Among the offseason leagues, fans have gotten a pretty good feel over which ones they should be looking that as they hope to keep up with their team’s players who are continuing their seasons into the fall and winter. The Arizona Fall League is where a group of solid prospects go–figure out which team your club’s prospects play for, and the boxscores can be a source of entertainment from mid-October until the season ends in mid-December. Then there is a Winter Ball in the Caribbean, where you have to sort through all the games in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, and Puerto Rico to find your team’s prospects and any other players returning to their home country to play. That is a little more annoying, but the reward for being vigilant is often finding players you thought were long gone–Karim Garcia, for instance–and being able to say “Whoa, he’s still playing!” That goes without saying that if you look hard enough, you can find plenty of players with some ties to your organization–that is what we have been covering this offseason with our Winter Ball Recaps here at RCG. But when it comes to the Australian Baseball League, no one really has a clue.
Some prospects go to the Australian Baseball League but most of the league is filled with players you have never heard of and probably will never hear of again. The time difference makes it hard to keep up with games, and when you do find a boxscore, it’s hard to figure out what day it is from. However, several Rays prospects, most notably Kevin Kiermaier and Todd Glaesmann, went there and found success, and you never know which Rays prospect will be next. Just one Rays prospect, the Australian Darryl George, was in the ABL last year, but this year five Rays prospects have seen time. Let’s see how everyone is doing and if anything could bear meaning for next season.
Joey Rickard- Rickard, the Rays’ 9th round pick in 2012, had a strong season at Low-A Bowling Green this season, hitting to a .270/.390/.409 line with 30 stolen 30 stolen bases and a 98-78 strikeout to walk ratio. Rickard, 22, stands out for his speed and plate discipline, and the question has always been whether he could hit with enough authority to have a future in the major leagues. Maybe Rickard got the memo. In the ABL, Rickard has hit to a .359/.480/.590 line in 50 plate appearances, stealing 4 bases and putting up a 7-8 strikeout to walk ratio, but also slamming 2 home runs and 3 doubles while driving in 5. We’ll have to see if that means anything for next season, but certainly can’t be a bad thing that Rickard is playing as great as he is.
Tyler Goeddel- Goeddel hasn’t lived up to expectations since receiving the highest bonus of any Rays pick in the 2011 MLB Draft after Taylor Guerrieri. The Rays ambitiously started him at Low-A Bowling Green for his pro debut in 2012, but he has been only passable the last two seasons while still failing to get out of Bowling Green. 2014 should see him finally advance to High-A Charlotte as the Rays hope he can put something together, and a strong performance in the ABL would be a nice way to spur him to finally get his desired results. Goeddel has been OK so far, hitting just .190 but managing a .346 and a .391 OBP as he has managed a 5-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 26 plate appearances. Goeddel has also slammed 2 triples, stolen 3 bases, and driven in 4. The strikeout to walk ratio is especially encouraging because Goeddel saw his OBP drop from .335 to .313 from 2012 to 2013. Goeddel was the perfect candidate to play in the ABL because getting a few more at-bats and furthering his development even to the slightest extent is exactly what he needs. Hopefully he can keep showing good signs.
Darryl George- Another year, another George season in the ABL. Unfortunately, the results continue to be basically the exact same thing. George, 20, had a solid season for Short Season-A Hudson Valley in 2013, hitting .286 with a .363 OBP and 9 stolen bases, but his SLG was just .339. He was primarily a shortstop this year so that seems fine, but he is not the lean, athletic player you would picture at 6’1″, 213 and he is going to need to hit for power at some point to profile play third base. George has just 2 home runs in 533 professional plate appearances, and that has to change. Maybe he has made some baby steps in the right direction. George has a 4-4 strikeout to walk ratio, but he has just a .206/.289/.324 line in 38 plate appearances. However, he has hit a home run and a double and at least he’s trying to fix his issue.
Patrick Leonard- Leonard, 20, is the forgotten man in the Wil Myers-James Shields trade, and with good reason. In his first season at full-season bal, Leonard has a rough season, managing just a .225/.309/.345 line in 493 plate appearances for Bowling Green. He did have 26 doubles, 9 homers, and 4 stolen bases, but he struck out 118 times against only 42 walks. The good news was that he finished the season in a solid fashion, managing a .249/.307/.401 line in his final 215 plate appearances, and he headed to the ABL hoping to build on that. It has not happened so far as he has managed jus a .167/.286/.200 line in 35 plate appearances, striking out 10 times against 3 walks. Hopefully Leonard can finish strong again and finally put something together next season.
Justin O’Conner- The Rays’ second pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, O’Conner has been a disappointment all-around. On the surface, the 21 year old had another lost season, managing just a .671 OPS in 439 plate appearanes for Bowling Green, but he actually was better than those numbers would indicate. O’Conner actually had a solid .253/.311/.420 line through 345 plate appearances before coming apart to finish the season. That certainly is not a good thing, but he certainly has his excuses–he caught 62 games after not catching a single one in 2012 because of a hip injury, and the 345 plate appearances also happened to be his career high by nearly 100 PA’s already. Hopefully O’Conner can continue to build endurancce and make progress as a prospect. Right now, though, O’Conner is simply exhausted and the results are showing just that. O’Conner is hitting just .056 in 39 plate appearances, striking out 15 times while walking just twice. Time for O’Conner to take a flight back to the US and rest up as he hopes to break out in 2014.