During his time in Boston, infielder Jed Lowrie has been the butt of many jokes by Red Sox fans. He has been criticized constantly for his apparent lack of any visible baseball skill set and has been labeled "injury prone" by the hometown fans.
In 2009, the former first round draft pick suffered a wrist injury that eventually led to his placement on the 60-day DL and arthroscopic surgery. He was out for almost three months and yet returned to the DL again a little more than two weeks after his return, again with another wrist injury.
In 2010, Mononucleosis delayed Lowrie's first appearance with the club until late July.
Ironically enough, a rash of injuries opened the door for Lowrie to play full time, almost as soon as he returned from his third DL stint in two seasons.
And what did Lowrie do? Something he had never done before at the Major League level: hit.
In August, Lowrie went 17-56 at the plate (.304) through 20 games. His four home runs that month doubled his major league total through two prior seasons.
Lowrie also posted a blistering .971 OPS through August, second on the team only to Darnell McDonald.
He no longer looks utterly confused at the plate, swinging at mythical fastball after fastball, only to discover later that pitchers in the big leagues can actually throw good breaking stuff.
While Lowrie's numbers have cooled off a bit in the month of September, the damage has been done. He's shown that he can play well for an extended period of time on the Major League level, something that, quite frankly, he's never proven before.
Lowrie's success provides complications for the 2011 Red Sox but in a good way.
Continued improvement could lead to Jed finding more and more playing time next year, especially with the potential departure of super-utility man Bill Hall.
Hall is due $9.25 Million in 2011 but also has a $500,000 buy-out clause which the Sox most certainly will exercise, making him a free agent.
The Sox still could resign Hall, but his success this season could make it harder to get him at a cheap enough rate. Even if he was to return, Hall would be one of the priciest backups in the game.
The departure of Hall would open a roster spot that Jed Lowrie would most certainly be first in line to inherit. Lowrie has experience at all the infield positions other than catcher and can provide reliable albeit less-than-flashy defense.
Lowrie could also find more playing time next year, depending on the status of current Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro.
Scutaro will be 35 next season, as he enters the final guaranteed year of his contract with the Red Sox. While Scutaro's play has been one of the most consistent things about the Red Sox in 2010, one has to wonder if 2011 will prove to be the same for the veteran.
Any injury-related issues or slippage of play for Scutaro could lead to Lowrie seeing more and more time at shortstop, his natural position. If the Red Sox feel he could handle the bulk of the time at SS in 2012, Scutaro's $1.5 million buyout could be exercised.
Most importantly, the future of Jed Lowrie hinges on his performance for the rest of the season and whether or not he can carry his improvement over into 2011. The Red Sox seem generally unwilling to part with him, and it appears as if both the Red Sox coaching staff and GM Theo Epstein believe he can be a valuable piece to the team going forward.
We'll see what the future holds for Jed. The ball is certainly in his court.