How this Rays player views his breakout campaign

September 29th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Adam Berry’s Rays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

TORONTO --  walked over to a relatively quiet, dry corner of the visitors’ clubhouse at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, his shirt soaked and his smile still wide nearly half an hour after the champagne started spraying. 

Lowe had celebrated postseason appearances in the Minors nearly every season since his professional debut in 2016, but the Rays’ postponed playoff-clinching party was his first in the big leagues. As unusual as the circumstances were, taking place 10 days after the moment they were technically toasting, Lowe enjoyed every second of it. 

“So much more rewarding,” he said. “You work your [butt] off in the Minor Leagues to get here, and to finally celebrate with the guys that you’ve been grinding with all year long, it’s awesome.” 

Lowe had just put the finishing touches on a personal accomplishment worth celebrating, too, during the Rays’ 5-0 win over the Red Sox. The athletic outfielder got the Rays on the board in the second inning with a leadoff shot off Red Sox starter Brayan Bello, his 20th home run of the season. 

Lowe’s latest blast gave the Rays six hitters with at least 20 homers this season, tied with the Cubs for second-most in the Majors behind the Braves’ seven. What Lowe did is also a rare feat in franchise history, an uncommon blend of power and speed. 

It’s the eighth 20-homer, 20-steal campaign in franchise history, and Lowe is only the fourth player to put together a 20-20 season in a Rays uniform. B.J. Upton did it three times (2007, ’11 and ‘12), Tommy Pham once (2019) and Randy Arozarena each of the last three seasons.  

Lowe did it in what has essentially been his first full big league season.

Last year was supposed to be Lowe’s breakout, as the Rays cleared a path for him by trading Austin Meadows and putting the rookie Lowe on the Opening Day roster. But it was a struggle instead, and a reminder that Triple-A dominance doesn’t automatically and immediately translate to the Majors. He hit .221/.284/.343 with only two homers in 52 games and struck out in 66 of his 198 plate appearances. 

This year has been a completely different story. Last offseason, the Rays acknowledged their need for a left-handed bat to balance their lineup. When they didn’t get one, they turned again to Lowe. President of baseball operations Erik Neander joked on the first day of Spring Training that the front office’s “job security would be better” if Lowe stepped up to fill that void. 

Sure enough, they wound up getting that left-handed power production from Luke Raley and Lowe, who enters the final regular-season series with a .290/.333/.496 slash line and 81 RBIs to go along with his rare and remarkable trio of round numbers: 20 homers, more than 30 stolen bases (32, to be specific) and 30 doubles. 

Lowe, 25, joined Arozarena as the only players in franchise history to put up at least 20 homers, 30 steals and 30 doubles in one season, as Arozarena went 20-32-41 last year. The only other players in the Majors to reach those marks this year are Ronald Acuña Jr. (41-70-34), Francisco Lindor (30-30-33) and Julio Rodríguez (31-37-37). 

That is elite company: one of the top National League MVP candidates, a four-time All-Star shortstop with a $341 million contract and last year’s American League Rookie of the Year.  

It’s where Lowe wants to be -- and where he wants to stay. 

“I’m really blessed to put on a uniform every single day. I bust my [butt] in the offseason so things like this can happen and so I can help this team win,” Lowe said. “For something like that to happen tonight, it’s a great feeling. But I’m not satisfied with that. I want to be one of the best players for years to come. 

“It’s an awesome moment tonight. I’ll enjoy it, for sure. But [I’m] hungry for more success.”