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Is Jed Lowrie for real?

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Should we buy or sell this torrid Jed Lowrie thing?

USA TODAY Sports/Peter Rogers Illustrations

I’ll be attempting to focus on just one player each week. Last week was Ozzie Albies, and let’s just say the outlook is NOT grim.

This week, it’s the red-hot Jed Lowrie. Major shouts to our own Joe Gentile for touting Lowrie all offseason. If Lowrie was a prominent name elsewhere within the community during preseason, I didn’t see it.

Anyway, what matters now is that we discuss this blazing performance and decide on Lowrie for the rest of the season. If we are Lowrie nonbelievers then we must find a way to sell, sell, sell. If we are believers, however, we must attempt to trade with the Lowrie owner (unless we are Joe, and we already own him everywhere). Let’s do this.

Joe’s Preseason Take, circa February 2018

“Lowrie could have a breakout season at 33 years old. He is every analytically-inclined fantasy owners dream player. Last season he had an incredible 27.1% line drive rate, 0.68 GB/FB and 34.5% hard contact rate, which is foreshadowing the potential of a high batting average player who also has 25+ home run potential. That’s not even mentioning the fact that he had the ninth-best soft contact rate at 12.1%, which ranked above players like Cody Bellinger, Freddie Freeman, and Giancarlo Stanton. Lowrie’s underlying numbers and durability last season will have me drafting him as my last pick in every league I play in to fill my corner infield spot—and for the cost, I recommend you do the same.”

Another of Joe’s takes, circa March 2018

“While Lowrie has some power potential, the batting average should be above .270, and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him post an average close to the .300 mark. He had an excellent contact rate last season, which when paired with his 27.1% line drive rate and 12.1% soft contact rate, makes him a good sleeper pick for batting average.

There is no reason to pick up a second baseman like Jonathan Schoop (61.0) or Scooter Gennett (194.0) when you can wait for a player like Lowrie (448.0) 250 picks later.”

The Background

I can’t just quote Joe all day, even though that makes for an easy time. Anyway, Lowrie once lost his job to Carlos Correa, back when he played for Houston the second time. We can’t hold that against him, though.

Lowrie has been a bit of a mixed bag the past few seasons, though the inconsistency can probably be attributed to injuries (wrist, shoulder, thumb, foot, etc.). Consider his ISO marks since 2013: .156, .106, .178, .059, .171. This year he is sitting pretty at .248, though.

If you clicked the link to the article above, you’d know that Lowrie is no stranger to fast starts. He’s also no stranger to injuries, though. It appears that’s the rub with him—if he can just stay healthy...

The Skills

Lowrie has beefed up his line drive percentage during his time in Oakland. In 2016 that mark was 25.5%, a career high. In 2017 it was 27.1%, another career mark. So far in 2018 that mark is 25.0%, which is the third-best mark of his career sans his rookie year of 2008 (25.1% in 81 games). In the most recent large sample (2017) Lowrie barely hit any ground balls. He was either smoking line drives (27.1%) or getting the ball in the air (43.5%), which meant his ground ball rate was a paltry 29.4%—the lowest GB% of his career except for a 32-game sample in 2009. For fantasy purposes, this batted ball profile looks fantastic. He hits line drives and fly balls, and he makes a lot of hard contact (48.2% this year!).

Lowrie profiles as a high batting average guy with some pop, though this year’s early home run barrage seems destined to chill out due to an abnormal 20.0 HR/FB%. Still, batting third in Oakland’s order will afford him plenty of opportunities to amass counting statistics. Lowrie offers enough pop and the opportunity to contribute in four categories (he won’t steal bases). Since he was an afterthought on draft day, I don’t see a scenario where I’d be selling the guy that I stole on the cheap—unless an Oakland fan offered you a king’s ransom for his services.

The Verdict: HOLD, or Sell for a King’s Ransom to an A’s fan

Maybe it makes me a lazy fantasy sports guy, but if I drafted Lowrie for pennies in my draft and I’m getting the sort of performance he’s offering right now, there’s no way I’m selling that away. Our goal in drafts is to make a profit, and Lowrie is clearly a guy that is offering a massive return on your minimal investment. Yes, the HR/FB% and the BABIP (.397) are going to come down to earth, but he’s still a quality four-category contributor all season, provided he stays healthy.

The injury game is a fickle one. If you want to trade Lowrie away because you’re afraid he may get hurt, you go right ahead. But I’m not in the habit of predicting injuries. I much prefer to ride the wave.