The Rays announced Tuesday that second baseman Brandon Lowe, who went on the injured list due to lower back discomfort yesterday, has now been diagnosed with a stress reaction in his back. He’ll be shut down from all baseball activity for the next three weeks before he’s reevaluated. Even in a best-case scenario that sees him cleared at the three-week mark, Lowe would surely require a rehab stint after a shutdown of that length. That means he’s likely to be sidelined a month at the very least, with the obvious possibility of an even lengthier absence than that.
It’s a tough blow for the Rays, given Lowe’s track record as one of their better all-around performers in recent years. He’s gotten out to a slow start in 2022, though he’s still delivered some extra-base pop, evidenced by his five homers, five doubles and two triples. He’d seemingly turned the corner in May, too, slashing a huge .282/.378/.615 with seven extra-base hits over his past 11 games.
If there’s a silver lining for the Rays, it’s that they’re deep in middle-infield options. Top prospect Vidal Brujan could certainly see an uptick in playing time if Lowe is to miss considerable time, and the Rays also have Taylor Walls and spring trade acquisition Isaac Paredes as alternate options on the big league roster. Down in Triple-A, Ford Proctor and Jonathan Aranda both have experience at second base and are on the 40-man roster, although second base is neither player’s primary position.
The most straightforward course of action would be to install Brujan as the primary second baseman in Lowe’s stead. He’s long ranked among the game’s best minor leaguers, ranking among the top 100 prospects at Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, FanGraphs and other outlets dating back to the 2018-19 offseason. He’s had a slow start in the big leagues this year but has received only 21 plate appearances without a regular role in the lineup. 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 hit tool and above-average defense.
Even if Brujan picks up the pace and produces as the team has long hoped, they’ll still hope for as quick a return as possible for Lowe, who slugged a career-best 39 home runs for Tampa Bay just last season. The second-place Rays are currently five and a half games behind the division-leading Yankees. Lowe is being paid $4MM this year while playing out the fourth season of a six-year, $24MM contract extension that spans the 2019-24 seasons. The Rays also hold a $10.5MM club option for the 2025 season and an $11.5MM option for the 2026 season.