Rays Prospects

Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Justin O’Conner Shines in AFL Opener

By Robbie Knopf

Major League Baseball is getting dramatic these days, with the ALCS and NLCS both set to begin. For the Tampa Bay Rays, however, the season has been over for a while now, and there has not been much action to talk about. Luckily, that changed last night. The Arizona Fall League has begun, with several notable Rays prospects involved, and we will be covering the AFL and all the other Winter Leagues on a daily basis here at Rays Colored Glasses.

Arizona Fall League: Peoria Javelinas 5, Surprise Saguaros 4

You get a pass if you didn’t know this time, but the Rays prospects in the Arizona Fall League are playing for the Peoria Javelinas. That would be a good thing to remember moving forward.

For the Javelinas, Justin O’Conner had a huge season debut. Coming off a breakout season between High-A and Double-A, O’Conner went 3 for 5 with a double and also picked a runner off first base. O’Conner is widely considered an excellent defensive catcher, and he certainly showed that in his first game. It is at the plate, though, where he requires the most significant work, and it is nice to see him getting off a nice start in that regard.

The biggest thing to watch for Justin O’Conner in the Arizona Fall League will be his plate discipline. O’Conner has struck out 406 times against just 100 walks in 1504 plate appearances as a professional, and even as he notched a career-high in all three slash stats, he still struck out 98 times against just 16 walks. Will O’Conner start drawing a few more walks to give him a chance to keep hitting at higher levels?

Patrick Leonard and Matt Lollis also appeared for Peoria, with Leonard going 0 for 5 and Lollis allowing a run on 2 hits in an inning of work. Leonard is also coming off a great season, hitting to a .284/.359/.448 line, and it is in the AFL that he has the ability to establish himself as a legitimate prospect. His first game could have gone better, but we can expect more satisfying results in the coming weeks.