This is not the question the Rangers were planning on asking themselves.
In a trade that had most Texas fans excited about this coming season, the Rangers went and got what they assumed was their new starting first baseman. December 10th the Rangers sent Osleivis Basabe, Heriberto Hernandez, and Alexandr Ovalles to the Tampa Bay Rays for Lowe, Jake Guenther, and Carl Chester, who was a player to be named later.
Heading into Spring Training, Texas had Lowe penciled in as the player to beat out for the starting first base job. Sure Ronald Guzman would be given a chance to compete for the job, but trading for Lowe was a sign they had probably moved on.
Guzman however, totally retooled his swing this winter and the results landed him an MVP award in the Dominican Winter League. Although his numbers were good, the Rangers still saw Lowe as the frontrunner.
The Rangers have only played 8 games this spring. That isn’t a big sample size to go off of yet. But there are real signs that Guzman has carried his new swing with him to Surprise.
It isn’t that he is playing better than Lowe right now that is eye-opening.
It’s the difference between the two that leave some concerning questions that need to be answered.
1) If Lowe Was Such a Good Hitter, Why Could He Not Beat Out Ji-Man Choi?
Choi was ok in 2020, but most assumed Lowe was the future first baseman for the Rays.
Yet, the Rays moved Lowe and kept Choi this offseason.
2) Has the Pressure of Guzman’s Play Got in Lowes’ Head?
Lowe is hitting .083 this spring with only one hit in 12 late appearances. Not a lot of AB’s I know, but also not a lot of show.
Top that off with how well Guzman has played, it can’t be ignored.
3) Were Lowe To Start Out in AAA, Would It Be Too Big a Blow To Recover From?
He came into camp thinking he was an everyday big leaguer.
Being sent to Round Rock might derail him for the future. Especially if the answer to #2 is “yes”.
Now I know that there is talk of Guzman taking fly balls in the outfield and Lowe possibly moving over to the third base. But Guzman has shown that the outfield is not a place he is comfortable with yet. Besides, he is a very good first baseman, and if he makes this team that is where he belongs. Lowe hasn’t hit well enough to be considered at another position yet.
Had Lowe even played half as well as Guzman, then other players would be worried about making the team?
Most of the time these things seem to work themselves out. Either someone gets hurt or traded and that opens up a path for a guy. But suppose that doesn’t happen? There are only a few position players who have options remaining.
It would seem in 2021 that having remaining options may be what keeps a player off of the major league roster. Especially if a player without options plays well enough that the Rangers feel they don’t want to let them go.
If Nate Lowe continues to struggle as he is now, there is one question that may need to be answered…
Is Nate Lowe headed to AAA?
Featured Image: Kelly Gavin