7:50pm: Via the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich, GM Jeff Luhnow says that the specific injury to Lowrie is a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb (Twitter link). That’s not to be confused with the elbow ligament of the same name which is the cause for Tommy John surgery. A torn UCL in the thumb is the same injury for which Dustin Pedroia underwent surgery in the 2013-14 offseason.
7:25pm: Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie will be out until after the All-Star break following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, the team announced tonight.
Jonathan Villar has been recalled from Triple-A to take Lowrie’s spot on the 25-man roster, but the loss of Lowrie is a significant one for an Astros team that is off to a hot start and currently sits atop the AL West. Fresh off inking a three-year, $23MM contract (plus a club option) to return to Houston this offseason, Lowrie was hitting an exceptional .300/.432/.567 with four home runs. While that level of production was of course not sustainable, Lowrie was set to be relied upon as a key contributor near the top of or in the middle of the Astros’ lineup.
Villar is the player that Lowrie was signed to replace, after his 2014 shot to cement himself as Houston’s everyday shortstop fell short. Villar’s blistering speed wasn’t enough to to outweigh his lack of on-base skills, as the switch-hitter batted just .209/.267/.354 in 289 plate appearances last year.
The long-term injury to Lowrie will naturally lead to speculation among Astros fans and those throughout the league as to whether or not top prospect Carlos Correa is an option to replace him. The 20-year-old is off to a blistering start at Double-A Corpus Christi, hitting .382/.440/.735 with four homers through Monday. A consensus Top 5 prospect and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Correa is one of the most promising Minor Leaguers in the game. However, he’s also played fewer than 20 games above Class-A Advanced, so promoting him at this juncture or in the near future would be a highly aggressive move and seems unlikely.