Rays Winter Leagues Recap: Justin O’Conner Ends AFL Regular Season in Style
By Robbie Knopf
And with that, the Arizona Fall League regular season is over. The Tampa Bay Rays prospects from the Peoria Javelinas do have one game remaining–the championship game against Salt River on Saturday–but the prospect-laden AFL is on its last legs and it will be time to move on. At the very least, though, Justin O’Conner, Kes Carter, and Mark Sappington are intent on making it an explosive finish.
Arizona Fall League: Peoria Javelinas 5, Surprise Saguaros 2
Justin O’Conner finished the AFL season on a tear, registering four multi-hit games in his last five, and his last contest actually featured a first for him on the season. In this game, O’Conner went 2 for 4 with a game-icing home run in the ninth inning, his first blast with Peoria. O’Conner finishes his AFL stint with excellent numbers as he hit to a .303/.361/.439 line with 6 doubles, 1 homer, 10 RBI, and even a 6-4 strikeout to walk ratio. Add in his excellent defense, and it is easy to see why O’Conner has so much promise.
Kes Carter also had a nice finish to the year, going 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
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Mesa Solar Sox 4, Glendale Desert Dogs 4 (AFL games are ties after 11 innings)
Speaking of Rays prospects finishing on a good note, Mark Sappington had an uneven AFL but finished with one of his better games. He went 2 innings for Mesa allowing 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 1. He finishes with a 5.25 ERA and an 8-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 12 innings pitched. Clearly he has work to do, but it was nice for the Rays to have the opportunity to watch him for a few appearances and know exactly what needs to be fixed.
Australian Baseball League: Melbourne Aces 7, Brisbane Bandits 6
Tommy Coyle was the reason this game was so close. After Johnny Field drew a two-out walk in the ninth inning to make Coyle the tying run, Coyle delivered a two-run triple to bring the Bandits within a run. However, that was as close as they could get. Coyle will have to settle for a 3-for-5 day with that triple, 2 RBI, and a run scored.
Field went 0 for 3 on the day but did draw 2 walks and score 2 runs. Then there were Granden Goetzman and Maxx Tissenbaum, who both went 1 for 4 with Tissenbaum scoring a run.
Brisbane 6, Melbourne 5
In the mood for more Tommy Coyle? Good. Because of the time difference, sometimes multiple ABL games will go by in between when I write these minor league recaps, so we actually have a second game from a day later to talk about here.
In this game, Coyle was impressive once again, going 2 for 4 with a double, a stolen base, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. He has torn up the ABL has hoped, hitting to a .333/.409/.615 line with his power especially standing out. Coyle looks intent on proving that his rough 2014 at High-A was a fluke, and the Rays are quite satisfied with that.
While Coyle stayed quite similar, Field looked quite a bit more impressive. He went 1 for 3 with a walk, 2 stolen bases, and 2 runs scored. One of those steals and runs scored was a steal of home! Field is hitting just .257 for Brisbane, but don’t let that fool you. He has a 9-8 strikeout to walk ratio in 10 games to help him to a .386 OBP, and he also has 4 stolen bases.
Goetzman also had a nice game, going 2 for 4 with a run scored, while Tissenbaum went 0 for 3 with a walk.