In the first half of his age-28 season, Jed Lowrie looked poised to make good the talent that made him a former top-100 prospect in the game, and was well on his way to a breakout season with the Houston Astros.
But, as has often been the case with his MLB career so far, it was his body that failed him.
That’s probably a little harsh, and is not what you’d normally say about a guy who had Gregor Blanco slide into his foot, but considering that Lowrie has missing significant time in each of his major league seasons, the injuries are as much about his ability to stay healthy as it is about the baseball gods holding him back at this point.
The sprained ankle suffered just after the All-Star break caused Lowrie to miss 53 games, effectively ending the momentum he had going, and any hopes that the Astros of trading his production to a contending team for prospects.
And produce he did – at an elite level, too. Lowrie’s .803 OPS in the first half ranked him fourth among his peers, ahead of names like Elvis Andrus and Derek Jeter. His 120 wRC+ is also top-four calibre, and only Ian Desmond smashed more home runs over the first four-plus months of the season.
Outside of speed, which is something Lowrie doesn’t have much of and most certainly didn’t show after coming back from a major ankle injury, there were few shortstops who were better at the plate than the 28-year old. Had he kept his top-five 2.5 fWAR production going all year, we could be talking about Lowrie who barged his way into being a top shortstop, and the biggest story coming out of the Astros outside of Jose Altuve.
That didn’t happen because of the injury; and worse yet, the timing of it couldn’t have come at a less inopportune time, as Lowrie was going through a slump, hitting just .188 through the first ten games of July. A pair of homers over 14 games in September showed signs of his form returning, but it didn’t materialize into the type of finish he hoped to have.
There may not have been time to turn things around last year, but the forgotten memory of Lowrie was an elite hitting shortstop for half of 2012 is still fresh on his mind; if he could just stay off the disabled list next season, there’s a decent chance he’ll make good on those numbers in the second half, too.