Brandon Lowe took a step forward in the shortened 2020 season putting up a .269/.362/.554 line and 152 wRC+. He got off to a slow start in 2021 but ultimately was one of the most productive hitters in the majors putting up a .247/.340/.523 line and putting up a 137 wRC+. He contributed 5.2 fWAR and 4.7 rWAR on his way to his second consecutive top 10 AL MVP finish.
Here’s why you should expect more of the same in 2022.
Does Brandon Lowe’s Platoon Split matter?
In some ways Lowe took a step forward despite the overall drop in production. His huge 2020 came on the back of a .300/.417/.720 line and 208 wRC+ vs left handed pitchers over a small 60 plate appearance sample. That fell to a .198/.261/.401 line and 83 wRC+ over 188 plate appearances that is much more in line with his career production against southpaws.
With results like that, should Lowe be platooned? I wouldn’t platoon him. He has a career 104 wRC+ against LHP, so I would expect something around a league average batter when he’s facing same handed pitchers. His lineup spot should be adjusted, and his scheduled days off should come against right handers.
Where he took a step forward was against right handed pitchers. He hit .270/.375/.581 and put up a 161 wRC+ besting his 145 wRC+ career rate with the platoon advantage.
Since 2018 B-Lowe has been the 9th best hitter against right handed pitchers with a minimum of 900 plate appearances coming in just behind Bryce Harper (147 wRC+) and just ahead of Shohei Ohtani (142 wRC+).
Lowe has done a good job of getting the strikeout rate under control after posting a strikeout rate near 35% in 2019. The last two years it has dropped to around 26%. When he does make contact with the ball he gets it in the air more frequently than most batters.
When that ball gets airborne he does a lot of damage.
Is Brandon Lowe the best 2B in Major League Baseball?
Lowe has made his case for being the best offensive second baseman in the game. He’s put up a .255/.341/.518 line and 134 wRC+ for his career besting Jose Altuve’s 128 wRC+ since Lowe made his debut in 2018.
Last year Marcus Semien had a great year for the Toronto Blue Jays and will man second base for the Texas Rangers after they added Semien and Corey Seager. Semien is the better defender as a true shortstop that will be playing second, and two of the last three years Semien has put up fantastic offensive seasons at 138 and 131 wRC+.
However the other six seasons of Semien’s major league career have been wRC+ in the mid 90s. If he has another big year he will be in the conversation and projections seem split on Lowe or Semien having the most valuable 2022 season.
By comparison, Lowe is four years younger and has far more consistent production at the plate. Accordingly, I would take Lowe as the best second baseman in baseball going into the 2022 season, with the only real competition in the National League being Trea Turner if the Dodgers deploy him at second base in 2022.
Should Brandon Lowe have a different Defensive Home?
Lowe’s defensive metrics weren’t “good” in 2021. He put up a -7 DRS and -1.7 UZR. This is the first season he put up negative numbers in either metric. Dating back to my looks at him in the minors his arm is the weakest part of his defense, but he has performed much better than expectations to this point, and the whole body of work to date looks to be somewhere around a league average defender.
Plus, there isn’t really a position where he would fit better. Even with Vidal Brujan, Xavier Edwards, and Taylor Walls looking to get more playing time in the near future Lowe should stay at 2B until it’s clear he can’t. The others have better speed and arms that could transition to the outfield with Brujan and Edwards potentially being the centerfielder of the future.
It’s not hyperbole to say the Rays possess one of the best middle infields in the game when you combine Lowe and Wander Franco. With both signed to long term contracts Rays fans should be able to see the pair for the foreseeable future.