Two farmhands of the Tampa Bay Rays were named to the 2014 MLB Futures Game, as a pair of former Bowling Green Hot Rods – both Charlotte’s Justin O’Conner and Durham’s Enny Romero - were selected as competitors for the game. O’Conner, from Indiana, was named to Team USA and Romero, from the Dominican Republic, will represent the World squad.
O’Conner is finally starting to show some of the power potential that caused the Rays to take him in the 1st round in 2010. He is batting .261/.292/.438 in 54 games with the Stone Crabs, having gone yard five times so far while driving home 25 men. In 44 games behind the plate (the other 10 games, he has been put in the DH position), O’Conner has posted a .965 fielding percentage, and has thrown out over half of attempted base stealers (58%). O’Conner, while only at the ripe age at 21, has yet to show much promise at the plate, as his approach as always been a problem. But his defense, and specifically his laser arm, makes up for it, and that makes him an intriguing prospect. He has also continually advanced through the Rays system, playing at every level through High-A since debuting in the GCL in 2010.
For Enny Romero, inconsistency and command are his biggest problems. This is coming from the mound, and it means less strikeouts than you’d think someone with his stuff would have. He does have a very good fastball and slider, and is working on and improving his changeup. With the Bulls so far in 2014 (his first full season in Durham), Romero has put up a 3-7 record with a 5.35 in 14 starts. He has a good strikeout to walk ratio (64/29), but his command inconsistency is almost painfully too obvious, and that is what leads to the poor ERA and hits allowed. He has a high ceiling, but at this point remains very raw.
The Rays are one of 20 teams to send two prospects to the game, which will be the game’s 16th annual and will come on Sunday, July 13th at Target Field. It is nice to see the Rays well represented.