As the Red Sox 2010 season was winding down to a disappointing conclusion, the return and resurgence of Jed Lowrie was one of the bright spots.
The biggest issue with Lowrie going forward will be staying healthy, which has been quite a battle over the last two seasons. His wrist injury seemed completely healed in 2010 as he hit nine home runs in only 171 at-bats. That power output can be seen in a positive light, but it also was brought on by a fly ball rate of just over 54 percent, which over more at-bats would likely lead to a low AVG. More than likely, Lowrie’s fly ball rate would fall to under 50 percent over a full season, so don’t expect his 2010 home run pace or his .240 ISO — Ryan Howard had a .229 ISO in 2010 – to hold steady in the future.
Lowrie’s 14.6 percent strikeout rate in 2010 is another category likely to regress. By no means is Lowrie a high strikeout candidate, but at no point in his career has he held a strikeout rate as low as he did in 2010. Also, consider the small sample size of 171 at-bats. Does this mean that Lowrie can’t hit .290-.300? No, but based on his track record, a high AVG would seem unlikely.
On the positive side, Lowrie did a good job of being patient and drawing walks (12.7 percent walk rate). His OBP should be good, but not great given the likely rise in strikeout rate and slight regression in AVG.
Along with staying healthy, Lowrie will need to find his playing time. Marco Scutaro had an OK 2010 season, but given his age and yearly nagging injuries, he may need more time off in 2011. Lowrie can fill in there, but his arm strength doesn’t play great at shortstop. Third base is open as of today — Adrian Beltre has officially decided to try and cash in on his big 2010 season — and Lowrie has experience and the glove to play there. However, given the type of player he his, Lowrie wouldn’t meet the classification of a prototypical third baseman. The position Lowrie fits best in second, but that is kind of sort of taken at the moment.
Utility infielder? In many ways Lowrie would be very valuable in this role. However, that doesn’t exactly guarantee him a ton of playing time. Even if there were to be a scenario where Scutaro is no longer the everyday shortstop or the Sox can’t find a third baseman to replace Beltre, could Lowrie be counted on as an every day player? The answer at this point would have to be no. Given health issues and inconsistencies in his minor and major league numbers, it would be a huge leap of faith to think Lowrie can be a consistent everyday player over 150-plus games.
Make no mistake about it; Jed Lowrie is going to be a nice piece to the 2011 Red Sox puzzle, but he is no savior and he may just have more question marks than answers at this point in his career. A utility role would maximize his value, even in a possible split with Scutaro at short. Take his 2010 numbers with a grain of salt — and an understanding of small sample size — and look at Lowrie as a role player, not the next big thing.