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THE UPSIDE OF BRANDON LOWE

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

Search Fangraphs for Brandon Lowe and you'll uncover a trove of content, including this 2015 nugget from Carson Cistulli in which he identifies Lowe as the top hitter in the Big 10. Across four levels of the minor leagues between 2016 and 2018, Lowe was an above average hitter almost every step of the way, per wRC+. That continued in the Major Leagues during a 2018 call-up in which he hit only .233 in 148 plate appearances, but had 6 home runs and two steals. His wRC+ was 114 in that brief debut.


The Rays liked what they saw enough to offer Lowe a $24 million extension, locking him in at roughly $4 million per year through what would have been his team controlled years, with team options added for 2025 and 2026. He signed in March of 2019, instructing fantasy expectations for the upcoming season.


Brandon Lowe did not disappoint in 2019. In a half-season's worth of plate appearances (327), he hit 17 home runs, stole 5 bases, and slashed .270/.336/.514 with a wRC+ of 125. However, a .377 BABIP and a 34.6% strikeout rate strongly indicated that a batting average correction was coming. It didn't come.


In his first full season (albeit, a shortened 2020 season) of at-bats, Lowe cut his strikeouts considerably (from 34.6% to 25.9%), increased his walks considerably (from 7.6% to 11.2%), and shed 68 points off of his BABIP (from .377 to .309) while maintaining a steady batting average (from .270 to .269).


His increased walk rate is more in line with his consistently double-digit rates in the minor leagues. The same can be said about his mid 20s strikeout rate. Lowe appears to have fully adjusted to the Major Leagues, but he's also showing growth in several key areas, such as contact rate:

Obviously, a low-to mid 60s contact rate is not ideal, or even good, but Lowe wouldn't be the first hitter to improve his contact. George Springer, as one example, debuted with two seasons of contact in the 60s and settled in the mid and upper 70s in his peak years. The trend for Lowe is moving in the right direction. The same can be said for his hard contact rate:

And his on base percentage:

And his XWOBA:

And his slugging percentage:

Fly balls:

Fly balls are not in-and-of-themselves something to applaud, but pair that with his steady uptic in home run to fly ball ratio:

Lowe is also improving how often he barrels the ball:

Not only is growth happening in most every direction, but Statcast data via Baseball Savant identifies Lowe's 2020 performance as top 2% of the league in barrels, top 6% of the league in XSLG, top 10% of the league in XWOBA, and top 10% of the league in the delicious XWOBACON. Here's my projection for Lowe in 2021:

That's a solid line for any player. Toss in a little of that BABIP luck from 2019 and it could be even better.



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