A shin injury then a quad injury during a rehab game in the minors cut Brandon Lowe 's season short in 2019 shrouding his budding breakout campaign. Then a pandemic reduced his 2020 season but Lowe made the most of it with some interesting gains in his discipline metrics. First, the surface statistics. Lowe played in 56 games for the Rays in 2020 scoring 36 runs with 14 home runs, 37 RBI, three stolen bases and a .269/.362/.554 slash line.

Lowe (pronounced "now") finished tied for seventh in the American League in home runs, eighth in on-base plus slugging percentage (.916 OPS) and ninth in slugging. Among his peers at second base (at least 50 percent of his games at 2B), Lowe led the way in home runs, RBI and extra-base hits (25). He also raised his walk rate to 11.2 percent, cut his strikeout percentage to 25.9 and kept his batting average within one point of 2019 despite his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) falling 70 points. While 2019 represented some luck, last year suggests more skill in his batting average than many planned on.

While this helps assess him, his underlying discipline metrics on Fangraphs hint at some volatility going forward. Lowe's 15.4 swinging strike percentage marks an improvement as does his 67.1 contact rate, 76.8 Z-Contact (in the strike zone) percent and 26.8 O-Swing (outside the zone) percentage. Defraying a collapse in his average while increasing his power could portend a strong 2021 for Lowe in the Rays lineup.

According to Statcast, Lowe recorded 137 batted ball events with 24 barrels (17.5 percent), an 89.8 MPH average exit velocity and 43.1 hard hit rate. His expected numbers back up his power and support his performance with a .264 expected batting average (xBA), .555 expected slugging (xSLG) and a .369 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA).

Investigating his plate discipline on Statcast, Lowe's zone swing percentage went down but his zone contact remained stable. He cut his chase percentage by 10 and beveled down his swing percentage from 54.2 percent in 2019 to 46.8 percent last year. Lowe also slightly improved in terms of whiff percentage lowering it from 37.7 percent in 2019 to 35.8 percent in 2020. His batted ball data yields a 32.8 ground ball percentage, 27 fly ball rate and 32.1 line drive percent. Although it's easy to dismiss Rays hitters due to their home ballpark and propensity to platoon, Lowe's percentile ranks should not be ignored:

  • 90th percentile in xwOBA
  • 94th percentile in xSLG
  • 97th percentile in Barrels
  • 98th percentile in Barrel percentage

Noting an injury cut short his second half in 2019, in order to expand his sample size to gain a broader view of his production, it requires taking his first half of 2019 plus 2020 to accomplish the feat. Here's how his numbers shake out:

  • Lowe 1H 2019-plus-2020: 132 games, 531 plate appearances, 76 runs, 30 home runs, 86 RBI, eight stolen bases; .273/.348/.536

Remember this blueprint of statistical data when viewing his projections for 2021. Before exploring those, Lowe's spray chart from this time frame may be NSFW, at least if you're into power:

It's also encouraging to see a young power hitter not reliant on pulling the ball exclusively for power. Check out Lowe's spray heatmap:

Unlike his counterpart at second base, Keston Hiura , Lowe can handle pitches up in the zone. He also made strides against left-handed pitching in comparison to 2019:

  • Lowe versus LHP 2019: 68 plate appearances, three home runs, 36:2 K:BB, .242 average, .674 OPS
  • Lowe versus LHP 2020: 60 plate appearances, six home runs, 14:6 K:BB, .300 average, 1.137 OPS

Due to sample size of the seasons and his career, there's not too much to glean here but Lowe's improvement facing southpaws provides hope he can repeat his batting average going forward while keeping the power he's displayed the last two seasons. Remember his first half of 2019 added to his 2020 results sample and then compare them to his projections:

  • Lowe 2021 THE BAT X projection: 133 games, 571 plate appearances, 78 runs, 29 home runs, 83 RBI, six stolen bases; .252/.336/.491
  • Lowe 2021 ZiPs projection: 131 games, 530 plate appearances, 69 runs, 26 home runs, 83 RBI, six stolen bases; .243/.319/.474
  • Lowe 2021 ATC projection: 138 games, 575 plate appearances, 81 runs, 29 home runs, 85 RBI, six stolen bases; .255/.335/.492

It's apparent the computers do not like Lowe's early strikeout struggles and view them as a threat to his batting average going forward. Could Lowe finish with 30 or more home runs and eight or more stolen bases? Absolutely. Will Tampa allow him enough plate appearances to make this happen, sure hope so. ZiPS represents the low tide for Lowe if he struggles this season. However, if he carries over the gains displayed with his teeming power, things get interesting. Remember, Lowe hit second in 36 of his starts last season. Here's how his projections could look using his sample from earlier combining his first half of 2019 and last year:

  • Lowe 2021 with 300 plate appearances: 42 runs, 16 HR, 46 RBI, 4 SB
  • Lowe 2021 with 450 plate appearances: 63 runs, 25 HR, 69 RBI, 6 SB
  • Lowe 2021 with 600 plate appearances: 84 runs, 33 HR, 91 RBI, 8 SB

An average in the range of .260-to-.270 may accompany these counting statistics making Lowe an intriguing target at his present price point.

Statistical Credits:



THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty

ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski

ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen