You probably haven’t heard of Suffolk, Va. Most people haven’t. Founded in 1742, it’s the 14th largest city in the country (land size) and the longtime home of Planter’s Peanuts. It’s also home to Bennetts Creek Little League and Nansemond River High School, former stomping grounds to Tampa Bay Rays prospect, Brandon Lowe, and myself, but while my playing career died at the age of 12, Lowe continues to thrive as one of the best prospects in the game.
Lowe (rhymes with “pow”) didn’t travel far to play his college ball, calling the University of Maryland at College Park home for three years. Injuries were a common thread during his prep days, however, that didn’t stop the second baseman from being named a First Team Freshman All-American in 2014 and All-Big Ten in 2015. In two seasons as a Terrapin, Lowe hit .338 with a .448 OBP and a .957 OPS. He racked up 30 doubles and saw his home run production jump from just one dinger his freshman season to nine his sophomore year. His college K/BB ratio was an impressive 72/53.
Those numbers led the Tampa Bay Rays to use the 87th overall pick in the 2015 draft on Lowe, a left-handed second baseman who had suffered a torn-ACL and broken fibula within the previous two years. What Lowe has accomplished since joining the Rays’ organization is nothing short of fantastic.
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Lowe is still a relatively unknown prospect, even among those that follow the minor leagues. The Tampa Bay system does have some extraordinary prospects, including the No. 17 overall prospect, RHP Brent Honeywell, who owns five-plus pitches, including a screwball (out for the 2018 season). There’s also IF Willy Adames (No. 19 overall), Jake Bauers, Garrett Whitley, Austin Franklin and Tobias Myers, just to name a few. Oh yeah, I forgot the biggest prospect of them all (outside of Honeywell): LHP/1B Brendan McKay. McKay is the top-ranked first base prospect and the third-ranked left-handed pitching prospect.
So where does a 6-foot, 185-pound second baseman with “average” defense fit? How about as the 2019 starting second baseman and double-play partner of Willy Adames for the Tampa Bay Rays? Lowe has used an advanced hit tool to carry him through every level of the minor leagues, as well as the elite Arizona Fall League.
Over his last 10 games in AAA, Lowe is hitting .500 with six home runs, 19 RBIs and eight walks. He recently played in four games at Harbor Park, home of the Baltimore Orioles’ AAA affiliate and a quick 10-minute drive from his hometown. Harbor Park is one of the least hitter-friendly parks in the entire country, but Lowe finished his trip 9-17 with two home runs, five walks and just two strikeouts.
Lowe also got a taste of the majors in spring training this year. He went 2-6, including this home run off Pittsburgh Pirates Nick Kingham, who you may have heard of when he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning in his first career major league start.
"That one hit high …" by Lowe
Pinch-hit solo homer for Brandon Lowe in his 5th AB of #SpringTraining. No. 15 on @RaysBaseball Top 30 Prospects list: https://t.co/9OPTYmluZ0 pic.twitter.com/KNlnVmnNQG
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 14, 2018
The knocks on Lowe’s defense should be taken with a grain of salt. He has suffered two lower-body injuries during key points in development, yet he has still climbed from A-ball to AAA in less than three years. After committing 14 and 18 errors in the last two seasons, Lowe has just one error in 325 innings in 2018. He has also played 35 games in left field, adding to his flexibility.
The bottom line on Lowe: he is a soon-to-be everyday major league second baseman who will hit around .300 with a .400+ OBP and 25+ doubles every year. Playing in the American League East, home to a number of hitter-friendly parks, will only help to improve those numbers. His defense will be more than adequate to handle the second base position at the major league level.
When Lowe reaches the majors, he will be the first former-Suffolkian to reach the major leagues. The whole city is watching and cheering you on, Brandon.