Jul 13, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; USA catcher Justin O

Looking At The 2014 Rays Arizona Fall League Participants

Each year, the Arizona Fall League gives prospects a chance to get some extra reps. Players can go through injuries throughout the year and make up for it in the AFL, or their parent club can simply wish for them to get some additional exposure to some of the best minor league talent in baseball. Each team is required to send at least 6 players to their AFL “affiliate”, though they can send more (the Rays are sending 7).

Here’s a breakdown of who the Rays will send to the Arizona Fall League. These players will be playing for the Peoria Javelinas along with players from the Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, and St. Louis Cardinals systems.

Pitchers

Zach Cooper

The Rays signed Cooper, 24, to a minor league deal back in May. After previously spending time in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, Cooper has experienced mixed results in his first season in the Rays organization. His 4.88 ERA for High-A Charlotte is not great, however his 8.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 are both decent marks. He’s also shown flashes of being much better, throwing to a 2.84 ERA and a 14-4 K-BB ratio over his past 12.2 innings. Cooper features two promising pitches: a low-mid 90′s fastball and a slider. However the slider is fairly inconsistent, and his command can become iffy at times. The Rays are sending Cooper to the AFL in hopes that he can continue the development of his pitches and command and turn into a quality reliever.

Matt Lollis

The Rays acquired Lollis last offseason as a part of the Logan Forsythe- Alex Torres deal with the San Diego Padres. Lollis started the season hot, with his ERA sitting at 1.88 for Double-A Montgomery back on May 22nd. However since then he has seen his fair share of struggles, and his ERA now sits at 3.95 to go along with an 8.4 K/9 and a 3.9 BB/9. Lollis stands out for one big reason- his 6’9” 250 pound frame. He has never experienced a great deal of success- his career minor league ERA is at 4.66, though he has good overall stuff. His command and ability to repeat his delivery can become iffy at times, in a large part because of his big frame. Like Cooper, the Rays are sending him to the AFL to get some extra innings.

Colton Reavis

Reavis has experienced a breakout year in the Rays’ system, throwing to a 2.18 ERA, 9.6 K/9, and a 3.6 BB/9 between Low-A Bowling Green and High-A Charlotte. The 24-year old was a 30th round pick in 2013,  but it seems that he is already breaking the expectations given to him. Reavis is a hard-throwing reliever, however his overall package remains inconsistent. Attending an NAIA school in college meant he never had to rely on his secondary pitches, so they still could use some work. His command can be inconsistent and also still needs work. The AFL is Reavis’ chance to put himself on the map as a relief prospect for the Rays.

Jaime Schultz

Schultz has thrown just 55.0 innings this season despite being a starter, but those innings have been impressive. Between High-A and Low-A, Schultz has put up a 2.45 ERA to go along with an 11.8 K/9 and a 4.4 BB/9. He features electric stuff including a low-mid 90′s fastball that has excellent movement on top of a power slider and curveball. He is an injury risk, as evidenced by a DL stint this year, and his control and command are both raw. He is being sent to the AFL in order to build up his inning count after his injury-shortened season.

Position Players

Justin O’Conner

Before this season, some were clamoring for O’Conner, a 1st round pick in 2010, to be moved to the mound. He had disappointed in his career as a catcher, mainly because he couldn’t hit. However this season O’Conner has rewarded the Rays’ faith in him. In 80 games at High-A and 17 at Double-A, O’Conner is hitting .274/.314/.460. He has always had solid raw power, however his hit tool has never done enough for it to consistently show up in games. But this year he has made significant progress at the plate. His approach still could use some improvement and he is going to have to continue to prove this season isn’t a fluke. Behind the plate he has a laser arm, resulting in a career 42% caught stealing percentage. But he still has work to do with the intricacies of catching, and that is a big reason why he is going to the AFL.

Patrick Leonard

Coming over from the Kansas City Royals in the James Shields deal, Leonard is also experiencing a breakout season. After posting just a .648 OPS at Low-A in 2013, the Rays still trusted him enough to move him up to High-A. He has rewarded that trust, slashing .290/.366/.461. Leonard has above-average raw power, and it is showing up thanks to an improved hit tool. He will always strikeout plenty, but he also isn’t afraid to take a walk. He is limited to playing first base, which does put more pressure on his bat moving forward. The Rays are hoping he can continue to improve his contact abilities in the AFL.

Kes Carter

Coming into this season Carter was seen as a non-prospect. He had rarely stayed healthy, and even when he was healthy he couldn’t hit. However after some mediocre hitting at High-A to start the year, Carter has actually done a nice job at Double-A. In 52 games, the 24 year old is hitting .261/.360/.408. The left-hander has been decent enough against righties in his career, hitting .257/.339/.406. He certainly is going to have to do more than hit for just 52 games, however this streak gives the Rays hope that he could turn into a platoon outfielder one day and they are hoping he can keep up the good work in the AFL.

All-in-all, the Rays Arizona Fall League participants are a solid group of players. For one reason or another, the Rays are hoping each of these players can take the next step in their development by getting some extra reps against some of the best minor league talent in the country. Hopefully each of them can take advantage of the opportunity that is being given to them.

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Tags: Jaime Schultz Justin O'Conner Kes Carter Patrick Leonard Tampa Bay Rays

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