Outfielder Austin Meadows is expected to be activated from the 10-day IL prior to the Rays’ game with the Yankees on Friday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Meadows will take the 25-man roster spot left open by Nate Lowe, as the Rays sent the highly-touted youngster down to Triple-A following yesterday’s game.
Meadows hit the injured list on April 21 due to a sprained right thumb, so his return will fall just short of the projected timeline of “a few weeks” mentioned by Rays general manager Erik Neander a day after the IL placement. It’s good news for the Rays, since Meadows’ hot start was a huge reason for Tampa’s early-season success. Meadows was hitting .351/.422/.676 with six homers over 83 plate appearances at the time of his injury, and while some regression is inevitable (.400 BABIP, .454 wOBA compared to a .408 xwOBA), it certainly isn’t out of the question that a former top prospect like Meadows could be a big contributors in his first full Major League season.
With Meadows back, Lowe’s first taste of big league action will come to an end after nine games and a .257/.289/.314 slash line over 38 PA. It was perhaps a little surprising to see Tampa promote Lowe so soon, though the 23-year-old had been ripping up Triple-A pitching and the Rays had a need for another bat with both Meadows and Joey Wendle on the IL. Rather than keep Lowe in the majors as a bench player, the club will instead send him back to Triple-A where he can everyday at-bats and continue his development.
In terms of service time, Lowe’s clock stopped almost as soon as it started, so it’s hard to yet determine the impact on his future team control. While it stands to reason Lowe will be back in the majors at some point in 2019, the Rays already control him through at least the 2025 season, and the team might not bring him back until they can ensure that he won’t be a Super Two candidate. (Of course, this could all be moot if Lowe becomes the latest Rays prospect to sign an early-career extension, a la Brandon Lowe, Matt Moore, or Evan Longoria.)
Lowe has played only first base and DH in his young career, making him an imperfect fit at this point on a Rays roster that values multi-positional versatility. Lowe’s first base duties will again likely be split between Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz, though Diaz has seen an increasingly amount of time at third base in recent days due to Daniel Robertson’s struggles. Brandon Lowe could also see some time at first base, with Robertson or Andrew Velazquez filling in at second, so the Rays are hardly short on potential lineup options.