came against all types of pitches adds to the concerns (Whiff%):
- Hard – 12.33%
- Offspeed – 19.15%
- Breaking Ball – 26.74%
Lowe was already seeing a steady diet of non-fastballs (opposing pitchers threw him hard pitches 51.64% of the time) and that’s something that will likely continue. Considering he hit .154 against changeups, .111 against sliders and .143 against curveballs why would that approach change?
Whether or not Lowe can make the adjustments will be key to him remaining in the Majors and thriving (and while he’s hit .359 this spring he has struck out 15 times over 39 AB), where there are available at bats at both 2B and in the OF. As long as he’s up he should provide value due to his power potential, but that risk of strikeouts drags him down (he received a B- grade due to it ranking ninth among Rays prospects, which you can read by clicking here) and isn’t going to suddenly disappear.
For those in OBP formats he’s well worth the “risk”, just know what you are getting and be prepared with an alternative just in case.
Current Grade – B-
Upside Grade – B
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2019 Top 10 Prospect Lists: