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Rays announce 2014 Arizona Fall League participants

Justin O'Conner leads a somewhat interesting contingent of players

Justin O'Conner will get more reps against upper level pitching
Justin O'Conner will get more reps against upper level pitching
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Rays announced the seven minor leaguers they'll be sending to the Arizona Fall League.  It's a great off-season league with a lot of top talent, and a handful of games will be on TV.

They'll send seven players to the Peoria Javelinas, one of which will be a taxi squad player only allowed to play Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The league begins October 7th.  Here's a rundown of their selections:

OF Kes Carter (.244/.331/.365, 21.5 K%, 10.3 BB% in 465 PA with High-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery)

Carter is one of two players I successfully picked on Tuesday.  He'll be playing for a spot on the Rays' 40 man roster in his first year of Rule 5 draft eligibility.  With the composition of the Peoria roster, he should be able to get some time in center field.  I suspect that his improved stats with the Biscuits are partly fueled by a career high BABIP, but going to the AFL will give the Rays more time to determine if that's the case.

RHP Zach Cooper (4.88 ERA, 22.0 K%, 10.0 BB% in 24 IP with High-A Charlotte)

Cooper is an interesting choice.  The Rays signed him from an Indy League during the season after he was released by the Phillies at the end of spring training.  He's not Rule 5 draft eligible yet after being drafted out of Central Michigan in the 15th round two years ago, and his performance isn't especially notable.  His fastball velocity at the time of signing was much better than when it was with the Phillies, so maybe they have something here.

1B Patrick Leonard (.290/.366/.461, 20.5 K%, 9.7 BB% in 438 PA with High-A Charlotte)

Leonard doesn't have to be added to the 40 man roster until next off-season, so the Rays are probably just hoping to get him a head start against upper level pitching with this assignment.  He's having his best professional season in a major rebound compared to last year.  His .290 average is by far a career high, he's still hitting for solid power, and for some reason, he's 12/12 stealing bases.  I wonder if he'll get a shot to return to third base at all.

RHP Matt Lollis (3.95 ERA, 21.0 K%, 9.8 BB% in 70.2 IP with Double-A Montgomery)

Coming over from San Diego in the Alex Torres/Jesse Hahn trade, Lollis got off to a nice start with just a .606 OPS against through May.  Since then, batters have a .874 OPS against him.  His strikeout and walk rates are roughly similar to his career numbers, so I'm not sure if he's done anything to improve his stock in his second year of Rule 5 draft eligibility.  The AFL will be a nice showcase for him because he does have good stuff.

C Justin O'Conner (.274/.314/.460, 23.0 K%, 3.9 BB% in 408 PA with High-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery)

O'Conner has to go on the 40 man roster this off-season, but I'm assuming that decision is already made.  His transition to Montgomery hasn't been great so far, but going to Double-A is a tough jump for any player.  This will get him an opportunity to face more upper level pitching before returning to Montgomery next season.  I'm sure the Peoria pitchers will appreciate having him behind the plate.

RHP Colton Reavis (2.18 ERA, 27.2 K%, 10.3 BB% in 62 IP with Low-A Bowling Green and High-A Charlotte)

Reavis has been very good in his brief career since being drafted in the 30th round last year.  He's still two years from Rule 5 draft eligibility, but he'll be 25 years old next year.  This AFL stint could accelerate his timeline a bit.  I can't find any information about his stuff, but with that strikeout rate, he's probably doing something right.

RHP Jaime Schultz (2.45 ERA, 31.3 K%, 11.7 BB% in 55 IP with Low-A Bowling Green and High-A Charlotte)

Schultz is one of the organization's biggest breakout prospects, and he'll be facing a tough test.  He only has 18 innings with the Stone Crabs, and most of the hitters he'll be facing will be more experienced than the ones he's used to facing.  Like Reavis, he's still two years away from Rule 5 eligibility, but with a couple DL stints this year, they probably want him to make up some innings.

Some other Javelinas players include righties Miguel Almonte and Tyrell Jenkins (KC and STL respectively), former first round infielder Hunter Dozier (KC), shortstop Raul Mondesi (KC), not to be confused with the Raul Mondesi the Rays acquired for Burke Badenhop, regrettable first round pick outfielder Bubba Starling (KC) and OF Charlie Tilson (STL).  Montgomery pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein is on the coaching staff along with Jason Simontacchi from the House of Luxembourg.