By now, you’re familiar with the red-hot rise of one Jed Lowrie, shortstop for the Boston Red Sox. With Marco Scutaro looking like Nomar Garciaparra circa 2011 at the plate, Terry Francona decided to give a little more playing time to Lowrie last week and see what happened. The results were marginally acceptable, with Lowie picking up 15 hits in 24 at-bats from April 9 through April 18. Wait, 15 hits? 15 hits? That’s two more than Dan Uggla had put up starting virtually every day. It’s four more than Ian Kinsler had this season as of April 18. How could Lowrie come out of nowhere to post such scorching numbers? The simple answer is that he didn’t.
One look at what Lowrie did in limited at-bats last season and you can see he oozed breakout potential this year. He joined the team after the All-Star Break yet finished the year with nine HRs, a .287 average and an impressive .907 OPS, not to mention a K:BB ratio of 1.0 on the dot. The list of full-time shortstops with a .900-plus OPS in 2010 runs one-deep: Troy Tulowitzki. Head on over to second base and it’s the same story: Robinson Cano. And that K:BB ratio? It tied Chase Utley, who had the best ratio of all middle infielders who played at least 100 games.
Can he keep this up? As long as you don’t realistically expect Lowrie to hit .500, or even .400, then yes. He’s a quality power middle infielder that can also go on ridiculous hit barrages like the one he’s currently experiencing — they don’t make MIs like that anymore. Pick him up for however long the run lasts, and pray that Francona realizes Lowrie gives him the best chance to win. As for Marco Scutaro? Goodbye, and good luck.
Also at 2B: Jonathan Herrera (36 percent), Danny Espinosa (14 percent).
Also at SS: Maicer Izturis (49 percent), Alex Gonzalez (36 percent).
Wilson Ramos, WAS (5 percent owned). Coming up through the Minnesota system, Ramos made a name for himself as a guy that could consistently post high batting averages despite poor K:BB ratios. He’s managed to step his game up this year in Washington, walking five times in 34 plate appearances to earn a nice round .500 OBP through August 19. Throw in 10-15 HRs and you have a quality second catcher in standard leagues, especially since Ivan Rodriguez is likely to take a back seat quickly this year.
Also: Alex Avila (30 percent), Chris Iannetta (15 percent).
Justin Smoak, SEA (19 percent). Despite his admission that he’s still trying to figure things out at the plate, the Smoak Monster seems to have finally gotten into a groove. After hitting .209 last season with eight HRs in 235 at-bats and posting an OPS under .700, Smoak goes into April 20 with a .291/.403/.491 batting line. His home park is still going to limit him long-term, but as long as he’s hitting for average he’s an excellent CI play. He’ll spend a few days on the bereavement list, but hopefully he’ll pick up where he left off when he returns.
Also: Matt LaPorta (12 percent), Garrett Jones (13 percent).
Jonathan Herrara, COL (36 percent). Herrera did his best Lowrie impression — or pre-impression, since he started it first — in the first weeks of the season. In the span of ten days, Herrera hit second and played second in nine games, recording 14 hits in 34 at-bats. Sprinkle in the 11 walks he had over that stretch and Herrera sported a .543 OBP as of April 17. After an 0-for-4 day Monday (I mean, he’s only human), Herrera hit the bench on Tuesday but did walk in a pinch-hit performance. With Ian Stewart honing his craft in the minors, Herrera figures to continue to play virtually every day while hitting in front of CarGo and Tulo. Grab him if you missed out on Lowrie at second base or if you need third base help.
Also: Alberto Callaspo (27 percent), Wilson Betemit (7 percent).
Jerry Sands, LAD (0 percent). A true waiver pick heading into Wednesday action, Sands just became available on Yahoo’s free agent list after his Monday debut with the Dodgers. Don Mattingly’s new left fielder now has one double and one RBI in each of his first two games. All Sands did in his 10 games in Triple-A this season was hit .400 with five HRs, two doubles and a triple. He’s obviously not going to post those type of numbers in Los Angeles, but his last two seasons in the minors suggest Sands will be a very nice power/average combo as a fourth or fifth fantasy outfielder.
Also: Jeff Francoeur (37 percent), Josh Willingham (18 percent), Matt LaPorta (12 percent).
Kyle Lohse, STL (24 percent). I had a difficult time deciding whether to add Lohse or Phil Coke in my main fantasy league, and after watching Coke explode on Tuesday, I feel great about my selection. Lohse was awful in 2010 but seemed to have turned his fortunes around with a nice spring. That’s translated well into April, as Lohse has posted a 16:2 K:BB ratio in 22.1 innings thus far while recording a 2-1 record. If he’s somehow managed to trim the walks down to obscene levels over the course of a full season, we could maybe looking at a Cliff Lee-type breakthrough. Well, 80 percent of Cliff Lee perhaps.
Also: Alexi Ogando (50 percent), Zach Britton (49 percent), Chris Narveson (45 percent), Kyle McClellan (37 percent), Brandon McCarthy (6 percent), Luke Hochevar (5 percent).
Mitchell Boggs, STL (22 percent). Ryan Franklin has been demoted to middle relief while he irons out the problems with his pitching. Nobody has been named the sole replacement as of yet, but with just three hits and three walks allowed in nine innings this season, Boggs seems like the logical replacement. It would behoove LaRussa to give Boggs this experience right now, and if he likes what he sees, the youngster can earn the role of future closer once Franklin retires.
Also: Sergio Santos (19 percent), Matt Lindstrom (9 percent), Jason Motte (13 percent), Jessie Crain (3 percent).
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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