Texas Rangers: The emergence of Nathaniel Lowe as a key building block
By Carter Lacy
Texas Rangers’ Nathaniel Lowe: Offense
A major factor in Lowe’s emergence in 2021 pertains to the responsibility the organization gave to him. While players around him like Adolis Garcia took up most of the Rangers’ portion of the MLB spotlight, he was quietly submitted as the Rangers cleanup option in 53 games, nearly a third of a full season.
There are a variety of components to dissect from Lowe’s time at the plate in 2021, but let’s begin with what Lowe did well. When Lowe hit the ball, he got on base. In fact, he did it better than any first baseman in the majors, leading with a .339 batting average of balls in play (BABIP). This came as a bit of a surprise to me, but Lowe was actually the Rangers’ leader in batting average with runner(s) in scoring position, finishing 18th in the American League at .305. He ended the year with a slash line of .264/.357/.415, 18 home runs, 72 RBI, and a 113 OPS+. He also finished with a 2.3 offensive WAR.
Lowe’s plate discipline was extremely promising for a first-year full-timer, as he drew 80 walks, which ended up placing him ninth in the American League in base on balls and first for Texas – although Gallo would’ve won that contest by a landslide. Lowe had a 10% K rate on pitches that were called balls low and outside/inside the zone, which is exceptional for a first-year everyday hitter.
If you believe in the numbers behind the sport of baseball, striking out a lot isn’t a detractor for a player if they hit the ball enough. Ray Allen is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, but he holds the current league record for most missed three-pointers with 4,456. Brett Favre has thrown for more yards in the NFL than all other QBs except for three, but he also holds the career interception record. Point is, you can strike out now. It’s not a death sentence for a batter anymore.
Lowe strikes out – a lot. But fans have to get used to it as Lowe continues to develop as a hitter. He might even strike out more often. Adam Duvall was fanned 174 times in 2021, but he led the NL in RBIs. Shohei Ohtani, everyone’s (justifiably) favorite superstar, struck out 189 times. It’s not how much you strike out, it’s the way in which you do it. Lowe’s tendency to swing and miss often came on pitches that were in the strike zone on the outside, so when he was swing-happy, he had a good read on what was hittable and what wasn’t.
Another area Lowe can improve upon is getting the ball into the air more often. More conditioning and experience will surely reduce this number, but Lowe was 7th in all of baseball with a 54.5 ground ball rate. Whether or not he’ll be the cleanup hitter as often in 2022 heavily relies on how the Rangers construct their roster over the offseason, but it’s safe to say he’ll be floating pretty much anywhere between the third and sixth spots in any given lineup next year.
Lowe was one of baseball’s best opposite-field hitters last year, with nearly a full third of his total hits going oppo.
One huge step he can take as a run producer is to get the ball into the air when runners are on base, and finishing in the top percentage of league hitters in exit velocity is a huge plus side as he continues to improve there.