The Tampa Bay Rays send some of their lower level prospects to Australia every off season to participate in the Australian Baseball League. This year is no different as they get Garrett Whitley, Jake Fraley, Zacrey Law and Michael Brosseau into the mix with the Perth Heat, the ABL’s only west coast-based team.
2015 first round draft pick Garrett Whitley is coming off his first full season of pro ball with the Bowling Green Hot Rods in which he slashed .249/.362/.430 with 21 stolen bases for a 127 wRC+ over 426 plate appearances in 104 games. He added strong outfield defense to his well-above-league-average offense. He will approach 600 PA on the year if he participates in the entire ABL season, doubling his 2016 total and limiting the time off he has before spring training starts next year. He’s currently slashing .250/.455/.417 with a 9:5 BB:K ratio in 33 PA for the Perth Heat.
After stealing 33 bases in only 55 games in his 2016 pro debut, second round draft pick Jake Fraley missed a ton of time to injury during the 2017 regular season after colliding with the rehabbing Colby Rasmus in the outfield. The Rays are making up for lost time by getting him as many as 200 PA if he completes the full ABL season. He’s picking up where he left off in 2016, with a 7:1 SB:CS ratio over his first 7 games for Perth. He’s also doing some pretty great things with the bat, slashing .323/.417/.613 with 2 home runs and 3 doubles in his first 36 PA in Australia.
The Rays signed undrafted free agent Michael Brosseau in 2016 just a few days after the draft concluded. All he’s done is hit since then, batting for more than a .300 average and a 144 wRC+ at all 3 levels of the minors he’s been in. Most of that production comes from two things he’s able to do extremely well: get on base via HBP, and pull anything to the left side of the field at an extraordinary rate. He has 26 HBPs and more than a 50% pull rate in his 560 pro PAs. In 29 PA in the ABL, he’s slashing .500/.576/.808, so that batting average is holding up well. That nearly 1.400 OPS is good for 3rd in the league right now.
Recently converted from center fielder to catcher, Zacrey Law was drafted in the 23rd round in 2014. He collected 16 assists in 1200 innings in CF, showing that the arm is a weapon and would probably be fine behind home plate as well. The bat hasn’t played as well as the defense since being drafted, so a switch to catcher will hopefully take a little pressure off of that area of his game. So far in the ABL he’s catching pretty much every game and slashing .357/.438/.821 over 30 PA. That hot start earned him the ABL Player of the Week accolade when he knocked 3 home runs and 2 doubles during the opening weekend of the season.
How to follow the games
There are a few ways to check in on our boys down under. There’s the ABL website, Twitter, and Youtube.
The ABL website is much like the milb website. You get your wrap up articles, box scores, game logs, schedules, and a few highlight videos. It looks pretty similar to the milb site as well so if you’re a frequent prospect follower, you shouldn’t have any issues quickly finding what you need.
The ABL and its teams also have twitter handles. If you follow the Perth Heat’s twitter, you’ll get live game updates, and some other good news like this:
A big congratulations to #Heat catcher Zacrey Law and #Bandits starting pitcher Tim Atherton, our Delta Air Lines Players of the Week for round one! https://t.co/2veEcnXRb6 #OurGame pic.twitter.com/pufVleyi0k— ABL (@ABL) November 22, 2017
The ABL also streams every game live on their Youtube channel, which includes all Perth Heat games that Rays prospects play in. And in case you aren’t awake at 4am EST when their games typically start, the games are also archived there at their channel to watch whenever you want.
The Perth Heat play 3-4 games every weekend until the playoffs start at the beginning of February. Last year Rays prospects Kevin Padlo, Tommy Milone, and David Rodriguez won the ABL championship with the Brisbane Bandits.