Opportunity never really presented itself for Nate Lowe in Tampa Bay. A much-ballyhooed minor league track record waits to manifest itself for the young slugger with plate discipline, so with new life after being traded to Texas, can Lowe cash in his chips? Investigating his recent results in the majors along with his minor league rates, this profile aims to project his upcomings 2021 campaign.

Starting with his 2020 season, Lowe played in 21 games accruing 76 plate appearances with 10 runs, four home runs, 11 RBI, a stolen base and a .224/.316/.433 slash line. More concerning than his reduced slash numbers compared to his 2019 debut, Lowe’s strikeout percentage spiked to 36.8 percent in this limited sample with an 11.8 walk rate. This contrasts his strong discipline displayed in the minor leagues. Perhaps rust and no minor league season contributed to his struggles but it cannot be overlooked.

Lowe’s breakout in 2018 included his traversing three levels starting in High-A, moving up to Double-A and finishing the year in Triple-A. His overall numbers from the three levels yielded a robust .330/.416/.568 slash with 32 doubles, 27 home runs and 102 RBI over 130 total games. He also owned a 12.3 walk percentage and 16.2 strikeout rate. Although Lowe scuffled against the pitching in Triple-A hitting .260 with a 24.5 strikeout percentage. Repeating the level in 2019 showed promise with Lowe reducing his strikeout percentage by 4.3 points and raising his walk rate by over ten percentage points.

In fact, Lowe displayed growth when repeating a level both times (High-A, Triple-A) in his accent to the majors with his first backslide in discipline taking place this season. In 2019, Lowe recorded a strikeout percentage of 30 which rose to last season’s 36.8 percent. He did show a gain in walk rate from 7.7 percent over 169 plate appearances to 2020’s 11.8 percent in a smaller sample.

What keeps Lowe on the fantasy radar, his Statcast data and power upside. Across his major league career, Lowe’s logged 245 plate appearances with a .251/.322/.447 slash in them. Of his 143 batted ball events, Lowe’s produced 17 barrels (11.9 barrel percentage), 64 hard hit events (exit velocity of 95 MPH or better) and a 44.8 hard hit percentage. His Sweet Spot percentage of 38.5 sits six points above league average and his hard hit rate just under 10 points over the league rate. When Lowe squared up a baseball, it can leave any ballpark as evidenced by his four no-doubt home runs of his 11 career home runs in the majors. Before delving into his batted ball data, here’s all of Lowe’s line drives and fly balls during his time in Tampa Bay with the new Texas ballpark as the backdrop:

Weighing Lowe’s hard hit percentage and sweet spot rate upside comes with losses in Zone Swing percent along with a nine percent drop in Zone Contact. Less than optimal. Lowe also generated more ground ball and line drives in 2020 with fewer fly balls. Again, it’s tough to take full context of the shortened season when assessing a prospect.

Armed with an expected batting average of .252, a .439 expected weighted batting average on contact (xwoBACON) and .436 expected slugging, Lowe could take a step forward in his development in 2021. But, he will not be a sleeper since so many pundits awaited a clear path to playing time the last two seasons. How Lowe fares against fastballs may decide his fate between a power hitting first baseman with improved discipline versus being a platoon hitter at the major league level.

Referencing his spray chart, it’s also intriguing he hit more home runs to the left side of center field than the right, his pull side. Hence the question on his bat speed being able to hit fastballs with proficiency. Check out his numbers against fastballs in each of his first two major league samples:

- Lowe vs. Fastballs 2019 - 54 batted ball events, 29 strikeouts, .256 batting average, .264 xBA, .500 slugging percentage, .502 xSLG, 30.5 whiff percent, 91.9 MPH average exit velocity

- Lowe vs. Fastballs 2020 - 20 batted ball events, 21 strikeouts, .122 batting average, .188 xBA, .220 slugging percentage, .313 xSLG, 32.1 whiff percent, 88.3 MPH average exit velocity

Delving into his splits against pitchers in the minors Lowe held his own versus left-handed pitchers, especially in on-base percentage while his power receded. Still, it provides hope for his future if these gains can be carried over:

- Lowe vs. LHP 2018 (All Levels) - .313/.395/.484, eight doubles, four home runs, 128 AB

- Lowe vs. LHP 2019 (AAA) - .286/.438/.450, eight doubles, five home runs, 140 AB

- Lowe vs. RHP 2018 (All Levels) - .338/.425/.608, 24 doubles, 24 home runs, 355 AB

- Lowe vs. RHP 2019 (AAA) - .279/.373/.507, 24 doubles, 18 home runs, 341 AB

Using a sliding scale to try and predict his outcomes in 2021 comes with some inherent risk due to how Lowe prepares this off-season along with can he improve upon his plate discipline metrics to cash in on his Statcast potential. Key on his performance in spring, especially against major league pitching before paying full retail on Lowe as a corner infielder this season. There’s a possibility he exceeds this ZiPS projection:

- Nate Lowe 2021 ZiPS projection - 131 games, 526 plate appearances, 67 runs, 23 home runs, 64 RBI, three stolen bases; .259/.344/.460, 11 BB%, 26 K%, .201 ISO, .338 wOBA

- Nate Lowe 2021 THE BAT X projection: 123 games, 521 plate appearances, 61 runs, 18 home runs, 60 RBI, stolen base; .251/.336/.426, 10.8 BB%, 25.7 K%, .175 ISO, .329 wOBA

- Nate Lowe 2021 ATC projection: 108 games, 437 plate appearances, 57 runs, 19 home runs, 58 RBI, three stolen bases; .258/.346/.459, 11.3 BB%, 27.4 K%, .201 ISO, .346 wOBA

Two things depress his projections. First, the uncertainty on how he performs this season due to a myriad of factors. Second, his numbers above suggest a platoon for Lowe versus left-handed pitching. Monitor very closely how Lowe does in spring training versus fastballs, where he bats and if he appears slated for a platoon. Due to how many await his eventual breakout, his price may rise as draft season nears its end. Heed his past and decide how to handle Lowe accordingly. It's a puzzle reliant on how the pieces finally come together in the majors.

Statistical Credits:



ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski

THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty

ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen