Few people could have predicted Nathaniel Lowe’s 2022 season. In a year that was disappointing in many respects for the Rangers, Lowe’s breakout campaign was one of the major bright spots – especially considering how unlikely it seemed early in the year.
Lowe was hitting .233 on May 16th with one home run and eight RBI. His OPS was only .579, thanks to a slugging percentage of .292 that was fourth-lowest on the team at the time. Lowe started the season in a somewhat promising way, finishing the month of April with an OBP of .368. His bat cooled off substantially in May, a month when he could only manage a .205 average and four extra base hits in 84 PA.
Fast forward to the end of the year. Nathaniel Lowe became the first qualifying Ranger since 2016 to finish the season with an average above .300. He finished among the top 10 in the American League in both batting average and home runs. He led his own team in batting average and finished with the second highest slugging percentage and OBP. Only Mark Mathias finished with better numbers in each category, but Lowe’s 645 plate appearances provide a much larger sample size to study compared to Mathias’s 74.
2022 was Nathaniel Lowe’s breakout season, positioning himself as one of the core Texas Rangers
From June 1st until the end of the year, Nathaniel Lowe was one of the best hitters in all of baseball. His .914 OPS during that time is tied with Nolan Arenado for ninth best in the entire league. His batting average of .317 was sixth, and his BABIP (.376) and his wRC (86) were each third.
So why was Lowe’s 3.2 WAR only 38th in the entire league during this impressive span? The answer is simple. Among players who played at least 100 innings at first base during the 2022 season, Lowe finished with dead last in defensive runs above average. Lowe doesn’t mince words when talking about his defense and acknowledges that improvement is necessary. As Tony Beasley told Levi Weaver of The Athletic (subscription required), sometimes defensive improvements are best made during the offseason.
With this in mind, 2023 will be a huge season for Lowe. The Rangers want to be competitive, and it remains to be seen if the last four months of Lowe’s 2023 season was simply an impressive hot streak or a sign of things to come.
If Nathaniel Lowe can maintain this type of offensive production while improving to become simply an average defensive first basemen, he could compete for an All-Star spot. If he shows more of the same limitations in the field, Bruce Bochy and Chris Young might have to consider if Lowe is a better fit at DH.