The Rays have activated rookie Brandon Lowe from the 60-day injured list. Fellow infielder Kean Wong has been designated for assignment to open 40-man roster space. Lowe is hitting fifth in today’s lineup and playing second base.
Lowe’s return is a welcome sight for Rays’ fans. He last played July 2, when he went down with a bone bruise on his shin from a foul ball. After experiencing difficulty moving laterally for weeks, Lowe embarked on a minor-league rehab assignment in August, where he strained a quad. Initially believed to be season-ending, Lowe has somewhat remarkably returned for the season’s final seven games.
The timing couldn’t be better for a Rays’ club that sits a game up on Cleveland for the AL’s final postseason spot entering play today. Any hope Tampa has at making a playoff run involves the Wild Card, as the Yankees have officially sewn up the AL East. Tampa sits two games behind Oakland for the AL’s top Wild Card position.
The return of Lowe for the season’s final week (and potential postseason play) gives the Rays one of their most impactful bats. The 25-year-old was slashing .276/.339/.523 (128 wRC+) at the time of his injury, perhaps the frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year. That honor will almost certainly go to Yordan Álvarez now, but Lowe nevertheless looks like a key piece in Tampa short and long-term.
Lowe’s slash line is inflated by a .381 batting average on balls in play and masks a concerning 33.9% strikeout rate, so it’s difficult to imagine he’ll remain this productive at the dish. That said, Lowe’s 90.7 MPH average exit velocity is quite strong, so he should continue to be a bona fide power threat even if his on-base numbers drop off some moving forward. For a quality baserunner and versatile defender capable of playing second base, that’s more than enough to be a key piece on a contender.
Wong, 24, is also a left-handed hitting second baseman, although he’s not generally viewed as anywhere near the caliber of player Lowe is. Nevertheless, he’s been productive in the high minors for quite some time, seemingly a victim of the Rays’ crowded infield mix. He got his first big league call this September after slashing .307/.375/.464 in 506 plate appearances in his third season with Triple-A Durham. Wong, the younger brother of Cardinals’ second baseman Kolten Wong, comes with a clean slate of team control and option seasons. Between that roster flexibility, his defensive profile and high-minors offensive track record, it would be surprising if another organization with a little more uncertainty in the infield didn’t take a flier on him on the waiver wire.