On Thursday, the Tampa Bay The Rays made their first trade of the offseason, sending Nate Lowe to Texas — along with two low-level prospects — for three 20-year-old prospects: catcher/outfielder Heriberto Hernandez, infielder Osleivis Basabe, and outfielder Alexander Ovalles. The move freed up a roster spot, and the Rays now have 38 players on the 40-man roster as they look to add players via trade or free agency to build on last year’s World Series appearance.
With Ji-Man Choi and the platoon of Mike Brosseau and Yandy Diaz standing in the way of Lowe as he fought for consistent playing time, the Rays dealt the infielder to the Rangers where he should get the reps he deserves.
The headline player for Tampa Bay is Hernandez, who slashed .320 BA/.450 OBP/.625 SLG/1.075 OPS with 23 home runs, 32 doubles, and 98 RBI in just 113 career minor league games across two seasons. The catcher/outfielder is a borderline top one hundred player, according to FanGraphs (No. 112 overall prospect and the third-ranked prospect in the Rangers system). He spent most of 2019 with the Rookie-level Arizona League Rangers, although he played three games with Short-A Spokane following a promotion. Between the two levels, he hit .345 BA/1.071 OPS with 28 extra-base hits (17 doubles, 11 homers) and 49 RBI in 53 games.
Following the 2019 regular season, Hernandez was named to the AZL postseason All-Star Team and led the league with 48 RBI, 66 hits, and 124 total bases (including 32 extra-base hits), and ranked among league leaders in batting average (.344), doubles (17), home runs (11), runs (42), OBP (.433), and SLG (.646).
Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) wrote a de facto scouting report on the other two prospects, writing:
Basabe is currently ranked as the number 16 prospect in the Rangers system by FanGraphs and 20th by MLB.com. Over two minor league seasons, Basabe is batting .334 (.825 OPS) with 18 doubles, one home run, 66 RBI, and 19 stolen bases in 89 games. He spent most of the 2019 season with the Rookie-level AZL Rangers, hitting .323 with 32 RBI in 37 games.
The 20-year-old Ovalles was signed by the Cubs originally and dealt to Texas in the Cole Hamels trade. Ovalles has batted .299 (.832 OPS) with 18 doubles, four home runs, and 41 RBI in 70 games in his pro career. Ovalles split 2019 between the Rookie-level AZL Rangers and Short-A Spokane.
The Rays drafted the 23-year-old Guenther in the seventh round in 2019 out of TCU. At Rookie-level Princeton in 2019, Guenther batted .320 (.854 OPS) (56-for-175) with 10 doubles, two home runs, and 30 RBI in 48 games.— Neil Solondz
In addition to the three prospects acquired via trade, the Rays also picked up a right-handed hurler, 27-year-old Jordan Brink, from St. Louis in the minor league Rule 5 Draft.
Brink was originally drafted as a left-handed-hitting outfielder by the Cubs in the 11th round of the 2014 draft. His bat never developed in college where he slashed .224 BA/.292 OBP/.299 SLG/.591 OPS with 81 strikeouts in 108 games through his first two seasons. However, as a sophomore in 2013, the right-hander began to receive more opportunities on the mound as a reliever, and he eventually pitched his way into the team’s starting rotation. Brink finished the season with a 3.92 ERA and 65 strikeouts across 59-2/3 frames.
Fast forward to 2019 when he last pitched professionally with the Southern Illinois Miners in the independent Frontier League. Brink punched out 55 over 35-1/3 innings, going 2-3 with a 2.04 ERA and six saves. Based on the movement he gets on his changeup and fastball, Brink is an intriguing pitcher that will get his fair share of looks in Spring Training.