Lowe progresses at plate in 1st full season
Nathaniel Lowe started the 2021 season as hot as anybody could have imagined.
Acquired in an offseason trade with the Rays, he was viewed as a guy who could control the strike zone at any level and be a serviceable big league first baseman. And for the most part, he’s been exactly that.
But at the time of the trade, it was initially unclear if he would oust Ronald Guzman at the position. Guzman has been on the injured list since April 13. Rangers manager Chris Woodward admits that nobody knows what would have happened if Guzman didn’t get injured, but Lowe has held down the position admirably ever since.
“I expected where we are now,” Woodward said. “[For Lowe] to have really good at-bats, I mean this guy has always hit in his Minor League career. We did a pretty deep dive on him, in particular, and found out that he can hit pretty much everything. The fastball was the only thing that kind of gave him a little bit of trouble, but he still did it. He controls the strike zone, doesn’t chase. All those numbers we like and value, he was off the charts. I was obviously really enticed. The whole front office and everybody was kind of like, identifying this guy as a target for a while, and we ended up getting him.”
Lowe has had an up and down season, noted clearly by his slash line month-by-month:
Both Lowe and Woodward noted that the inconsistency is likely more of an effect of being an everyday player for the first time in his short big league career.
“I think it’s just being an everyday guy, the physical toll, the mental toll, there’s going to be some ups and downs with younger players,” Woodward said. “That’s why you pay those guys a lot of money when they have four or five years. [Lowe is] still learning how to do that. He had to figure some things out. Obviously he struggled for a while trying to figure out how to get back on the fastball. He’s made some adjustments since then, and he’s been more productive.”
Since making his debut in April 2019, Lowe hasn’t played more than 50 games in a season before this year. In his first full 162 as a big leaguer, Lowe has proved he can hit the ball and hit it hard, with a Statcast-ranked 83rd percentile in average exit velocity and 92nd percentile in max exit velocity. But can he do it consistently?
Lowe isn’t oblivious to any of his struggles. And like Woodward said, he’s worked really hard to fix his flaws at the plate. Lowe was more than open about his self-proclaimed “underperformance” at points during the season.
Now, it’s more important for Lowe to finish this last month of the season exactly how he started it in April. Woodward noted that the 26-year-old needs to finish strong these last 30 days to go into the offseason with a clear mind.
“That’s why we work, to play well at a consistent level,” Lowe said. “I’ve been pretty frustrated being so far away from feeling like I can help the team win. It’s just something you have to deal with as a young player. On a team that obviously wants to win more, the environment is pretty tough. “When we get the pieces going in the right direction, things will turn around for the team as a whole. Then if things are going right for the team as a whole, there’s got to be some players that are putting up really good numbers. You see that a lot with a lot of teams that are having success there are a lot of players doing well. That’s definitely something that I’d like to continue to work on.”