Jake Lowery was one of the few safe college picks the Indians selected in the 2011 MLB Draft, which was mostly filled with high-upside high school players. As the fourth round pick in that draft, many praised the selection. Jim Callis of Baseball America said:
Lowery is another guy with Qs about D but no one has any reservations about the bat. At least a big league backup.
Having a guy who might end up as just a backup in his career may seem like a disappointment, but knowing you selected a guy whose floor will still be a regular Major League contributor is actually a big win. Keep in mind that this is Lowery’s worst-case scenario, and he could still be a real asset to an MLB team.
Lowery signed quickly after the draft and the front office was able to get an extended look at him at Low-A Mahoning Valley. He appeared in 69 games and was impressive in his debut, slashling .245/.377/.415. Lowery’s batting average and slugging percentage may seem a bit low, but his on-base percentage is phenomenal, especially considering his low average. If Lowery’s OBP isn’t testament enough to his good place discipline, his 56/54 K/BB ratio should more than suffice.
Power is the other strong aspect of Lowery’s game. While he hit only six home runs in 2011, the fact that he did hit 23 doubles in those 69 games shows that he can hit with some pop. As he improves, many of those doubles will start going over the fence.
As Callis alluded to, some scouts have questioned Lowery’s defense. Those who think he can stick at catcher are in the minority, which is why you won’t see him on many top prospect lists. The Indians are keeping him behind the plate for now, but they’ve tested him out at first base (he played 11 games there) and he’s spent a fair amount of time at DH.
If Lowery is able to stay at catcher and his power pans out, he could be a real impact player. As a first baseman or a designated hitter, he could still be a decent option thanks to his plate discipline. I can’t see him hitting much more than 20-25 home runs in his prime, but if he continues to keep his walks up and strikeouts down he should be a solid option for the Tribe in about two years.