Second base could be a position of extremes for the Rays in 2018. Brad Miller is a bat-first option whose defensive limitations may push him to first base. Daniel Robertson impressed with his glove as a rookie last year, but struggled at the plate. Newly acquired shortstop prospect Christian Arroyo, who could potentially move over, projects as a pure hitter but doesn't walk much.
:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::
On the horizon, though, the Rays have a prospect that could potentially split some of the difference between these skill sets. That prospect is 23-year-old Brandon Lowe, whom Tampa Bay moved aggressively through its system last summer. Lowe projects as a plus left-handed bat, with an all-fields swing and on-base skills to go along with a solid glove. He ranks No.9 on MLB Pipeline's updated list of top second-base prospects.
The Rays now have one representative on four of the five Top 10 lists that MLB Pipeline has released. Tampa Bay's 2017 first-round pick, two-way standout Brendan McKay, became the first player to begin a season on two preseason Top 10 lists, as he is ranked No. 5 among left-handed pitching prospects and No. 1 among first basemen, while Brent Honeywell is rated MLB's fourth-best right-handed pitching prospect.
The remaining position lists will be released over the course of the week, culminating in the unveiling of the 2018 Top 100 Prospects list on MLB Network and MLB.com on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.
On the second-base list, Lowe slides in between the Cardinals' Max Schrock (eighth) and the Pirates' Kevin Kramer (10th). Scott Kingery (Phillies) ranks first, followed by Luis Urias (Padres) and Keston Hiura (Brewers).
A college standout at the University of Maryland, Lowe would have likely gone higher in the 2015 Draft if not for the broken left fibula he sustained in the finale of his redshirt sophomore season. He still showed enough for the Rays to select him in the third round, and he proved why during a breakout campaign in 2017.
Healthy again, Lowe set Class A Advanced Charlotte records for slugging percentage (.524) and OPS (.927), earning Most Valuable Player Award honors in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League after securing a promotion in August. He finished the year in the Arizona Fall League, the annual showcase reserved for baseball's best prospects.
Lowe slumped toward the end of the year, both in the AFL and at Double-A Montgomery, the level at which he'll likely begin 2018. But if he fares well against better pitching there, Lowe could advance fairly quickly given his age and advanced approach at the plate. Tampa Bay particularly likes his ability to work the count and draw walks. Lowe still reached base at a productive clip (.348 OBP) as his bat lagged in the AFL (.224 BA), though that discipline was not on display during his 24-game Double-A stint earlier in the year (two walks, 26 strikeouts).
Consider it a learning curve for a player who excelled in the Florida State League (.311/.403/.524), where Lowe was named the circuit's best hitter. He doesn't have to be that at the next level, but if he continues to develop his eye and power swing, he could possibly factor into the Rays' middle-infield plans by 2019, if not the second half of '18.
Others will get chances to impress at second in the meantime. Tampa Bay extended a non-roster invitation to Spring Training to Kean Wong, who started at second for Triple-A Durham last season. The club also acquired Joey Wendle and Ryan Schimpf in trades this offseason. None should block Lowe, especially if he keeps hitting.