Last week, Biscuits and Rays minor league beat writer Stacy Long had the scoop on which Rays are going to the Arizona Fall League in October. The six players he's confirmed are catcher Curt Casali, second baseman Ryan Brett, third baseman Richie Shaffer, outfielder Todd Glaesmann and pitchers Grayson Garvin and Matt Ramsey. Rosters will be officially announced in just a few hours. Last year, the Rays sent seven players including their taxi squad guy (can only play on Wednesdays and Sundays), so my guess is another pitcher will be named today or at a later point.
I find that players assigned to the AFL usually fall into three categories: those that missed time during the season with an injury or suspension, those in transition to the upper levels of the minors and in need of extra reps, and those that are fringe 40 man roster candidates ahead of December's Rule 5 draft. Five of the Rays reps fall neatly into these categories; Casali, Brett and Garvin were either hurt or suspended at some point during the year; Shaffer will be heading to Double-A next year, and Glaesmann will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the first time this winter.
Ramsey is a bit tougher to place. He's going to be 24 next season and split this year between low-A and high-A, so they could be prepping him for Montgomery in 2014. He also had Tommy John surgery in the past, but that was in 2011 when he was drafted in the 19th round from Tennessee. He won't be eligible for the Rule 5 draft until the 2014 off-season, but obviously the Rays want to see more from him. Pre-draft scouting reports show that as an amateur, his fastball sat in mid-90's in relief with a potential plus breaking ball.
Players can even fall into multiple categories; Brett does. In addition to his suspension, he was just promoted to Montgomery recently, and he'll finish the season with 130-150 plate appearances in the Southern League. The AFL will provide continued exposure to upper level pitching. Casali is in the same boat. He's going to finish with more plate appearances in double-A than Brett, but he also missed a significant chunk of time this year before a mid-season promotion.
In addition to being eligible for the Rule 5 draft, it could certainly be argued that Glaesmann needs more exposure to upper level pitching. Compared breakout season with Bowling Green and Charlotte, his OPS is down about 150 points, his OBP is now below .300, and he's hitting for less power. Perhaps he's a victim of a lower BABIP because his (low) walk rate remains about the same, and he's even striking out a little less. Because of his power potential, I'm sure he'll be added to the 40 man roster regardless of his average performance this year or however he might perform in the AFL.
Garvin was an obvious choice since he only has 20.2 innings this year after returning from Tommy John surgery. This is after only having 46.1 innings with Charlotte last year in his pro debut. AFL starters typically top out around 21 innings since anyone hardly throws more than three innings per start, so his comeback will continue at the slow pace the Rays probably prefer. Obviously this won't make up for all the innings he missed because of his elbow injury, but it's better than nothing. It'll also expose him to upper level bats and competition that he's not necessarily familiar with, and as a college starter from the 2011 draft, the Rays will probably be happy to see him get closer to the level he'd be at had he never gotten hurt.
Shaffer will return to Arizona for a second straight year after a pretty disappointing first full professional season. His second half has been better, but he's still going to finish the year that didn't meet expectations. With a .258 average and .314 OBP, he doesn't appear to be the polished college bat that was advertised when he was drafted 25th overall last year and considered to be a steal. Last year, he was just a taxi squad player and didn't receive many plate appearances. Unlike Mikie Mahtook last season, Shaffer did not receive a mid-season promotion to Montgomery, so these games in Arizona could be helpful for him to get ready for next season.
Before I found out that Stacy Long already had the Rays representatives, I was going to do a post guessing who I thought might be chosen. One name I didn't think would actually be selected but was a deep sleeper possibility was Josh Sale. I wrote the same thing last week. Competitively he may have been in over his head, but he could've made up for some of the missed time from this lost season. I suppose if the Rays still have a taxi squad player to name it could still be him, but I still suspect it would be a pitcher, perhaps Kirby Yates again.
UPDATE - 2:35 PM
Marc Topkin confirmed the Rays players to attend the Arizona Fall League:
#Rays Arizona Fall League players are Montgomery, Garvin, M. Kelly, Ramsey, Casali, Brett, Shaffer, Glaesmann— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) August 27, 2013
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