Some players just can't stay healthy enough to be worth your investment in fantasy leagues. This is about one of those players.
There are many things that you can do 49% of the time and have it considered a success. Frank Thomas got on base in 49% of his plate appearances in the strike-shortened 1994 season. That is the highest non-Barry Bonds OBP posted in the last 40 years. Kyle Drabek had a 49% whiff rate on his curveball in 2012 -- the highest in the major leagues (probably not the guy you would have guessed). That means his curve was a pretty amazing pitch. According to a film documenting his life and influence on music, Lemmy Kilmeister of Motorhead is 49% m***erf***er. That is a TON of m***erf***er.
However, of all of those things you can do 49% of the time and have that be awesome, missing 49% of your team's games due to injury is not one of them. And that's exactly what Lowrie has done over the past four seasons. Three hundred eighteen of them to be exact. They haven't been cheap ones either, Lowrie lost 110 games to wrist surgery in 2009, had a long bout with mononucleosis in 2010, lost two months with a shoulder injury in 2011 and suffered a sprained ankle (along with nerve damage) in 2012. This caliber of injury history would make Troy Tulowitzki cringe.
But while all of this is fact, it says nothing of Jed Lowrie the player. Lowrie, while able to physically make it onto the field, has a career .250/.326/.417 line with 35 HR and 159 RBI in 353 career games. Which means that if you went through the mostly meaningless exercise of extrapolating his career stats over a single 150 game season, you'd get a .250 hitter with 15 HR, 68 RBI, 65 R and 2 SB. Last year, Gordon Beckham hit .234 with 16 HR, 62 RBI, 60 R and 5 SB, which was good enough to be the 41st middle infielder on the ESPN Player Rater.
So why is it that we're so interested in Jed Lowrie from a fantasy perspective? According to Mock Draft Central, Lowrie is being taken as the 17th shortstop off the board, ahead of Stephen Drew, Andrelton Simmons, Zack Cozart and Everth Cabrera. The easy answer is power. What his career numbers don't show you is that he hit 16 HR in 97 games during the 2012 campaign -- good for a .190 ISO (isolated power), which was third best among shortstops in the major leagues. And this wasn't a HR/FB rate fueled power surge either, this is just who Lowrie is as a hitter. Last season, Lowrie finished second in baseball to Rod Barajas in fly ball percentage at 51.3%. This is nothing new, as Lowrie had a career fly ball rate of over 50%.
If he could stay healthy to play even 140 games, he'd be worth that draft spot, since he could potentially push 25 HR. But since he's never played in even 100 games in a single season, it's pointless to even worry about that. The odds that Lowrie will stay healthy enough to warrant his draft position, especially in the deeper player pools of AL-only leagues, are slim -- and it's not a smart use of your resources. On the other hand, if you can grab him for a couple of bucks or an end-game draft pick (essentially anywhere he's a low-risk flier), take a shot. Maybe you'll even be able to weasel a solid performance out of him until he ends up back at home on the DL.
My 2013 prediction for Jed Lowrie: .263 AVG, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 35 R, 2 SB in 334 AB.