The Tampa Bay Rays are constantly playing matchups and juggling their lineup. That hurts the value of a lot of their players because they aren’t guaranteed regular at bats. The competition for playing time at 1B/DH was always going to be extremely competitive, with Ji-Man Choi, Jose Martinez, Joey Wendle, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo among those in the mix. However, there’s a surprising name with the potential to emerge and claim the bulk of the AB all to himself…
Enter Nate Lowe
Lowe made his MLB debut in 2019, though the results weren’t overly impressive:
- Triple-A (406 PA) – .289, 16 HR, 63 RBI, 63 R
- Majors (169 PA) – .263, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 24 R
Sure the numbers are solid, but on the surface would anything indicate that he could emerge as an impressive player bringing power and average? It’s when you start digging into the underlying metrics that you see the signs.
First is the impressive approach he brings. Even in the Majors he wasn’t overmatched, with a 10.6% SwStr% (7.5% at Triple-A) and 30.0% O-Swing%. Just adding to the intrigue is the Whiff%, which was actually at it’s worst against “Hard” pitches:
- Hard – 14.21%
- Breaking – 10.65%
- Offspeed – 7.69%
Considering his ability to make contact against other pitches an improvement against fastballs should follow. Couple that with a willingness to use the entire field (28.8% Oppo%) and ability to hit the ball hard (41.3% Hard%) and it’s easy to envision a .290ish average in the Majors.
Then you start looking at the Statcast metrics, which all appear to support the power surge he showed and 30+ HR potential over a full season:
- Exit Velocity – 91.3 mph (league average was 87.5)
- Launch Angle – 13.0 (league average was 11.2)
- Barrel% – 10.6% (league average was 6.3%)
In fact his 18.9% HR/FB in the Majors is along the lines of what he did coming up through the minors (19.0% at Triple-A in ’19), but at 24-years old it’s easy to envision another step forward. It’s not a given, but considering all of the metrics it’s hard not to be optimistic.
The bigger question could be whether or not he’s more than just a platoon player. At Triple-A his numbers against southpaws weren’t bad, but they paled in comparison to his marks against righties (in terms of his SLG):
- vs. RHP – .291/.406/.559
- vs. LHP – .281/.447/.414
Of course he also hit 2 HR in 24 AB against left-handed pitchers in the Majors, so there is even more reason for optimism. Maybe he needs to get out of Tampa Bay to be given the opportunity, but time will tell.
Regardless, he has the potential to emerge as one of the better first baseman in the game if given the opportunity. In deeper formats, he’s well worth rolling the dice on to find out.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, MILB.com, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: