Tampa Bay Rays: Brandon Lowe is doing the Jose Ramirez

Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe is off to a torrid start in 2020.

Tampa Bay Rays slugger Brandon Lowe‘s meteoric offensive breakout is reminiscent of Indians’ 3B Jose Ramirez when he was one of the game’s best hitters.

Brandon Lowe is currently ghost pepper hot with the stick. His slash line of .296/.397/.676 has been good for a 188 wRC+ which is second in the league only to Yankees 1B Luke Voit, who has 40 fewer plate appearances.

Lowe has already stacked up 1.9 fWAR and is sitting in a spot on the leader board reserved for MLB’s premier talent. This isn’t just a hot start, Lowe is building on last year’s excellent but injury-shortened season. Furthermore, Lowe is showing signs that he could be permanently Elite.

Take a look at the Statcast expected statistics, you can see Lowe has an xBA of .289 (80th percentile), an xSLG of .685 (97th percentile), and an xwOBA of .439 (99th percentile). The biggest difference in expected vs actual is a minuscule .07  from xBA/BA. In other words, Lowe has been every bit as good as his surface numbers indicate.

The most impressive metric for Lowe is his Barrels/PA% at 13.5% which is bested only by Juan Soto, Eloy Jimenez, Corey Seager, and somehow Mitch Moreland. Every time Lowe steps into the box, he is generating premium contact.

So what has powered Lowe in 2020?

To start, he has refined his approach at the plate and significantly reduced his chase rate from 31% to 21%. The other catalyst for Lowe is swinging less often as his Swing% is down to 47%.

While not chasing out of the zone is important to every hitter, it is especially critical for Lowe because he does not possess the elite exit velocity other premier hitters do. Lowe’s EV of 88.3 is actually below average among all MLB hitters and his Max EV puts him between Brian Goodwin and Andres Gimenez. Lowe’s offense plays up because he is selective and does max damage on the pitches he chooses to hit.

Lowe is proof superstar offensive production can come from medium contact hitters that display an elite approach. Lowe’s emergence is one of the reasons the Tampa Bay Rays find themselves in another playoff hunt. Tampa already made a shrewd deal with Lowe so he will be a lineup fixture for the foreseeable future.

Next: Blue Jays acquire Taijuan Walker from the Mariners

Brandon Lowe is what happens when you combine average exit velocity with elite plate discipline and contact skills not unlike 2018 Jose Ramirez or to a lesser extent 2016 Mookie Betts.