PORT CHARLOTTE – The disparity in size is obvious, but there is another pronounced difference between Rays infielders Brandon Lowe and Nate Lowe.
Specifically, the pronunciation of their last names, something they have been jousting about since first meeting at 2016 instructional league workouts.
Nate goes with most of the world, including his brother Josh, the 2015 first-round pick, saying it as if there was no E at end, rhyming with no.
Brandon, given a Northeast-rooted family preference clearly in the minority, says it like now.
“I’m pretty sure that’s the whole basis of what started our friendship, “You say your name wrong; No, you say your name wrong,’ ‘’ Brandon said. “It was always, 'I’m gonna get up first (to the majors) and tell everyone I know that it’s Lowe (as is now),’ and he’d say, 'Not if I do it first.’ So there’s been this friendly joshing back and forth.’’
Brandon did get there first with a somewhat unexpected August call-up, winning the battle though definitely not the war as his name is still often mispronounced.
“I still have to lobby to get everyone to say it the right way,’’ he said.
Necessitating much less convincing is how impactful both can be as hitters.
Especially as the race to the majors got extremely accelerated because of how well both Lowes did last year, specifically the power they showed. Each advancing through three levels of play in an organization that traditionally is conservative in promotions.
Brandon, 24, started the season where he ended the year before, at Double-A Montgomery, moved to Triple-A Durham and then the majors. He finished with 28 homers and 101 RBIs, after his first two pro seasons yielded just 16 and 100 total. (That included 6 and 25 in 43 games with the Rays.)
Nate, 23, repeated back at advanced Class A Charlotte to start, then slugged his way to Montgomery and Durham. He finished with 27 homers and 102 RBIs (with a .330 average) after posting 11 and 99 in his first two seasons, and is considered likely to reach the majors sometime this season, maybe sooner than later.
“They wowed me,’’ minor-league hitting coordinator Dan DeMent said. “There were a lot of high-fives last year.’’
Though they couldn’t look more different standing in the lefty batter’s box, Brandon not quite the listed 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Nate every bit of 6-4, 245, there are some basic similarities in how they made such dramatic improvement.
In (over-) simplified form, a matter of getting their bat through the zone and making contact out front, trying essentially to dent the baseball. (And not, both insist, by simply dipping their back shoulder and adjusting their swings as part of the recently popular launch angle revolution.)
“It’s a mentality of wanting to do damage, not just hit the ball hard to put it in play,’’ DeMent said.
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Nate got there by synching up his legs and his hands, thus "sequencing’ his swing so that the balls he was hitting hard on the ground were now going in the air.
Also, trying to think less about what he was doing.
“It was more so getting to that launch angle results wise without forcing it,’’ Nate said. “I never walked up to the dish thinking, “All right, I’m going to get this ball up in the air.’ But I did think a lot, “I’m going to hit the ball out front,’ and then obviously it started getting up in the air a little better. …
“If you’re thinking about elevating or getting the launch angle rather than thinking about hitting the ball hard, more times than not in my brain I would get beat.’’
Brandon had more of a complex, and harder to explain, path, spending years studying and then reshaping his swing in a way to maximize the power he had, even moving to Nashville to benefit from some high-tech analysis tools and drill work with instructors and other players from his agency.
“Patterning is a big word I use a lot, to use my body in the most efficient way possible,’’ Brandon said. “That’s why a little guy like me can generate so much force into the baseball.’’
His goal each at-bat? To hit the ball through (not over) the outfield wall, though he gets the loft and carry with the backspin he creates.
“It seems like his hands are just timed up,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s very whippy with his bat. He hits balls as big as some of the bigger players in the game.’’
Brandon got to the majors ahead of Nate, but he knows he is going to lose the pronunciation battle. Plus, Nate lords over him that Josh, who should get to Double-A sometime this year, eventually will make it a majority rule, anyway. (Plus they joke about the nightmare for the broadcasters should all three ever be on the field together.)
Brandon, always analytical, has a plan for the interim.
“I like to think I’m a lot more calm about when people call me Lowe (as in no) than when people call him Lowe (as in now),’’ Brandon said. “So my goal for one of these spring training games is to have everybody call him Lowe (as in now).’’
If they keep hitting, everyone will know their right name.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.