Shawn O’Malley gets completely overlooked in the pantheon of shortstop prospects on the Rays. With the emergence of Hak-Ju Lee and former top pick Tim Beckham just a couple of the well-regarded shortstops in the system, it is easy to see why.
O’Malley was drafted by the Rays in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft out of Southridge High School in Kennesaw, WA, and began his professional career with the Princeton Devil Rays in the Appalachian League. There, he did not hit much at all, posting a .213/.310/.269 slash line. However, he did draw 16 walks, stole 10 bases in 13 attempts, and played solid defense.
He continued his no-hit, good field routine as he climbed up the ladder, with the exceptions of 2009 and 2011. With the Charlotte Stone Crabs in 2009, O’Malley posted a .268 batting average and a .388 on base percentage, yet only had a .311 slugging percentage. In 2011, playing for Montgomery Biscuits, he posted a career best .276 batting average and a .344 slugging percentage. The strides made in his slugging came almost exclusively off the strength of his 8 doubles and 5 triples.
Despite his lack of anything resembling power, O’Malley actually does have a solid skillset. His ability to draw walks, his plus speed, and defense are enough to make him a borderline prospect. These skills were enough for O’Malley to be named the Rays 30th best prospect after 2008 (when he hit .237/.325/.296 with 28 stolen bases) and the 18th best prospect after 2009.
This year, O’Malley finds himself on the Durham Bulls, playing to his usual standards. Presently, he sports a slash line of .214/.292/.254 with 13 walks and a total of 2 extra base hits (1 triple and 1 home run). He has also stolen 8 bases on the year without being caught, including a game on May 10th where he stole 5 bases in a game against Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
Perhaps most importantly for his future, O’Malley is being turned into a true utility player. Thus far, he has played 19 games at second base, 18 at short, 2 at third, 1 in left, and 1 in right. We know that the Rays love versatility at all levels of their system and O’Malley’s defensive flexibility could get him a major league look at some point this year.
Going forward, the best chance for O’Malley to carve out a niche in the majors would likely be as a utility player. He may never be a starter, but he could become a player that appears in 80 games across multiple positions, or a late inning pinch runner/defensive substitute. He does all the little things well and has the ability to help the Rays in a bench role in coming seasons.
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