Thursday, January 13, 2011

Top 15 Hitters: #3 Justin O'Conner

Justin O'Conner
6'0" 190 lbs DOB: 3/31/1992
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2010: Gulf Coast League
Acquired: 2010 Draft, 1st Round

There was buzz on O'Conner going as high as #8 to the Mets, so it was somewhat of a surprise to see him fall to the Rays at #31 overall. It seemed like a lot of teams liked him as their back-up guy in case their hopeful pick was taken, but he has the tools that would've warranted a higher pick.

Unlike Josh Sale and Drew Vettleson, O'Conner signed relatively quickly and was able to play in 48 games for the GCL Rays. The results weren't awe-inspiring -- a .211/.301/.348 line -- but at the same time not very troubling. The GCL, as it's been noted many times, is a very pitching-friendly league, so the batting line isn't as bad as it seems out of context. The 46 strikeouts in 161 at bats is definitely something to work on, but 18 walks is solid for a high school player in his debut season.

O'Conner's calling card at the plate is his raw power, which is well above average. His pure hit tool isn't as good -- a sort of common thread among Sale, Vettleson, and himself -- and it needs a lot of refinement, but it shouldn't be a problem. He's athletic for a catcher and average on the bases, though he won't be asked to steal much.

Where O'Conner truly shined in the spring was behind the plate. A recent convert to catcher, he was routinely posting above-average pop times with a plus-plus arm. Capable of hitting 95 mph off the mound, he was a pretty good pitching prospect as well (better than Vettleson, though that may make for a fun topic of debate). His rawness showed in his receiving ability, but he should be able to put it all together to become a well-above-average defensive catcher.

As his hitting in the GCL showed, it's going to take some time and maybe a lot of at bats to refine things at the plate. His pitch recognition is decent, but he has a tendency to get too pull-happy. He doesn't project to hit for a high average, but his power potentially would still make him an asset at the plate to go along with his defensive acumen. He and Luke Bailey split time at catcher and DH in the GCL, and it's possible they could be a tandem at Princeton in 2011, though I think ideally they'd be spread out to get them as much experience catching as possible. Best guess is that O'Conner starts out at Hudson Valley, Bailey at Princeton, and Jake DePew in the GCL.


  1. Who has the higher offensive upside between a Healthy Bailey and O'Connor?Same question for Defense. And just going by gut feeling, who do you see having a better career overall(not just with the Rays) out of the 2? Mine tells me O'Connor.

  2. This feels like it's too high just because O'Conner's tools don't seem that strong from what I've heard. That being said, I've never seen him play myself so obviously my opinion isn't all that meaningful

  3. His defensive tools are excellent while his hitting tools have a high ceiling, but are definitely raw.

  4. O'Connor has a gun for an arm. He just gets lazy sometimes back there. As for his hitting, I haven't been too impressed.

  5. DOB: 3/31/1992, O'Conner, who just turned 19 is still just a kid, he has plenty of time to refine his skills. For one, I am very hopeful he can adjust his batting, work on that .212 BA, and hit 20-30 HR's in Double A or Tripe A ball by the time he is 21. Just saying this because I pulled his 1st Bowman/Topps Autograph Baseball card from a $20 Blaster Box from Wal-Mart. Going to hold on to it in hopes the 1st rounder can blossom into a decent MLB player in 2-3 years. Also check out my E-Bay Items, tons of hoty prospects listed, E-Bay Member ID: bboltz86