The Tampa Bay Rays’ pitching depth may be at an all-time low, but offense has always been a question for their franchise. Even if pitching is a need, the Rays are always going to select the best player available given their budget constraints–they aren’t going to stretch to select an arm over a bat. They believed that Brandon Lowe was that guy as they picked him in the third round at 87th overall. Lowe may save the Rays some money to help them sign Chris Betts, but more important is the promise that he has shown at the plate.
Lowe, who turns 21 in July, had a big 2015 season at the University of Maryland, hitting to a .331/.436/.551 line with 18 doubles, 9 homers, 53 RBI, and 11 stolen bases in 310 plate appearances. Doing that as a player with the ability to stick at second base makes him especially interesting. Lowe stands out at the plate for both a high floor and a relatively high ceiling. He has an excellent plate approach, standing out for both his patience and pitch recognition, and also shows the power potential to hit 15 or 20 home runs in the major leagues.
Lowe broke his left fibula just before this year’s draft, not a good sign for a player with a torn ACL in his past. He has never been a burner, but he could stick still at second base thanks to good instincts and solid actions. His arm strength isn’t great, making it tough for him to fit at third as a backup, but he would be absolutely fine in left field. Lowe will certainly be a second baseman first and foremost, but if his bat plays as expected, the Rays will find him a spot somewhere on the field.
You always worry about a player with injuries, but sometimes their significance is overblown. The Rays had interest in Cincinnati OF/2B Ian Happ in the first round, and Lowe isn’t much worse aside from the injuries. Lowe lacks Happ’s speed, isn’t a switch-hitter, and doesn’t have quite as advanced of an approach, but he is a talented hitter in his own own right and has a better chance of sticking at second base, making up a good amount of the difference.
Lowe has a chance to be an above-average starting second baseman or super-utility man in the majors yet still may sign for below-slot. That sounds like a nice proposition. The Rays can dream of him becoming a high-OBP player at second base with a good amount of power and solid defense. He profiles well at the top of a major league batting order as long as those injuries aren’t a problem moving forward.
We are still waiting for the Tampa Bay Rays to pick an arm to join all of their early-round bats, but Lowe is a nice combination with the high school picks Garrett Whitley and Chris Betts as a more polished hitter who could move relatively quickly towards the major leagues. Lowe is a nice value at this slot, and the Rays are excited to add him to their system.
Click this link to read our other 2015 Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft profiles.
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