Texas Rangers player profile and projection: Big things for Nate Lowe?

Now that the Super Bowl’s tense final minutes are past us, we can officially look towards the Texas Rangers and the upcoming MLB season, right?

Well, unfortunately, no, not yet. The owners and MLB opted for a lockout, instead of playing under the old collective bargaining agreement until they agree to a new one. But that’s not what this post is about.

In anticipation of the upcoming MLB season (I’m choosing optimism here), I will be writing profiles and making projections about players from our Texas Rangers.

Texas Rangers Nate Lowe’s 2021: .264/.357/.415, 18 HR, 72 RBI

We start off with Nate Lowe, who had a breakout year last season after finally getting some real playing time.

Like many Texas Rangers, Lowe had a roller coaster season. His first 40 games were fantastic, as he hit .275 with a .829 OPS and a wRC+ of 131. The league average wRC+ is 100, so this indicates Lowe helped create 31% more runs than the average MLB player through April and most of May.

https://twitter.com/MLBONFOX/status/1386842304372264965?s=20&t=8X3GGBwJyS2UaIBq1lDWXA

But he definitely cooled down as it got hotter. From May 14 to July 31, he hit .235 with only five home runs, while striking out 67 times. The drop-off can be primarily attributed to one thing: Teams fed him more fastballs, and he couldn’t adjust. The percentage of pitches he saw that were fastballs increased 10% during that period, (53.9% to 63.9%). The slider was the off-speed pitch opposing teams cut down most, as he saw 5% fewer of those.

More fastballs did mean a higher exit velocity of 92 mph, up from 90 mph. But this did not translate to getting on base or home runs. In his first 40 games, Lowe had 13 barrels, but in his next 62, he had only 12. For reference, players who get barrels hit .822 and slug 2.386 over the last six years that the stat has been tracked for. So, 82% of the time a player gets a barrel they’re getting on base and it’s usually at least a double. The ball is also typically hit over 99 mph with a launch angle between 20-35 degrees.

During the May 14 to July 31 slump, Lowe’s launch angle decreased by 6 degrees, from 10 degrees to 4, which helps explain the drop in production. We see that Lowe adjusted by August, however, as he hit at a .281/.354/.447 clip from then to the end of the season. This is while receiving the same number of fastballs (63%). After August, 44% of his hits had an exit velocity greater than 95 mph.

One exceptionally strong stat for Lowe all year was Batting Average on Balls in Play, or BABIP. The stat calculates a player’s batting average, with all strikeouts, sacrifice flies, and home runs removed, since the defense has no chance to make a play on the ball. It basically shows a player’s ability to make solid contact and get on base.

Nate Lowe’s BABIP was .339, higher than players like Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, and Yuli Gurriel, and good for 18th in the MLB. He was also able to sustain a higher exit velocity than Mookie Betts and Carlos Correa at 90.8 mph

Based on these numbers, I don’t see why Lowe can’t hit 25-plus home runs. He needs to continue to get on top of the fastball and rake. If he consistently keeps his launch angle between 10-15 degrees, he will again be a key contributor for the Rangers.

Even with the additions of Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, I’m hoping they slot Lowe between the third and fifth spot in the order. He deserves it.

Here is the projection part of the post: Nate Lowe will hit .255/.362/.489 with 26 home runs and 85 RBI. I believe he will continue to build off his breakout 2021 and put a little more pop in that bat.