The Texas Rangers have acquired 1B Nate Lowe, 1B Jake Guenther and a player to be named later from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for C/OF Heriberto Hernandez, OF Alexander Ovalles and IF Osleivis Basabe.
Lowe came up with the Rays in 2019 as an intriguing bat from the left side of the plate. He had raked in the minors, as over four seasons he had a .300 batting average and an .883 OPS. From a former 13th round pick who was 23 when he first got the call to the majors, the Rays were definitely alright with those numbers. In 71 combined major league games between 2019 and 2020, Lowe has been a slightly above average hitter, but hasn't stood out. But with Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz playing first, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Austin Meadows and at one point Avisail Garcia and Jose Martinez at DH, Lowe was always blocked by higher-profile players. In this trade, the Rays clear up their logjam a bit and give Lowe a place where he could potentially flourish, and they get a nice prospect back. Ranked by MLB Pipeline as Texas' 24th best prospect, Hernandez has played catcher, first base and right field in the minors. With the offensive production he has put up in rookie league, Hernandez looks like a first baseman, although a catching prospect with an OPS over 1.000 in 113 games is pretty nice to have. A shortstop, Basabe is actually ranked higher than Hernandez by MLB Pipeline, formerly at number 20 in the Rangers organization. He is not a power hitter, with one home run in 89 career minor league games, but he has hit for average with above average speed. His cousin, Luis Alexander Basabe, debuted for the Giants this year. Acquired by the Rangers originally as a player to be named in the 2018 Cole Hamels deal, Ovalles is very young, like the rest of the guys he is being traded with. He was hitting well in 25 rookie league games in 2019, with a 1.059 OPS, but he played almost an equal amount of games in Low-A and posted a .569 OPS.
Hernandez, who will turn 21 next week, hit 11 home runs with six stolen bases, a .345 average and an OPS of 1.071 in 234 Plate Appearances between rookie league and Low-A Spokane last year (keep in mind only three games were in Low-A). In his short minor league career, Hernandez has 23 home runs with 11 stolen bases, a .320 average and an OPS of 1.085 in 473 Plate Appearances.
Basabe, 20, hit no home runs, but stole seven bases with a .323 average, and an OPS of .750 in 176 Plate Appearances for Low-A and rookie league last year. In his minor league career, Basabe has one home run with 19 stolen bases, a .334 average and an OPS of .825 in 398 Plate Appearances.
Ovalles, 20, hit four home runs with five stolen bases, a .293 average and an OPS of .842 in 226 Plate Appearances between Low-A and Rookie League. In his minor league career, Ovalles has four home runs with 13 stolen bases, a .299 average and an .832 OPS in 320 Plate Appearances.
The Rangers have many holes offensively, and one of them is first base. Ronald Guzman is only 26, and is a three year veteran, but he has not shown yet that he is a long term starting option. Like Guzman, Lowe is a lefty bat, but Lowe has hit decently in the majors and has been great at AAA. The Rangers are likely viewing Lowe's .749 OPS in 2020 as his floor, and that he can be a significant or at the very least minor upgrade on Guzman, depending on how he develops. While Lowe crushed breaking balls in 2020, with a .769 slugging and an absurd 96.9 average exit velocity, he showed some opposite-Pedro Cerrano splits with a .122 average and 21 strikeouts versus fastballs. A 7th round pick in 2019 out of Texas Christian University, Guenther is the oldest prospect in this trade. He had nice numbers after transitioning from college.
Lowe, 25, hit four home runs with a .224 average and a .749 OPS in 76 Plate Appearances for the Rays in 2020. In his MLB career, all in Tampa Bay, Lowe has 11 homers with a .251 average and an OPS of .770 in 245 Plate Appearances.
Guenther, 23, hit two home runs with two stolen bases, a .320 average and an OPS of .853 in 209 Plate Appearances in Rookie League in 2019. In 58 college games prior to that, he hit .345 with a 1.039 OPS.