I want you to take some deep breaths and clear your mind. Now, I want you to fill in that blank space with the MLB’s most boring baseball player. He’s a bit older, has been in the league a while but hasn’t done anything too notable. He’s more than likely a utility infielder that doesn’t have great speed. He hits reasonably well but can’t get past 20 home runs and can’t hit too close enough to .300. Nothing terrible though. He holds his own. He definitely doesn’t play for a contender, the A’s perhaps. His name doesn’t stand out nor does his number. He’s no Rougned Odor. In your mind’s eye, you have conjured Jed Lowrie, the MLB’s most boring baseball player.
I have been trying to figure out if second base is deep this year or if you should just give up if you missed out on any of the top 8 or so. Grey’s “2nd base is Neil deGrasse Tyson” tier sums up my feelings. These 9 players all have tremendous upside, each a fun young exciting player (except Whit Merrifield who is 29 year olds going into his second full season). However, none of these players are boring, none of them are named Jed, and none of them finished second in the majors in doubles last year. Of course that is just one stat, but Jed Lowrie’s unexpected success in 2017 is certainly something to keep in the forefront of your mind.
Again, Jed Lowrie finished second in the MLB in doubles. His total of 49 doubles also ties him for 13th most in the last 10 seasons. It’s crazy. Another stand out statistic from Lowrie last season was his patience. He led all second basemen in walk rate with 11.3%, and 3rd in BB/K. All of this led him to an .808 OPS, good for 6th of all second basemen.
Lowrie has a significant downside though; his consistency and health. In 2015, he tore his thumb in April. In 2016, he had surgery on his foot. He played a combined 156 games over those two seasons. In 2014, he played 136 games but finished with a 95 RC+. His last decent year was 2013 which is remarkably similar to 2017. Interestingly, it was discovered after the 2016 season that Lowrie had a deviated septum, which dated back to an injury he obtained in 2014. He admitted he never slept well due to this issue, which would affect his play on the field. Before the 2017 season, it was repaired. A fixed septum and a full season in 2017 is promising. If he plays another full year he can certainly continue his success.
After a couple years of frustrating injuries, Lowrie finally had the opportunity to settle in for a full season. I am not a sports psychologist, but I can imagine playing every day (and playing well) can boost your confidence. Not only that, but getting the reps should let a player show what they can truly do. The below table show’s Lowrie’s rocky 2014, injury plagued 2015 and 2016, and impressive 2017 batted ball rates.
He’s been relatively consistent. However, last year he did reduce his groundball rate, bring his fly ball rate back to previous years, and keep improving line drives. He also started hitting the ball harder as he did in 2015. The major injuries he obtained can significantly impact his swing (thumb and foot). If 2016’s struggles can at all be attributed to any lingering discomfort, 2017 shows he has healed. He had the lowest soft hit rate of all second basemen last season and 7th highest hard hit rate right behind Daniel Murphy. Disappointingly, those hits didn’t translate to going over the wall. He didn’t hit 49 doubles without losing some homers. His HR/FB rate usually stays in the single digits which is low for someone hitting the ball that hard. It wouldn’t surprise me if that went up a bit more to a total closer to 20.
In addition to his swing, I like where he hits. He batted most of the year in the 3 hole and should stay right there in 2018. He’ll be hitting around two of the hardest hitting power hitters in the league in Matt Olson and Khris Davis. The A’s also added Stephen Piscotty this offseason which could spice (the most bland spice in existence) things up a bit more. The top of the A’s lineup could pack a small punch and make Lowrie just as productive as last season.
Let’s take a break, and take a few more deep breaths. I want to play a game. It’s one of those fun guess who’s Player A and Player B ones.
I’ll give you a hint. One is Jed Lowrie’s 2017 and the other is another player’s 2016. I would say they are both remarkably similar seasons expect for the stolen base total from Player A. That probably gives away B. That one is Lowrie. Player A? 2016’s Jose Ramirez. I know, Ramirez was a baby in 2016 (24 years old) compared to Lowrie now (almost 34). Ramirez had much more room for improvement as that was only his first full season in the bigs. ESPN had Jose ranked 102 overall prior to 2017. Our very own Grey ranked him 17th for third basemen going in to 2017. But what does that mean for an older boring player like Lowrie? He certainly isn’t the 38th best second baseman available. He can put up those numbers from last year again and it might even be exciting.
I won’t tell you to pick Jed Lowrie as your starter. In a shallow league it may not be worth owning him until he proves himself further this season. However, any deeper leagues, AL/NL only, teams with multiple players at positions or CI/MI and specific OF positions, this one is for you guys. Jed Lowrie was a standout surprise last year. The deeper league you have the more I would consider him. AL only? Grab him late. Multiple MI positions? He can fill your second slot. He will produce a top 20 2nd base value for pennies on the dollar. Watch him produce 88/18/78/.272. It may not have been exciting, but it will be worth it.