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Rays 2020 Season Preview: Nate Lowe Reinvents Himself

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The rise from org soldier to prospect to major league contributor is almost complete

MLB: SEP 27 Rays at Blue Jays Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nate Lowe’s rise from organizational soldier to prospect to major leaguer has been a story of reinvention. The brother of the more heralded Josh Lowe, Nate was drafted as an afterthought in the 13th round of the 2016 draft. The big first baseman then had modest success in 2016 and 2017, but didn’t exactly turn heads.

Then in 2018, he played himself into a prospect by retooling his long swing. It paid off, as he hit 27 homers across three levels in 2018, earning a spot on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects at 97.

2019 was again modestly successful, as he hit .263/.325/.454 with seven homers in 50 games over four stints with the big club, to go with a .289/.421/.508 and 16 homers in 93 games at Durham.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

But a crowded situation at first base put a cap on how much and how quickly Lowe could contribute. So the 24 year old Lowe again worked on reinventing himself. He is visibly slimmer this spring, having dropped over 20 pounds. He also got himself into better shape mentally and spiritually. “I realized that I had sold myself short for a long time as an athlete and as a person,” Lowe said. “It took a lot of spiritual maturation and physical maturation to kind of start over (this) offseason to get to be the player and the person that I need to be.”

Being in better shape should help his versatility. Though he did see a handful of games at third base in 2019, playing at 225 pounds instead of 245 pounds should give him more mobility. He may never be even an average third baseman, but the ability to fill in at both corners can only help him on a team that includes Ji-Man Choi, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Yandy Diaz, and Jose Martinez, not to mention prospects like Kevin Padlo.

Cash said Nate Lowe will receive a lot of reps at the infield corner spots throughout the spring. “We’re going to get a good look at him at third base,” Cash said. “We kind of did that on the fly last year, probably not the most fair thing to do to a player...We liked his bat so much, we tried to get him consistent reps right there. This past year, he did some really good things.”

It will still be difficult to find playing time, and the fact that he has options means that Lowe will likely spend at least some time in Durham this year. But ZIPS projects him to perform well when he does get the chance, projecting a .258/.343/.458 slash line with a 112 wRC+. Keeping his body in check and his mind prepared will be key to taking advantage of the opportunities when they arise,