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2018 surprise Brandon Lowe can hit at any level

Lowe’s rapid rise through the minors brings excitement for what could be next

Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

At this point a year ago, Brandon Lowe was preparing to start his season in Double-A Montgomery as the 16th ranked prospect in the Rays system, per MLB Pipeline.

Picking up on a short stint with the Biscuits at the end of 2017, Lowe looked to improve on his .659 OPS through 24 games to end the 2017 campaign. And he did just that.

Lowe looked like a completely different player at the beginning of 2018, posting a .908 OPS in 54 games with Montgomery, with eight homers and a 156 wRC+. Lowe was one RBI short of breaking the Biscuits’ record for RBI in a month, with 28 runners batted in during the month of May. A three-hit game against the Mississippi Braves was the final game for Lowe as a Biscuit, as he was called up to Triple-A Durham on June 7.

The following day, Lowe made his debut with the Durham Bulls, recording two hits in Durham’s 2-1 victory over the Rochester Red Wings. Lowe’s Double-A success carried over into Triple-A, with improvements on nearly every statistic.

In 205 plate appearances, Lowe would go on to slash .304/.380/.613 in 46 games with Durham, posting a ridiculous .994 OPS with a wOBA of .431 and wRC+ of 178.

Among Triple-A hitters with at least 120 plate appearances, Lowe ranked fourth in wRC+, right behind White Sox top prospect Eloy Jimenez. More impressive than that, however, is that Lowe was right above MLB’s consensus number one prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

This Triple-A success for Brandon Lowe earned him a promotion to the big league club on August 4, surpassing many more expected names as less than two months separated from his original promotion to Durham. Lowe’s first six games in the MLB were not forgiving to him, as he was unable to muster a hit until game seven.

Lowe’s struggles were short lived, however, as he’d record a hit in seven of his next 10 games. Defensively, Lowe played second base, left field, and right field, positing a positive score in the volatile UZR column at each position.

On August 28, Lowe hit his first home run as a big leaguer, facing Braves pitcher Julio Teheran, showcasing his 50-grade power, as graded by MLB Pipeline. For Rays fans following this prospect, it was what they’d been waiting for: sneaky power.

Brandon Lowe would go on to finish his 2018 campaign with the Rays, slashing .233/.324/.450 in 43 games while posting a respectable .334 wOBA and 113 wRC+. A 0.8 fWAR player, Lowe’s first MLB season progression is visualized here:

History suggests that Lowe picks up on his previous seasons with even better numbers in the next year, however, projections are not as optimistic. Steamer, for example, has Lowe making 304 plate appearances while posting a .764 OPS with a wRC+ of 111. ZiPS thinks that Lowe will have a bigger role, projecting Lowe to play in 134 games with 555 plate appearances (102 wRC+).

What can be said for certain is that Lowe’s hitting ability is good, with an average exit velocity of 89.3 mph and a 14 degree launch angle, according to BaseballSavant, the tools are there to make an excellent hitter.

Lowe has risen to ninth in MLB Pipeline’s latest rankings of the Rays organization, and he is currently battling in spring training for a spot as an everyday player, getting reps at various positions including first base. So far this spring, Lowe has already picked up from where he left off last season, recording a four-hit game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, finishing a triple shy of the cycle.

Brandon Lowe should be a regular for the Rays in 2019, as he possesses the skills required to be an everyday MLB player. The impressive infield depth that the Rays have will make the battle for a job—whether it be at first, second, or even in the outfield—a tough one, but there is little doubt in Lowe’s tools and being on the every day roster will only make the Rays a better team.