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Jed Lowrie: Too Risky?

It was shaping up to be a breakout season for Led Lowrie. The 28-year-old shortstop had already clubbed a career-high 14 home runs before the start of July, and it was beginning to look like he was living up to the hype. Just a few weeks later, his season was effectively ended after Gregor Blanco slid hard into Lowrie’s ankle. Lowrie did return in September, and received 60 more plate appearances, but his performance was abysmal. Entering this upcoming season, nothing has changed for Lowrie. He remains a talented, injury-prone player at one of fantasy’s weakest positions.

Even though Lowrie one of fantasy’s most valuable shortstops up until July, he’s unlikely to see a big increase in his draft spot mainly due to how poorly his season ended. It seems like this is becoming an all too common scenario with Lowrie. He’s capable of looking impressive until an injury wipes out his season. The last season where Lowrie was able to accumulate at least 500 plate appearances was 2008, when he split time between the majors and Triple-A.

Due to all of those injuries, Lowrie is deceptively old. He’ll turn 29 next April. We’ve now reached a point where Lowrie is no longer an up-and-coming youngster who has had bad luck with injuries. At this point he’s morphed into an aging player who can’t stay healthy.

Since he plays a premium fantasy position, there’s a good chance Lowrie will continue to be a late-round pick. While his career .250/.326/.417 slash line insists, he’s had an uneven major league career. But mini-breakouts in 2010 and 2012 provide hope that Lowrie could put up a surprise top-10 season at the position if he could ever stay healthy.

Lowrie hasn’t had recurring injuries, which can fuel the opinion that he’s just been unlucky throughout his major league career. Wrist problems derailed him in 2009. Lowrie had actually initially injured his wrist during May 2008, but he played through pain and avoided surgery at the end of the year. He sprained his wrist in April 2009, and had surgery later that month. Wrist injuries can be tough, and can take years to fully heal. In this scenario, where an injury was more serious than initially believed, that can nearly end careers, as Jayson Werth can attest.

Shortly after returning from that injury, Lowrie experienced nerve irritation in his forearm and was put back on the DL. He returned in September, but played sparingly. Things looked promising entering 2010, but the start of Lowrie’s season was delayed due to mononucleosis. That knocked Lowrie out for nearly half the season. When he returned, he looked good, posting a .287/.381/.526 slash line. While it caused him to miss a good chunk of the year, it’s tough to really call mono an injury. Seems like this was just a case of bad luck. In 2011, Lowrie’s season was wiped out by a shoulder injury.

Outside of the wrist injuries that plagued him for quite some time, there’s not really an area where Lowrie experiences problems. He’s just not the type of player who can hold up under a full workload of 162 games often. His injuries have been unrelated, and there’s a chance he’s just had bad luck, but he’s past the point where we should be dreaming about his potential. This is the player Lowrie has become. He has a chance to be effective when healthy, but eventually will succumb to an injury. The potential remains for Lowrie to post a top-10 season at the position if he ever is able to beat his injuries, but what are the chances of that happening at this point in his career?