Jul 13, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; USA catcher Justin O
Justin O’Conner: He really may have broken through
O’Conner, the Rays’ top catching prospect, delivered strong results in the Arizona Fall League, hitting to a .303/.361/.439 line in 72 plate appearances. Most impressive, though, was his ability to make contact as he walked 4 times against 6 strikeouts.
It was nice to see O’Conner continue to hit, but after a 2014 regular season that saw him strike out 98 times against 16 walks, the quality of his plate approach is his biggest question moving forward. What matters a lot more than whether O’Conner can hit now is whether he will be able to continue being formidable offensively at higher levels and eventually in the major leagues.
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O’Conner faces a critical season at Double-A in 2014, but his AFL stint inspires confidence that he will hit enough to be a starting catcher someday. His fall numbers came in a small sample, but it was the first time ever that O’Conner had struck out at a rate anywhere near that low. It would have been nice if he had accompanied his puny 8.3% strikeout rate with more walks, but the Rays can’t quibble too much.
O’Conner is the Rays’ catcher of the future, and between his outstanding defense and a bat that continues to make strides, he inspires plenty of reason to be excited. 72 plate appearances can only say so much, but at the very least, the Rays are hoping that O’Conner enters the 2015 season with confidence.