After a successful debut season in 2019 (finishing with a .263/.325/.454 slash line and a 107 wRC+), Nate Lowe was rewarded by the Rays without a spot on the major league roster in 2020. His stellar walk rate from the minors hadn’t quite transitioned into major league success, but the potential was clear. What wasn’t was the coveted path to playing time, and Lowe started the season away from his Tampa teammates. When Yandy Díaz went on the IL with a hamstring strain, Lowe’s opportunity arose and he was activated to take his place.
Going into yesterday, Lowe had appeared in a handful of games—typically in a depth role near the bottom of the order—and didn’t have much to show for it, collecting just one hit and three walks over 17 plate appearances. Last night, Lowe got the nod at DH as part of the Rays’ all-lefty lineup and delivered with a monster night (3-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI) as the Rays routed the Red Sox.
It was a huge night for the 25-year-old, but what’s next? It certainly seems he was destined for a depth role in his major league time in 2020, and even if that changed, even mashers get frequent platoons on Kevin Cash’s squad. The first baseman spent some time getting reps at 3B in hopes at improving his shot at playing time, but even so it seems hard to imagine him getting into any true everyday role. Without that clear path, his fantasy value takes a hard hit.
You know what else takes a hard hit? A lot of baseballs thrown Nate Lowe’s way. In 169 PAs in 2019, Lowe rocked a Hard Hit % of 45.2; if he had enough PAs to qualify, he would have ranked 40th in MLB, coming in just after guys like Cody Bellinger (46%) and Bryce Harper (45.6%). Not too shabby for a rookie. He added a healthy launch angle that averaged around 13°, as visualized by Baseball Savant:
It worked out to a Sweet Spot % of 37.5, placing him right around #50 in MLB (just ahead of fellow rookie slugger Pete Alonso). Taking a look at both power and angle combined, Lowe barreled the ball over 10% of the time, placing him just above Mookie Betts (and, funnily enough, the man he just replaced—Yandy Díaz). In summary: he hits the ball hard, even if standard sample size qualifications apply.
He offers a tantalizing amount of power, and when you add in the plate discipline exhibited in the minors and good eye for contact, you can see how high the fantasy ceiling is. Perhaps tonight he shook off the rust and gets going, but even so, it’ll be hard to trust Cash giving him significant at-bats. If nothing else, he should be able to make a solid case for himself going into 2021.
Let’s see how every other hitter did Friday:
Luke Voit (1B, NYY) – 4-7, 2 HR, 4 R, 6 RBI. Voit collected a hit and scored a run in the first game, but exploded in the second game of the Yankees’ doubleheader by going 3-4 with a pair of three-run bombs including his 16th on the season to tie Mike Trout for the MLB lead. It’s par for the season for Voit, who sports a ridiculous .629 SLG through 167 PAs. Injuries have decimated the Yankees’ offense, but Voit has been a huge bright spot, leading the team with a 161 wRC+ in the absence of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and DJ LeMahieu. With DJ back and the others on the horizon, Voit could become even more dangerous.
Wilson Ramos (C/DH, NYM) – 3-5, HR, 2 2B, 4 R, 4 RBI, BB. In an effort to make up for the usual lack of run support, the Mets scored 18 runs Friday night to back up ace Jacob deGrom. Ramos led the way, belting a solo homer along with a pair of doubles to stuff the stat sheet. It’s been a rough season for the slugging catcher, slashing .237/.302/.386 with just four home runs on the year as the primary catcher for the Mets.
Marcell Ozuna (OF/DH, ATL) – 5-6, HR, 2B, R, 4 RBI, BB. Furious at himself for missing out on the fun of the 29-run game Wednesday where he collected just one hit (the only starter not to collect a multi-hit game), Ozuna returned with a vengeance on Friday, collecting 9 total bases that included his 14th long ball of the year. The 29-year-old has settled in nicely as the primary DH in his first season with the Braves, and is outperforming even his dominating breakout 2017 season. Ozuna ranks second in the league with 41 RBI, trailing only his teammate Freddie Freeman, and has a Baseball Savant page littered with dark red.
Andrew McCutchen (OF, PHI) – 5-8, HR, 2B, 2 R, 4 RBI. Another big day for the veteran. After a slow start to the season, McCutchen is getting hot: over the past month, he’s slashed .295/.348/.484 with six homers and three stolen bases. Most of the damage was done in the early game, where McCutchen went 3-4 with a double and a homer. The Phillies offense hasn’t been as dynamic as expected going into the season, but as long as Cutch keeps hitting this well from the leadoff spot, he’ll continue to provide solid production.
Michael Conforto (OF, NYM) – 2-4, HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, BB. Conforto continues his monster season, tacking on his ninth long ball of the year. He’s currently ranked fifth in the league in wRC+ (just behind teammate Dominic Smith), thanks to his .343/.432/.578 slash line. With his short career plagued by injuries, Conforto is finally having the breakout season we’ve all been waiting for.
Charlie Blackmon (OF, COL) – 2-4, HR, R, 5 RBI. It’s weird seeing Blackmon not batting leadoff, but it’s hard to argue against keeping him in the 3-hole. After prompting questions of whether he’d hit the .400 mark for the season, Blackmon has cooled off but is still batting an impressive .331 on the season. Sandwiched in between Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado, he’s a no-brainer for production the rest of the way.
DJ LeMahieu (1B/2B/3B, NYY) – 3-7, HR, 2B, 3 R, RBI, BB. Speaking of high averages, LeMahieu continues his strong followup to his MVP-caliber 2019 season—as of this point in 2020, he’s actually improved in all categories, including a remarkable .359 average. There’s not much to say about DJ that you don’t already know, but since returning from the IL two weeks ago he’s slashed .293/.354/.569 with a 145 wRC+, which has somehow made his season numbers get worse. He’s great.
Yan Gomes (C, WSH) – 3-5, HR, 2B, R, 2 RBI. Gomes may not have the primary catcher position locked down, but nights like tonight help make his case, as he’s now put together a solid 109 wRC+ on the season with three home runs and even a stolen base. The league average wRC+ at catcher currently stands at 86. He’s striking out way less and as a result, he’s hitting as well as he has since his early seasons with the Indians. Unfortunately for Gomes, Kurt Suzuki is still getting the nod for most playing time.
Adalberto Mondesi (SS, KC) – 1-2, HR, 3 R, RBI, 2 BB, 2 SB. Mondesi has been absolutely brutal so far this year, but is on an eight-game hit streak during which he’s slashed .333/.394/.667 with three homers, seven stolen bases, and, most importantly, an 8.8% walk rate, good for more than double his career average. If he can get on base, he can steal, and if he can steal, he can be an extremely productive fantasy contributor. Even with his nice streak, he’s still only slashing a painful .207/.244/311 on the season. However, in this weird farce of a season, a streaky player like Mondesi could be the difference between a fantasy championship and a first-round playoff exit.
(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)