The Tampa Bay Rays entered Tuesday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks with the best record and best run differential in baseball. The Rays can credit various parties for their hot start: starters Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton and outfielders Austin Meadows and Tommy Pham among them. One player who shouldn't go overlooked, however, is rookie second baseman Brandon Lowe.
Lowe came into the night leading Tampa Bay's hitters in Wins Above Replacement and ranked second in OPS+ (behind Meadows). He notched two hits, including his eighth home run of the year, boosting his slash line to .314/.369/.602 and giving him 15 dingers in fewer than 300 career plate appearances -- or putting him on pace for about 30 per season. Lowe has done all that while primarily playing the keystone, though he's received starts at first base and on Tuesday he received the nod in right field.
It's fair to say that Lowe has validated the Rays' decision to sign him to a six-year extension worth $24 million back in March. Barring injury or otherwise unforeseen circumstances, Lowe's deal may soon become known as one of the most ream friendly in the game.
That isn't to suggest Lowe will maintain this level of production -- few could, after all. Besides, his propensity for striking out will likely cap his batting average below its current .314 mark. He entered the night having fanned nearly a third of the time and about four times as often as he had walked -- a strikeout-to-walk ratio that placed him in the 150s among 175 qualified batters. He's also struggled with left-handed pitching that could wind up leaving him in a platoon role.
Even so, there's plenty to like about Lowe, beginning with his affinity for hitting the ball hard. Additionally, he's a versatile defender and an intelligent baserunner (he's five-for-six on steals and well over 50 percent on taking the extra base). At minimum, he should be an above-average stick -- especially against right-handed pitching -- who can slot in at a few different spots across the diamond.
You can see, then, why the Rays believed Lowe was worth locking up. Heretofore, he's one of the reasons everyone else in baseball is looking up at Tampa Bay in the standings.