Rays prospect Nate Lowe made his debut this week in Kansas City, and didn’t waste time picking up his first walk and his first hit:
Nate’s swing has long been one I’ve loved from the Rays farm system; it’s one of my favorites. His eye at the plate is not simply a great eye. His mechanics allow him to be late and make late decisions, which sets him apart from other major league stalwarts on the Rays.
Let’s investigate how he managed this. We’ll start with his rear leg.
Keeping it Simple
Notice how Lowe’s rear knee begins his move. This is picture-perfect rear leg control. His knee internally rotates as his pelvis and upper half stay closed. It allows him to not be in on the pitch, and delay his decision to swing.
Another thing that helps Lowe make late decisions is his hands: Notice how they are constantly moving. Notice how the barrel doesn’t stop. Neither stops until he stops his swing.
Guys like Kevin Kiermaier get their hands back, and when the hands stop the barrel stops. The only direction they have is forward, and so many times it’s too late.
Here’s another clip where we can see the hands and barrel never stop, this time from Spring Training.
Notice the rear leg internally rotate while the pelvis and trunk stays square. This gives the late snap in the swing. By not needing an early rotation, once he does it’s all toward the ball.
This allows the barrel and hands to work away from his body through the ball, looking almost like he’s throwing the bat at the pitcher. But of course they are connected to his arms and eventually work around his body after the swing and contact.
That is how good hitters hit in different parts of the zone: with pop and with length. This is how you truly “stay in the zone” for a long time.
Nate Lowe in Action
Now let’s go back to his first hit from earlier this week.
You can see the length of the zone he covers from this perspective. The barrel looks like it was in the zone for a long time, and is in motion toward the pitcher. With this kind of swing, Nate Lowe can handle pitches in and out of the zone, giving him pop to all fields.
The ability of his barrel and hands to continue moving reminds me of Willy Adames, but it’s better timed. His barrel is in a great spot when it’s time to hit the ball, whereas Adames’ is more prone to be all over the place (right now, with him making changes to adjust to major league pitching).
Lowe has small, easy move to initiate his swing, which should make it easier to adjust to major league pitching. The only possible noise you might see is his toe tap, but it’s strictly style. It doesn’t do anything for him other than let him feel comfortable. It has no impact on his swing or load, but focusing on it is instructive.
From the toe tap out, you see the pelvis turn in slightly (look at his belt loops). After the turn in, you see the hands and barrel start their movement, and everything happens after the tap. These are three distinct phases of movements: tap, turn, and swing.
With all of that in mind, let’s zoom back out.
This video of Lowe’s first hit admittedly shows him not being perfectly on time. The pitch is supposed to be out, and that spells Roll Over City for many hitters, but because his barrel works away from his body and is in the zone for so long, he can be slightly off on his timing but still hit the ball well.
Lowe also got around that ball a little more than would be optimal. But of course, being off time happens often. Hitting is hard. MLB pitching is unreal. Ultimately, Lowe shows he can stay through that ball and not roll over top. That’s impressive.
His swing is a little flatter then that of guys like Mike Trout; as a consequence you won’t get as many towering fly balls that get out because of his pure strength and size.
That’s not to say that he won’t hit fly balls or get the ball in the air, but one would assume Lowe’s home runs will come more from line drives and the occasional fly ball rather than what you expect from a ‘power hitter’ type. But if the pitch is a mistake, results like this from Spring Training should be expected:
What would be a good player comparison? In terms of the flatness of the swing and how well the barrel works away from him, you’d be tempted to say the swing is Carlos Beltran like, even though his style is a little different.
How pitchers will adjust to Nate Lowe remains a mystery. Locating low and away is a common approach when pitchers are trying to stay away from a power swing, and that will likely be something he sees often. Alternately, Lowe is a big lefty, and pitchers may think they can challenge him up and in, under his hands. That’s easier said than done.
No matter which side of the zone you’re trying to paint, if you leave it out over the plate for Nate Lowe (an easy mistake pitching inside), he’ll make you pay.
Again and again and again.
Dominik Vega contributed to this article.