Despite two home runs from Justin O'Conner, the Peoria Javelinas fell to the Salt River Rafters 14-7 in Saturday's Arizona Fall League Championship. Peoria hit five home runs, including another from Rays teammate Kes Carter, but Salt River's offense came to play too, pounding Javelina pitching for 13 hits and drawing 11 walks. No Rays pitchers appeared.
Peoria started the AFL season 3-10-2, but they finished strong to win the West Division with a 15-14-3 record. Because of continued renovations at Peoria Sports Complex, they were unable to play any games at home in 2014. Despite the league's reputation for slugfests, Peoria only hit 11 home runs in the regular season.
Here's an AFL wrap-up for the Rays representatives, not including Championship Game stats because for some reason, the league is counting them separately.
OF Kes Carter 80 PA, .191 BA, .288 OBP, .382 SLG, 2 HR, 7 XBH, 8.8 BB%, 32.5 K%
Carter reached Double-A in 2014, and heading out to the AFL offered a continued chance to face pitching of that caliber. A career .237 hitter, making consistent contact hasn't been a hallmark of Carter's, but he really struggled in Arizona. His high strikeout rate surpassed anything he's ever done, but his .191 ISO was higher than anything in his career too.
RHP Zach Cooper 10.1 IP, 10.45 ERA, 2.13 WHIP, 6.1 K%, 18.4 BB%
After being released by the Phillies, a spike in velocity got Cooper a second shot in affiliated baseball. He only faced 49 batters, but it's pretty safe to say it was a forgettable offseason adventure for him.
1B Patrick Leonard 77 PA, .182/.299/.318, 2 HR, 5 XBH, 13.0 BB%, 24.7 K%
Leonard had a pretty tough time in the AFL after his breakout 2014 with Charlotte, but these were likely the toughest pitchers he's faced in his career. His strikeout rate was also higher than anything he's done in his career, but it's not too far out of line with anything he's done in the regular season. This experience should pay off with an easier transition to Double-A Montgomery.
RHP Matt Lollis 8.1 IP, 15.12 ERA, 2.52 WHIP, 10.9 K%, 10.9 BB%
If Lollis was looking to get 40 man roster or Rule 5 draft consideration, he better hope no one was watching this fall.
C Justin O'Conner 72 PA, .303/.361/.439, 1 HR, 7 XBH, 5.6 BB%, 8.3 K%
O'Conner was outstanding at the plate, and even though defensive stats from offseason leagues aren't easily available, I'm assuming he was his usual self behind the plate too. It's a small sample size so I don't want to make too much of it, but these stats indicate that he may have made an adjustment at the plate. That .136 ISO is lower than what we're used to seeing from him, but so is that strikeout rate. Was he focusing on putting the ball in play more?
RHP Colton Reavis 11 IP, 4.09 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 22.2 K%, 8.9 BB%
Reavis wrapped up his first full pro season with a tough assignment to the AFL, and he held his own. Walking batters has been a problem for him early in his career, and this rate was a little better than usual, although he still has work to do. Since he was drafted in the 30th round in 2013, I still can't find any scouting information on him, but the Rays obviously see something in him.
RHP Jaime Schultz 27.1 IP, 4.61 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 21.7 K%, 17.8 BB%
Schultz was in Peoria's rotation, and he had a pretty tough time. Most, if not all, of the batters he faced had more experience as professionals than them, so like with Leonard, the challenge here could pay off in 2015. He struggled to find the strike zone, but he did manage to lead the AFL in strikeouts. Because of the time he missed this year with injuries, these innings are valuable helping to increase his workload.