The Texas Rangers are almost two weeks away from starting their World Series defense with pitchers and catchers reporting to camp. There will be some roster battles that take place and decisions to be made by the coaching staff and front office. One position that likely will not require much thought in 2024 is first base. Nathaniel Lowe in 2022 won a Silver Slugger award based primarily on what he did in the second half that season. He followed that up with his first Gold Glove award in 2023. He is now entering his fourth season with the Texas Rangers. What can Lowe improve upon for 2024, is it time to talk extension with the veteran first baseman, and who is in the running to give him days off at first base?
What will 2024 hold for Nathaniel Lowe at first base?
The first thing the team is likely hoping for is continued health. Lowe has been a player who is in the lineup nearly every day the last three seasons. He played in 157 games in 2021 and 2022 and then 161 in 2023. Then he followed that up by starting every playoff game throughout October and into November. That has been one of Lowe's greatest assets is his ability to play nearly every day.
The second thing is improved production at the plate. That was a frustration throughout 2023 as he saw declines in several offensive numbers. His home runs fell from 27 to 17 from 2022 to 2023 and his batting average fell from .302 to .262. One area that he really needs to address is how to get off to a better start. The last two seasons he has a sub .800 OPS in the first half. In 2022 he followed that up with an OPS of .964 in the second half. The problem in 2023 was his batting average and OPS fell in the second half.
There are specific fixes Lowe can work on for this season. His barrel rate and hard hit rate were down significantly in 2023. His average exit velocity was down from where it was in 2022. His batting average went down against fastballs and breaking balls. The only area where Lowe was barrelling balls was in the middle of the zone. He struggled with pitches located elsewhere. Lowe I would expect is working on bat speed this offseason. He struggled against good fastballs and breaking balls located in the strike zone. The goal this season will be to get that bat head into the zone earlier and put the barrel on the ball more often than he did in 2023.
The one area that saw a massive improvement in 2023 for Lowe was his patience at the plate. He almost doubled the amount of walks that he took. He went from 48 walks in 2022 to 93 walks in 2023. His chase percentage fell from 29.2% in 2022 to 20.7% in 2023. That is one area he can build upon for this season. If this can remain in the same general area and combine that with an increase in exit velocity and hard-hit rate, he can become maybe the best first baseman in the AL and make his first All-Star game.
Defensively Lowe became everything Texas could have hoped he would be. He struggled with picks early in the season. That improved massively as the season progressed. He finished with a .998 fielding percentage, only committed three errors all season, and was a part of 128 double plays converted. He led the AL in putouts and assists. He played more games at first than any other first baseman in the AL with 161. All of this led to a surprise Gold Glove win after the 2023 season. Defense was his weakness heading into 2023 and Lowe put the work in and turned it into a strength.
The goal for Lowe in 2024 is to find a way to combine the Silver Slugger production he had in 2022 with the Gold Glove defense he had in 2023. The talent is there to be the best first basemen in the AL and one of the best in the entire major leagues. That is reachable for Lowe as he gets closer to free agency that will be coming up soon.