On Tuesday, the Rays, along with every other team, announced which players they will be sending to the Arizona Fall League in October.
The Rays' selections will combine with prospects from the Cubs, Angels, Marlins and A's on the Mesa Solar Sox, playing at Chicago's recently opened spring training facility.
The schedule starts on Oct. 13, and several games will be televised. Here is a rundown of the Rays' picks. Teams typically send seven players, including a member on the taxi squad only able to play Wednesdays and Saturdays, so one more could be on the way in the future.
OF? Jake Bauers (.274 BA/.347 OBP/.418 SLG, 13.9 K%, 9.8 BB% with Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery)
Bauers being assigned to the AFL is no surprise, but I was not expecting him to be listed with the outfielders. He has not played there yet professionally, but his hitting coach with Class-A Fort Wayne last season said he could give it a shot. Going out to Arizona is a great, low-pressure environment to experiment with a new position. Who knows if it will work out, but he probably has a better chance at it than this guy.
He appears to be the youngest player assigned to the AFL so far.
RHP Buddy Borden (2.94 ERA, 17.8 K%, 11.1 BB% in 125 1/3 IP with Class A-Advanced Charlotte)
Acquired from Pittsburgh in the offseason for Sean Rodriguez, Borden is a great AFL candidate. Earlier in the season, he was the Stone Crabs' swing guy between the rotation and bullpen, and the fall league gives him a chance to throw a few more innings and build on his workload. He threw 128 innings for Class-A West Virginia in 2014.
RHP Mike Franco (1.55 ERA, 26.5 K%, 7.4 BB% in 63 2/3 IP with Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte)
Drafted in the seventh round in 2014, Franco has been an effective reliever since joining the Rays organization. According to Baseball America's pre-draft report, his fastball was 88-92 mph as a starter with Florida International to go along with an inconsistent breaking ball and changeup. At 5-foot-11, he is a fly-ball pitcher and will surely be challenged in the AFL's slugger-friendly environments.
1B Casey Gillaspie (.264/.343/.504, 17.0 K%, 10.2 BB% in 294 PA with Class-A Bowling Green and Class A-Advanced Charlotte)
After playing five games with Charlotte following a midseason promotion from Bowling Green, Gillaspie broke a finger and missed nearly two months before recently returning to action. His assignment to the AFL serves a couple purposes: first, he can make up the plate appearances he missed. Second, he gets more experience against upper-level pitching. The Rays would probably like to accelerate his development a bit.
SS Daniel Robertson (.278/.368/.426, 17.0 K%, 9.9 BB% in 323 PA with Double-A Montgomery)
Robertson missed time with a broken hamate and missed roughly the same amount of time as Gillaspie, so the extra PAs will be good for him too. He is an AFL veteran, having played last season for Mesa, no less. He posted a .754 OPS with the Solar Sox in 2014.
RHP Brad Schreiber (2.73 ERA, 21.5 K%, 9.9 BB% in 59 1/3 IP with Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery)
Schreiber was drafted twice, but neither time by the Rays. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by Tampa Bay in 2013 and has pitched well. Like Franco, he had Tommy John surgery as an amateur. He showed an impressive fastball a while ago (BA, $) and has a decent groundball rate.
Robertson is not the only player traded for Ben Zobrist playing for Mesa. Oakland acquired Sean Manaea from Kansas City for him in July, and he will be one of the top pitchers in the league. The Cubs are sending two of the other better players on the roster: pitcher (and former Rays pick) Pierce Johnson and infielder Jeimer Candelario.