Nate Lowe made his MLB debut with the Rays on Monday night, as he was thrust right into the middle of the batting order (he hit fifth). While he could be part of a platoon initially, you would think that he’ll be in the lineup against all right-handed pitchers and should develop into more than that. The question is just how good can he be?
Maybe it’s not the perfect comparison, but could Lowe become the next Rhys Hoskins? It’s not impossible, and that should excite fantasy owners.
There’s never been a question as to whether or not Lowe could hit, as he’s consistently shown an ability to make consistent contact regardless of the level he’s played. Just look at the strikeout rates he showed last season across three levels:
- High-A (220 PA) – 15.0%
- Double-A (225 PA) – 13.3%
- Triple-A (110 PA) – 24.5%
The strikeout rate did rise upon reaching Triple-A, and it stayed elevated this season (21.1% over 90 PA). At the same time across the 200 PA he posted just a 7.2% SwStr% and this season was carrying an 18.9% walk rate. He has an understanding of the strike zone, and that’s similar to Rhys Hoskins. Back in 2017 over 475 PA Hoskins produced a 15.8% strikeout rate and 13.5% walk rate. Even more impressive was his 6.3% SwStr%, which is better than Lowe’s but not by much (and in 90 PA this season Lowe had improved to a 5.5% mark).
The question with Lowe had always been his power potential, something similar to questions Hoskins faced early in his career. The Phillies’ slugger began tapping into it in 2016, before exploding in 2017 for 47 HR between Triple-A and the Majors. While Lowe may never carry that much potential, is it a stretch to think that he’ll hit 30+?
He had 27 HR last season across three levels, while adding 32 doubles. Over the two years at Triple-A he has 14 doubles, 1 triple and 7 HR in just 200 PA and it’s clear that the plus power is starting to develop as he learns and matures. Prior to the season MLB.com noted:
Lowe’s improved conditioning wasn’t his only tweak. He simplified and shortened a long swing that had always left him vulnerable to fastballs in. Pitchers soon learned that fastballs that used to tie him up turned into home runs. Lowe had always had good pitch recognition, and he had long been able to hit breaking balls and changeups. Getting more pull-oriented and looser at the plate paid off when he squared up more balls.
It would be nice to see him putting a few more balls in the air (26.0% fly ball rate at Triple-A), which would allow him to tap into the power even more. That should come, but the approach is always the key. He understands the strike zone and now that he’s comfortable he’s maturing into his power. That’s a dangerous combination and while it all may not come together until late in ’19 or ’20 the potential is going to be there.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball America