ST. PETERSBURG — Brandon Lowe is here to make a strong first impression. Even before he’s taken the field he commands attention as fans consider the pronunciation of his last name. He might go by @Sweet_and_Lowe on twitter, a nickname given to him by his college shortstop at Maryland as a play on the spelling of his name, but the sounds do not match what you might expect.
Lowe is one of three prospects with the last name L-O-W-E, but is the only one of the three to pronounce it in a way that rhymes with “wow” (similar to how you would properly pronounce the country of “Laos”). Even those already versed in the pronunciation are catching themselves saying it wrong, but Lowe hopes that, by the end of this season, Rays fans will have good reasons to have the name set in their memories.
And since he got here first, he should have a leg up on the other Lowe’s.
“I’m actually very good friends with the other two, Nate and Josh.” Lowe said before his first game on Saturday. “They actually texted me today and they’re like, ‘Hey man, we’re gonna text everybody we know in Tampa and get them to say hello, and we’re gonna make your last name Lowe,’ and I’m telling them, ‘I’m gonna change it down the system!’ where once they get up... everyone’s gonna think it’s Lowe.”
Brandon Lowe will have that first opportunity to make a name for himself on Sunday, when he is scheduled to debut in left field.
Lowe has had a remarkable season, vaulting into Baseball America’s top-ten list in a loaded Rays farm system through one of the better seasons at the plate the Rays have seen, among any level in the minor leagues.
And what gives? Is it a new swing or approach?
“I’m trying to make solid contact, honestly,” Lowe said, “and not trying to do too much at that plate — have solid at bats — and it’s been working out.”
To hear Lowe tell it, it may be as simple as just getting out of the pitcher-friendly Florida State League for his numbers to finally show.
When asked what his best attribute was, Lowe credited his hand-eye coordination, which is where he thinks the positive grades on his power derive from. “I’m not trying to hit the ball out, it just happens to go out,” Lowe explained.
“There’s times when you get it and you feel nothing off the bat, and that’s when you’re like, ‘aw man, that’s a good one,’ and some times it’s not even a home run, sometimes it’s a line drive off the fence. It all depends on what angle you’re at.”
Lowe looks to be less than the six feet on mlb.com, which is not surprising, as published minor league heights are often generous. What is remarkable, however, is the power he still generates. With 22 home runs across Double- and Triple-A this season, power has been his strongest tool, although Lowe insists he isn’t aiming for the fences:
“If it goes out, great, but doubles work pretty well too,” Lowe offered without prompting. “I’m just trying to square it up and not do too much with it.”
Still, his reputation precedes him. When asked what the expectations are for Lowe ahead of his first game, Kevin Cash replied, a bit tongue in cheek, “hit three home runs! I hope he has a good day.”
But with all that attention placed on the offense, it’s on defense where the Rays might need Lowe the most, as he steps in for Daniel Robertson, a man Cash has said will be “a tough guy to replace” and who will miss the rest of the season with an apparent dislocated thumb that requires surgery.
To his credit, Lowe is ready to play any part. As he trotted onto the field for the first time as a big league player, Lowe brought three gloves with him to play catch. When Cash was informed Lowe brought all three onto the turf, he replied, “Good. He’s gonna need ‘em.”
Since he arrived, Lowe has been taking fly balls in left field to get acclimated to Tropicana’s dome. On Saturday pre-game that meant working out in Crawford’s corner with a pitch machine firing baseballs from home plate. Then on Sunday, it was outfield coach Rocco Baldelli taking him to KK’s corner in left center, batting balls into the air, with the more difficult day-lit dome above.
It’s a lot to take in, but despite the whirlwind journey from Montgomery to the majors, Lowe seems ready: “I’m excited to be here, and I’m ready to help in any way I can.”