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DRaysBay Top Prospects 2019: No. 9, 1B Nate Lowe

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Philadelphia Phillies Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Lowe was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays thirteenth round pick in the 2016 MLB draft out of Mississippi State University. At the time he was an afterthought as the older brother of the Rays first round pick Josh Lowe.

Coming into the 2018 season Nate Lowe didn’t hit for power. In his junior year at MSU he hit 5 homers in 247 at bats leading to a .142 isolated slugging percentage (ISO). Things remained the same as he transitioned to wood bats. In his first two professional seasons he hit 11 homers in 757 plate appearances with a .124 ISO.

This is problematic for a player that is limited to first base or designated hitter, but then the 2018 season happened.

Zero to Hero

In October Marc Topkin wrote about the change in Lowe’s approach at Baseball America ($), and attributed the increase production to hitting the ball hard out in front.

Between three levels (A+, AA, and AAA) Lowe hit 27 homers in 555 plate appearances leading to a .239 ISO. The power surged while his strikeout rate dropped by 3.0% and keeping a 12.4% walk rate.

Lowe’s time in AAA saw him struggle compared to the rest of his season by hitting .260/.327/.460 with four homers in 110 plate appearances. He maintained a .200 ISO, but his strikeouts almost doubled up to 24.5% while his walk rate fell to 7.3%.

The power was always present in batting practice, but now it’s showing up in games. Becoming a successful MLB hitter will depend on his hit tool. There’s not excessive swing and miss, but he does lack the bat speed to post above average batting averages against major league pitching.

Lowe will need to hit as he doesn’t run well and his fielding is more tolerable than good at first. The fact Lowe landed in our top ten list in a stacked system is quite the impressive climb considering where he was a year ago.

Lowe represented the Rays at the 2018 Futures Game and Baseball America provided video of his batting practice session.

What to expect in 2019?

Nate Lowe was given the most playing time of players not on the 40 man roster during spring training. He made his presence known with big power including a monster 448 foot blast. However that was all he did. All seven of his hits went for extra bases with four homers and three doubles. He hit .163/.182/.512 with 17 strikeouts and only drew 1 walk. Spring stats don’t mean much as the goal is to get ready for the season ahead.

Lowe will return to Durham (AAA) looking to improve his strikeout and walk rates against advanced pitching. If Lowe passes the test he will likely be in line for a promotion to the major league club this summer, and perhaps we’ll get more of this: