Before the season started, it was a fair question to ask: How soon will Brandon Lowe begin hitting this year?
He’s been a streaky hitter. In 2021, he went from hitting .204 in the first half to .291 in the second half. So when Tampa Bay began its season, it was safe to ask whether or not Lowe will immediately start hitting.
Well, last night Lowe hit his third home run in a week off Cole Irvin (remember that Tampa Ray started their season on April 8th). He also hit a single, so he went 2-4, with a R, HR, and 2 RBI. He has a .985 OPS in this first week.
Before the season started, Brandon Lowe had 1,314 plate appearances.
Some people believe that a hitter needs 800-1,000 at-bats before they get comfortable in the Show. Of course, player development isn’t linear, so this number varies. Nevertheless, there are great examples of this range as a predictor of a breakout in players like Trevor Story and Austin Riley.
Something happened in his final 300 plate appearances in 2021, which was around 1,000 career plate appearances. In addition to that improvement to his AVG, his OBP went from .312 to .369. Even more interesting, he started to hit left-handed pitching. This caused a substantial increase in his contact percentage, by nearly 10% in the second half!
In other words, the power was already there, but he may have graduated to another level.
Heading into his peak performance years, at age 27, Brandon Lowe is worth watching this season. For fantasy baseball managers, especially in roto leagues, he would’ve been worth trading for several days ago if a manager was bored by their pick. But they’re probably not bored anymore.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Thursday.
Manny Machado (SD): 5-6, HR, 4 R, 2 RBI, 2 SB.
Machado is a good player, so it’s probably not surprising that he was so good last night against the Braves. But even for Machado, this performance matches a career-high for hits. He’s 11-for-32 in the first week of play, and this is in a lineup without Fernando Tatis Jr. still. Padres fans can hope for even better days ahead.
Jonah Heim (TEX): 3-4, HR, 3 R, 5 RBI.
Is it possible Heim is the best catcher in baseball after the first week? His ISO is a ridiculous .545 to start the season and he’s slashing .545/.615/1.091. I even feel weird writing that slugging percentage. Okay, it’s 13 plate appearances. To be fair, he’s never hit more than 10 homers in a season in the minor leagues. But let’s not take anything away from this hot start from this 26-year-old Round 4 pick by the Baltimore Orioles.
Daniel Vogelbach (PIT): 4-6, 2B, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.
Vogelbach had a .349 OBP last year in 258 plate appearances in limited action. He has started this year with a .389 OBP. Even though he is usually the leadoff man for the Pirates, who are now .500 on the young season, he sits against lefties.
Bryan Reynolds (PIT): 2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.
I watched part of the Pirates game last night, and the sound of Bryan Reynolds‘ home run off Joan Adon was resoundingly unique. Adon threw a 95 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate. It was a 2-run shot. Reynolds is only 27, and he may be one of the most underrated hitters in the game. His career slash line is .289/.366/.488.
Corey Seager (TEX): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.
Last night was the night. Seager pounded his first homer of the season and his first homer as the new shortstop for the Texas Rangers. Colorado Rockies broadcaster Drew Goodman said it best this week: It’s strange to see Corey out of a Dodger uniform. But this homer may help install himself in the memories of new fans. Even though it’s his first long ball, Seager is slashing .346/.393/.500 to start the season.
Will Smith (LAD): 2-4, HR, R, 4 RBI.
Tony Santillan was not having fun in the 8th inning after giving up a three-run shot to Smith. This might be a sign that Smith is ready to get things going, as he’s been off to a slow start on the season. He’s now batting .267. He was hitting out of the 6th spot in the lineup last night, between Max Muncy and Chris Taylor. The young catcher still only has 713 at-bats in his major league career, with an OPS of .892. He’s a rare bird in the catching position.
Jarred Kelenic (SEA): 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI, SB.
He’s only 22. This may be what people point to when they seek explanations for the number of strikeouts so far this season. He has struck out over half the time. But maybe we shouldn’t be seeking explanations beyond the explanation for any struggling hitter in the first week. He had a shortened spring too. He needs to shake the rust off too. Last night will help Scott Servais justify keeping him in there to figure it out a little longer.
J.T. Realmuto (PHI): 4-4, R, BB, SB.
Although it was a great night for the great catcher, that one run sticks out like a sore thumb. Even with Harper, Castellanos, and Hoskins batting behind him, the Phillies still had a tough time driving him in. It’s also nice to see a catcher running. He stole 13 bases last year and only got caught three times.
C.J. Abrams (SD): 1-5, HR, R, RBI.
Now the sixth overall pick of 2019 has hit his first career home run. Abrams did it last night against Charlie Morton. The rookie is only batting .105, but it’s early. In 2021, he sprained his MCL and fractured his left tibia. Abrams has excellent speed and contact skills. For now, he’s batting at the bottom of the lineup.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)