The Rays announced on Tuesday that the second baseman Brandon Lowe, who was on the injured list with lower back discomfort yesterday, has now been diagnosed with a stress reaction in his back. He will be banned from all baseball activity for the next three weeks before being re-evaluated. Even in the best-case scenario that sees him cleared after three weeks, Lowe would surely need a rehab stint after a hiatus of that length. That means he’s likely to be sidelined for at least a month, with the obvious possibility of an even longer absence than that.
It’s a blow for the Rays, given Lowe’s track record as one of their best all-around performers in recent years. He had a slow start to 2022, although he still delivered extra pop, as evidenced by his five homers, five doubles and two triples. He apparently turned the corner in May as well, slashing a whopping .282/.378/.615 on seven extra hits in his last 11 games.
If there’s a silver lining for the Rays, it’s because they’re deep into midfield options. Best prospect Vidal Brujan could definitely see an increase in playing time if Lowe were to miss a significant amount of time, and the Rays have also Taylor Walls and spring commercial acquisition isaac paredes as alternative options on the major league roster. Down in Triple-A, Ford Overseer and Jonathan Aranda both have experience at second base and are on the 40-player roster, although second base is not the primary position for either player.
The simplest course of action would be to install Brujan as primary second baseman in place of Lowe. He’s long been ranked among the top minor leaguers in the game, ranking in the top 100 prospects for Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, FanGraphs and other outlets since the 2018-19 offseason. He had a slow start in the big leagues this year, but received just 21 plate appearances without a regular roster role. The 24-year-old switch hitter was batting .300./400/.467 in 70 Triple-A plate appearances and is generally lauded for a combination of his plus-plus speed, plus hitting tool and above-average defense .
Even though Brujan is picking up the pace and producing as the team has long hoped, they are still hoping for as quick a return as possible for Lowe, who hit a career-high 39 homers for Tampa Bay last season. The No. 2 Rays are currently five and a half games behind the division-leading Yankees. Lowe is paid $4 million this year while playing the fourth season of a six-year, $24 million contract extension that covers the 2019-24 seasons. The Rays also hold a $10.5 million club option for the 2025 season and an $11.5 million option for the 2026 season.