Batter’s Box: How Lowe can you Go?
The joke has been thrown around constantly with the Rays and all their young Lowes regardless of how you pronounce it. But the Rays are going as Lowe as possible with Nate Lowe back in the majors since July 4th and with Brandon Lowe trying to work his way back from an injury. Nate is trying to make up for his missing counter part as much as he can with his performance in the second game of yesterday’s double header against the Baltimore Orioles. He delivered two more home runs finishing with this line: 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. Since his return to the majors, Lowe has been en fuego. In those seven games, he has five home runs, eight runs, and ten RBIs, while slugging .960. Of course that is only seven games which is not much to go off of. However, he’s known for his power hitting prowess in the minors.
Back last December, Adam Garland published a Going Deep piece on the Ray’s next great slugger. That slugger happened to be Nate Lowe. Garland dove into the discrepancy between Lowe’s fantasy future value and the value many prospect lists are giving him. Notably, he ranked second in 2018 among all minor leaguers in wRC+ only behind Vlad Jr. Additionally, it’s his contact skills that set him apart from many other young power hitters. His swinging strike rate was around 8% in the minors and has remained around 8% (8.6%) in the little time he has spent up in the majors. As we continue on into the second half of the season and as we all make the push to the playoffs, this home run hitter is proving to the Rays he should stay in the lineup. Finding a player like this on waivers that will keep his playing time can give a team that solid push towards locking down that playoff spot.
Just as Lowe hit a couple dingers yesterday, we had a few other similar performances. Let’s take a look.
Starling Marte (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. It was a day of abundant two homer nights. Marte started it off for the league with a couple solo shots. It’s always a roller coaster of emotions seeing those two homers for your team and then only seeing two RBIs. Both solo homers? I’m down 10 in RBIs right now! Anyways, Marte homered last night as well starting off the second half scorching. June was a bounce back month for Marte and he looks to be continuing this through July as well.
Jon Lester (P, Chicago Cubs)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Shout out to Lester! He had quite the day at the plate. He’s hitting .250 with a .774 OPS?? Put this guy in the lineup!
Mike Brosseau (3B, Tampa Bay Rays)—Game 2: 3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. Round 2 for our two home run night guys. However, this time it’s from a name I haven’t heard before. Only playing in his 11th game, Brosseau hit some barely out homers for his second and third of his career. He’s been hanging around with Choi and Brandon Lowe hurt so he might be sent back once the team is healthy. However, he has been solid all season in AAA and has continued hitting well while in the bigs.
Max Kepler (OF, Minnesota Twins)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. If you were to pick any player to hit a couple homers yesterday, Kepler would have been a solid pick. Last night was his fourth multi-homer game of the year and he was facing Trevor Bauer. Going into tonight’s game Kepler already had three straight homers against Bauer and made it five in his first two at bats. Kepler already has passed his home run total from last year and has matched his RBI total.
Tyler O’Neill (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. O’Neill spent a good amount of time in the bigs last year and started this season in the line up. However, he was sent down after some initial struggles. He’s been back for nine games after an okay performance in AAA. He is highly prone to striking out at 41.9% this year, but he is known for his power. His hard hit rate is at 50% on the year. He still needs to make some adjustments to major league pitching as his GB/FB rate in the majors is at 1.31 while in the minors it was mostly around 0.75. As a young power hitter that strikes out, there will be a learning curve but we may see some breakthrough soon. If you need a power bat down the stretch put O’Neill on your watch list.
Justin Turner (3B, Los Angeles Dodgers)—3-5, 3 R, HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI. I know he’s been playing regularly this whole season but I’ve always felt that Turner’s been missing time because of an injury. It happens almost every year but this year I haven’t seen his name pop up much since he’s not as dominant at the plate. This past month in particular he’s struck out 21.7% of the time, walking 4.3% of the time, and getting on base only 30.4% of the time. Those are not typical Turner numbers. He’s still hitting the ball hard and in the air (27% ground ball rate) but he is swinging at more pitches out of the zone and whiffing on those pitches more often. His contact abilities and his discipline has been what sets him apart. Without those skills he won’t have the fantasy value he usually contributes.
Juan Soto (OF, Washington Nationals)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. This still only 20 year old has put together an incredible season. After a so-so first month, Soto came back strong in May but then has been killing it in June and July. Since the beginning of June, his BB/K rate is nearly 1, with a 15.9% BB rate and a 16.6% K rate. He is not crushing the ball but he’s getting plenty of line drives to get on base. His main skill is that plate discipline, and being only 20 that is incredibly invaluable.
Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros)—4-6, 3 R, 2 2B, RBI. Altuve missed a bit more than a month from May into June with some leg issues. His offseason surgery has seemed to hamper his play a bit this year, especially on the base paths. He has only two stolen bases on the year. It looks like his years of 30+ steals are done. Since returning from the IL in late June, he’s been fine with a 110 wRC+, better than he’d been before the injury. Hopefully that time has helped him heal a bit more and give him comfort at the plate. I doubt we’ll see anything close to 2017 Altuve again but he should be better for the remainder of the year.
Yasiel Puig (OF, Cincinnati Reds)—4-6, 3 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. It was quite a day for many Reds players but Puig put up huge numbers. His last month or so has been something to behold. Since June 14th, Puig has a 218 wRC+ hitting nearly .400 while slugging .833. He has four homers in his last seven games as well. He has cut way back on his strikeouts, he’s making a ton more contact in the zone, and he’s making more hard contact. He’s finally putting things together in Cincy after those initials struggles early in the year.
Phillip Ervin (OF, Cincinnati Reds)—6-6, R, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, SB. Six hits in a game does not happen often. The last time this happened in a nine inning game was George Springer last year. But who is Phillip Ervin? He’s been called up here and there this season to start only occasionally. He does strike out often but last night was different putting everything in play finding every single hole. It was an incredible feat but his inconsistent play and play time should keep him off any fantasy roster.
Josh Donaldson (3B, Atlanta Braves)—1-3, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB. Here’s some more classic Donaldson for you. Not much to build off of from what I described yesterday. He’s back baby!
Albert Pujols (1B, Los Angeles Angels)—2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. Pujols is an interesting case. He’ll always have a game here and there like this but they don’t come by as often as we’d like. He only hits fly balls or grounders so his .221 BABIP may not come as a surprise. Those fly balls or grounders have to find a hole because otherwise he’ll get thrown out making his way to first. He still almost has a BB/K of 1, but he still hasn’t been productive enough for many fantasy teams.
(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)