By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Brandon Lowe’s meteoric rise with the Charlotte Stone Crabs was unexpected.
The team entered this season with six of the Tampa Bay Rays organization’s top-30 prospects, but Lowe’s name didn’t appear on that list. Nearing the half-way point of the season, Lowe has become a player who likely has the major leagues in his future.
“He’s turned himself into a bonafide prospect who can drive the ball, rather than just a little second baseman who hits singles,” manager Michael Johns said. “He’s kind of reinvented himself in our eyes and the organization’s eyes. He has some thunder. I don’t know if any of us saw that coming.”
In 107 games last season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Lowe’s statline was respectable. He scored 67 runs, hit 15 doubles, three triples and five homers. He also drove in 42 runs, drew 60 walks and had a slash line of .248 (average)/.357 (on-base percentage)/.342 (slugging percentage).
The second baseman has gone from respectable to a heart-of-the-order threat who earned his first all-star game nod.
Lowe has played in 51 games so far this year — less than half his total of last year — but his numbers aren’t even comparable. He’s already scored 42 runs. He’s already hit 19 doubles, three triples and nine homers. Most impressively, his slash line is .335/.433/.631.
“I’m just really owning my swing and know what kind of movements I’m making,” Lowe said. “I really have something as a basis to go back to when I start struggling.”
The improvements for the 6-foot, left-handed hitter didn’t just happen by accident.
A Virginia native, Lowe has moved to Tennessee, where he trains with his agent and other players throughout the offseason. These workouts in Nashville have helped him make the big jump from last year to this year.
“It’s tough in the offsason to get yourself up to workout. It’s much easier when you have six or seven guys who all work toward the same goal that you are,” Lowe said.
It might not even be his increased power which has been most impressive. Along with being in tune with his swing, it’s his continued plate vision which has caught the eye of his manager.
His strikeout to walk ratio is nearly 1:1. He has 31 strikeouts and 30 walks.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a player like that who just knows the strikezone so well,” Johns said. “That’s something you can’t teach.”
The 22-year-old had a moment he would never forget earlier this season.
Trailing by a pair of runs headed into the bottom of the last inning, Lowe came up to the plate with two runners on base. He ended the game with one swing of the bat, crushing a three-run homer.
“It’s the first walk-off home run I ever hit,” Lowe said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much. I just happened to get it up in the air.”
Unfortunately for Lowe, a little bit of bad luck and bad timing appears to have derailed his first all-star experience. He was placed on the disabled list earlier this week after being hit by a pitch in the forearm on June 5.
“It’s a huge honor to get picked for the all-star game, and to not be able to do it because of injury, that’s just not something you want to do. You want to play in the all-star game,” Lowe said.
He is eligible to be removed from the disabled list today, but it seems like it would take a long shot for him to get to play. Teammates Jake Cronenworth and Brett Sullivan will still represent the Stone Crabs in Lakeland on Saturday.