After signing a six-year extension in late March, Brandon Lowe (2B, Tampa Bay Rays) has gotten right to work, most recently by going 3-5 with three runs, two home runs and three RBI against the Red Sox on Sunday. It was his third multihit game in a row and capped off an impressive weekend for the young slugger. Lowe has been one of many bats the Rays have tapped into for their new offense, and like most of the others, it has paid off. He’s hitting .288/.342/.544 with 13 home runs and three steals through 234 plate appearances and has improved his barrel rate exit velocity while also doing a better job of getting the ball in the air—an important skill to have when you can hit the ball hard like Lowe does.
That being said, he’s far from perfect as a hitter. He has several weaknesses that may be exploited as the season goes on. First, and perhaps most importantly, Lowe has the highest swinging-strike rate in the league among qualified hitters at 19.6%, which is a full 7 points ahead of the next two players on the list. He’s swinging more often on pitches outside the zone than he did last season, and among qualified hitters, his 77.4% zone contact rate is sixth-worst while his overall contact rate is second-worst. The holes in his swing are worrisome, though he has made some minor improvements to his strikeout rate over the past couple of weeks.
Despite the warts in his plate discipline, Lowe is worthy of a spot on rosters in many 12-team formats because of his power and chip-in speed. His .288 batting average is likely to decline (his expected batting average of .241 is probably closer to what I’d expect going forward), but he should top 25 home runs and get close to 10 stolen bases by the end of the season at what is probably the weakest position in fantasy. If you came into the season counting on Robinson Cano or have otherwise had a revolving door at second base and missed the boat on David Fletcher or D.J. LeMahieu, Lowe can be a nice fill-in to provide power and speed.
Tom Murphy (C, Seattle Mariners)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. Luck has been kind to the part-time catcher so far this season, as his .304 batting average is a full 123 points above his .181 expected batting average. He has had an expected batting average below .200 for each of the past three seasons, so don’t be fooled by his offensive numbers so far. He neither has the playing time nor the talent to be worth a look on your team. I’m not even approaching him in 15-teamers with two catchers.
Edwin Encarnacion (1B, Seattle Mariners)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. After a slightly negative shift in his plate discipline and power last season, EE looks just the like EE we are used to seeing. He walks, limits the strikeouts, and crushes the baseball. The batting average won’t eclipse .250, but he’s a threat to hit 40 home runs with a .350 OBP.
Yandy Diaz (1B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays)—4-5, 2 R, HR, RBI. I love Yandy, but I am still at a loss on how to value him going forward. He has great plate discipline, makes extremely hard contact (92.1 average exit velocity) and has finally found a way to keep the ball off the ground (12.6 degree launch angle); however, I doubt he’ll get to 20 home runs or 70 RBI. His batting average and OBP will be nice assets, but don’t get too crazy on his value. Counting stats do matter, after all, and I’m not sure he’ll get very many. He’s a great points-league play, though.
Yoan Moncada (2B/3B, Chicago White Sox)—4-5, RBI. He’s walking less and still strikes out in more than 28% of his plate appearances, but the kid has broken out. Go ahead and pencil in 27 home runs and 16 steals with a .340 OBP. He’s a top-five second baseman.
Rougned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers)—3-4, R, 2 2B, 3 RBI, BB, SB. Last season, he went BERSERK in June, carrying fantasy owners for almost two months entirely by himself. I’m not going to say he will do that again, I’m just trying to say he could do it again. In 12-team and deeper formats, he’s worth a bench stash if you have the space—he’s been dropped in nearly half of Yahoo and ESPN leagues.
Khris Davis (DH, Oakland Athletics)—2-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. He’s not driving the ball the way he has in the past three years, and I won’t pretend to know why. While 40 home runs seems like a stretch and he probably won’t return the full value for the price you paid, 35 home runs and 95 RBI are nothing to sneeze at. If you lose your league, it’s not because you had Khrush in your utility space.
Asdrubal Cabrera (2B/3B/SS, Texas Rangers)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. He’s slashing .452/.514/.645 in 35 June plate appearances. He’s still available in about half of leagues, so go ahead and grab him to cover your infield.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (2B/SS/OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-4, R, HR, 2B, RBI. He hit a bit of a speed bump for about a week, but that’s going to happen to young hitters who aren’t patient at the plate. He’s got power and should continue to play regularly in the outfield, but be prepared for the peaks and valleys.
Eloy Jimenez (OF, Chicago White Sox)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. That’s back-to-back games with a home run after a 12-game power outage. Don’t cut him yet, folks.
(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)