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The Rangers’ Breakout Slugger Keeps Getting Better

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The Rangers’ shift from a rebuilding mindset right into a win-now mode started within the offseason with a mixed $556MM spent on Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Jon Grey. It continued over the summer season when Texas held onto a number of commerce candidates of observe (e.g. Martin Perez, Matt Moore) and overhauled their management; gone had been supervisor Chris Woodward and longtime president of baseball operations Jon Daniels, leaving the staff prone to conduct a managerial search this winter and leaving third-year GM Chris Younger with full baseball operations autonomy.

One other aggressive winter appears possible, because the Rangers nonetheless have loads of work to do on an improved however flawed roster. There’s been speak of a brand new contract with lefty Martin Perez, following his breakout in a return to his Rangers roots, however that’d solely be one piece of the puzzle. There’s hope that Josh Jung will solidify third base, however there are questions behind the plate, within the outfield and on the pitching workers.

Nathaniel Lowe | Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Texas has at the moment dropped 9 video games in a row, erasing any delusions that maybe this staff could also be turning the nook proper now, however that doesn’t imply there aren’t brilliant spots to the season. Seager has hit nicely. Semien has shaken off a disastrous begin and, since mid-Could, seemed fairly robust. Grey has lived as much as his personal multi-year deal. Maybe the brightest spot of all, nonetheless, has come within the type of a breakout for slugger Nathaniel Lowe.

Acquired in a Dec. 2020 commerce that despatched three minor leaguers to the Rays, the now-27-year-old Lowe had a strong however uneven first yr in Texas. He homered six instances in his first 22 video games (98 plate appearances) as a Ranger earlier than settling in at a extra modest, however nonetheless productive tempo. Lowe continued hitting nicely however “solely” chipped in one other 12 house runs over his subsequent 544 plate appearances. He completed the yr as a .264/.357/.415 hitter — 14% higher than league common, by measure of wRC+.

For a lot of the 2022 season, Lowe seemed fairly comparable; he posted a 115 wRC+ within the season’s first half slashing .270/.323/.429. For the reason that All-Star break, nonetheless, Lowe has been not solely the Rangers’ finest hitter, however top-of-the-line hitters in Main League Baseball. He’s slashing an absurd .363/.414/.632 with 11 homers, 9 doubles and two triples in simply 186 plate appearances. In that point, 52.3% of the balls off his bat have been hit 95 mph or larger; his common exit velocity has spiked from 89.3 mph to 91.3 mph, and he’s gone from barreling 7.9% of the balls he places into play to a a lot heftier 12.9%.

This torrid six-week stretch has bolstered Lowe’s season line to a strong .302/.355/.500, and he’s hitting .282/.356/.455 in a complete of 1172 plate appearances since being traded to Texas within the first place.

That is in all probability the very best stretch of Lowe’s massive league profession, however he’s been quietly productive from the day he obtained to the massive leagues in 2019 and more and more appears the a part of a bona fide middle-of-the-order hitter. Skeptics will level to this yr’s .358 common on balls in play and marvel when he would possibly regress, but it surely’s not a given, and even possible, that he’ll. Lowe touts a .346 BABIP in 1417 profession plate appearances, suggesting that he’s able to sustaining a mark nicely north of the league common (.291 this season).

In contrast to many gamers who maintain their BABIP figures excessive, Lowe isn’t beating shut grounders and getting there through his wheels; fairly, he does so by successfully spitting on any shifts in opposition to him. Lowe leads the Majors in opposite-field hits courting again to 2021, and he’s tied with Giancarlo Stanton for the sport’s third-base wRC+ mark when hitting to the ball the alternative method throughout that point (solely Tim Anderson and Aaron Decide have been higher).

Lowe has solely been shifted in 20.1% of his plate appearances this season, which isn’t among the many very lowest charges within the league however is nicely under the league common. Furthermore, the one lefties who rank under him (min. 250 plate appearances) are Raimel Tapia, Nicky Lopez, Luis Arraez, Steven Kwan, Luis Guillorme, Luis Gonzalez, Joey Wendle, Michael Harris II, Adam Frazier, Eric Hosmer, Riley Greene, Brandon Nimmo, Brendan Donovan and J.P. Crawford. There are some good hitters in that bunch (Kwan, Arraez, Nimmo and Harris specifically), but it surely’s principally a listing of contact-oriented hitters who don’t pose a lot of an influence menace. Excluding Harris, there’s no lefty-swinging slugger in MLB who’s shifted much less regularly than Lowe.

Equally, Lowe isn’t fazed by left-handed pitching. His 141 wRC+ mark in opposition to lefties over the previous two seasons is twenty sixth amongst certified hitters and trails solely Matt Olson, Yordan Alvarez and Anthony Rizzo for the highest mark amongst left-handed hitters in that point. Once more, it’s tempting to say there’s simply been some small-sample, BABIP-related luck in play, however in 2022 Lowe has punched out much less in opposition to fellow lefties and hit for extra energy than in opposition to southpaws than when holding the platoon benefit. It’s not a easy case of some bloop singles falling in and inflating his stat line; he’s genuinely been a greater hitter in opposition to lefties this yr.

If there’s a knock on Lowe’s sport, it has nothing to do together with his work on the plate. His protection, nonetheless, is kind of suspect by most public measures. Defensive Runs Saved (-7) and Statcast (11 outs and eight runs under common) really feel he’s been among the many sport’s worst defenders at his place (or at any place, for that matter). No participant within the Majors has made extra errors at first for the reason that begin of the 2021 season than Lowe’s 20. (Miguel Sano is shut, in far fewer innings, however the level stands.)

Even when there’s a transfer to extra designated hitter work in Lowe’s future, although, his bat ought to greater than carry him at that place. He doesn’t draw many walks however has above-average contact expertise, even when chasing pitches off the plate, and his potential to flip balls out to left subject (or, in some situations, crush them into the left-field seats) ought to serve him nicely in that capability even when he by no means pares again his higher-than-average chase charge.

Though Lowe has now performed in components of 4 Main League seasons, he’ll end out the 2022 marketing campaign shy of three years of Main League service time. At two years, 145 days he’ll be a lock for Tremendous Two standing and attain arbitration this winter, the place his energy numbers and sturdiness will serve him nicely. That shouldn’t matter a lot for a Rangers membership that spent greater than a half billion {dollars} in free company that winter, and ending at two-plus years of service means Lowe shall be controllable for an additional 4 seasons, by his age-30 marketing campaign.

The Rays deservedly have a repute for being a dangerous staff with which to commerce, and there’s loads of time for any of Heriberto Hernandez, Osleivis Basabe or Alexander Ovalles to make the commerce look extra palatable from their vantage level. All three are having robust seasons, and Hernandez specifically is ranked anyplace from twenty third (Baseball America) to eighth (FanGraphs) amongst Tampa Bay farmhands. However as issues stand proper now, the Rangers have a middle-of-the-order complement to Semien and Seager for the subsequent 4 years, they usually’re not desperately lacking any of the gamers they surrendered to amass him.

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