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Will Josh Lowe inherit centerfield?

The athletic outfielder is set to emerge as an everyday player

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

On September 8th, 2021 another piece of the future arrived for the Tampa Bay Rays. Josh Lowe made his big league debut.

Lowe, the younger brother of former Rays first baseman Nate Lowe, was selected in the first round (13th overall) in the 2016 draft by Tampa Bay. He was touted as one of the best athletes of the 2016 draft class by Baseball America and all of his tools drew strong praise; some scouts even thought of possibly drafting Lowe as a pitcher. His only weakness was his tendency to strike out.

And indeed that weakness was on display in Lowe’s professional career, but his many other strengths have allowed him to progress steadily through the minors. With his extreme athleticism, the Rays quickly transitioned Lowe to the outfield where he proved to be a natural. Over the past four years, Baseball America has tabbed Lowe as the best defensive outfielder in the Rays system, as well as the best athlete and best arm in several other years.

As he has matured, Lowe has continued to improve in all facets of the game. Although he does still strike out at a possibly problematic rate, Lowe has been excellent. In their latest prospect rankings, Lowe was ranked as the 2nd best prospect in the Rays system and 44th in all of baseball.

“He still trades some batting average for power, but he has managed to find a balance and now projects as a fringe-average hitter with plus power. Every other aspect of his game is plus or better. He plays a plus center field with long gliding strides. He also has a plus arm and has turned into a threat on the basepaths. He stole 26 bases in 26 tries, leading the minors in steal success rate.”

Lowe made his big league debut in 2021, playing in just two games, before returning to Triple-A Durham. He only made two trips to the plate, but reached in both of them, drawing a walk and knocking a base hit. He also stole a base.

His path to the big league roster is currently a question mark. Kevin Kiermaier owns the starting center field job — for the time being — with Brett Phillips serving as understudy. Austin Meadows, Manuel Margot, and Randy Arozarena seem to be set as well. It may take a trade of at least one of these outfielder for Josh Lowe to earn a permanent job in St. Petersburg.