Why Rays' Brandon Lowe can still be the team's MVP

Tampa Bay Rays v Texas Rangers
Tampa Bay Rays v Texas Rangers / Ron Jenkins/GettyImages

Few players in Major League Baseball are as polarizing among their team’s fans as Brandon Lowe. On the one hand, looking at his Baseball-Reference page will show that he finished top 10 in American League MVP voting in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. On the other hand, the postseason game logs on that same page show that he also went a startling 0-for-40 combined in the ALCS during those years.

Brandon Lowe’s explosive success early in his career has been marred by the "inconsistent" label. The 2023 season has exemplified this, as Lowe’s wRC+ has hovered around the 100 mark, which is league-average. Many Rays fans have become frustrated with Lowe’s performance, and justifiably so at points. Yet even in the face of his struggles, there are reasons to be optimistic that he will perform down the stretch.

A major reason to believe that Brandon Lowe will turn things around is his track record of high-level performance in the latter half of the season. Lowe’s 2021 campaign is largely viewed as his best year, but the first half of that season looked an awful lot like his 2023. He was a below-average hitter by wRC+ for the first few months of the year, and his batting average hovered around the Mendoza line. Once July began, Lowe became a new man and put up video game-like numbers the rest of the way. His lowest monthly wRC+ after June was in August, where he still eclipsed the 150 mark, which is still MVP caliber. 

The selling point for Brandon Lowe is his power, which is especially impressive for a player listed at 5-foot-10. The 39 home runs from his 2021 season will be difficult to replicate for Lowe moving forward, but the data still shows he can still be among the game’s prolific power hitters. 

According to Statcast, Lowe is still in the 75th percentile of major league hitters when it comes to barrel rate. Even with a back injury that has certainly affected him, Lowe is still tearing the cover off the ball at a high rate, which means the extra-base hits will come. He is also pulling the ball over 50% of the time according to Fangraphs, the highest rate of his career. Lowe has the batted ball data of a high-potential slugger, he just has to put it all together together.

Another aspect of Brandon Lowe’s game to like is his walk rate. It currently is above 12%, the highest mark of his career. This is despite him chasing and whiffing more than his contemporaries, as per Statcast. It is clear opposing pitching staffs fear Lowe, and if he avoids swinging at their waste pitches, his on-base percentage will improve.

The last stretch of the season will be pivotal for the Tampa Bay Rays, and the player who may need to step up most is Brandon Lowe. There is no doubt he has underperformed thus far, but his track record and underlying numbers paint a different story. It might sound crazy, but by season’s end, Brandon Lowe might find himself back in the running for team MVP.