Rays' Unroe unreal Down Under
Former second rounder produced .329/.398/395 batting line through 39 games in Australia
After an up-and-down full-season debut, Riley Unroe is righting the ship this offseason in the Australian Baseball League.
The Rays selected Unroe in the second round (No. 60 overall) of the 2013 Draft out of Desert Ridge (Ariz.) High and lured him away from his commitment to the University of Southern California with a $997,500 bonus. He then turned in a solid professional debut in the Gulf Coast League, leading to his ranking as the Rays' No. 14 prospect by MLBPipeline.com headed into the 2014 season. However, the switch-hitting second baseman scuffled in the Appalachian League during his first full pro campaign, hitting just .226 across 61 games for Rookie-level Princeton.
Though he didn't rank among the Rays' Top 30 prospects for 2015, Unroe, in his age-19 season, put himself back on the radar with a solid full-season debut at Class A Bowling Green of the Midwest League, hitting .255/.333/.321 with 13 steals in 116 games. His numbers might have been even better if not for a poor second half in which he hit just .217/.293/.276 across 57 games.
But Unroe has gotten back on track this winter while playing in the ABL, where he's produced a .329/.398/395 batting line through 39 games for the Brisbane Bandits. The 20-year-old has been particularly hot of late, with a .436 (17-for-39) average over his last 10 contests.
Here's a look at some of the other top prospects currently making waves in the offseason winter leagues.
• Joey Rickard, OF, Orioles -- Originally a ninth-round Draft pick of the Rays in 2012, Rickard was selected by the Orioles earlier this month in the Rule 5 Draft. Though the 24-year-old stands out for his ability to play all three outfield spots, he's also coming off a career-best campaign in which he hit .321/.427/.447 with 23 stolen bases in 117 games between Class A Advanced Charlotte, Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham. This offseason, Rickard hit .277 with a .794 OPS in 50 regular-season games for Leones del Escogido, and he led the league with 32 RBIs and 86 total bases while tying for second with six home runs and 13 doubles.
• Tyler White, 3B/1B, Astros -- The Astros' No. 28 prospect mashed his way up the ladder in 2015, batting .325/.442/.496 with 40 extra-base hits and 99 RBIs in 116 games between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno. The 25-year-old continued to rake this offseason for Estrellas de Oriente, pacing all hitters in the Dominican Winter League with seven home runs, 29 runs scored and 32 walks during the regular season.
• Reymond Fuentes, OF, Royals -- Kansas City's No. 20 prospect reached the Major Leagues with the Padres back in 2013 but was dealt to the Royals after the 2014 season. The 24-year-old continued to show an intriguing blend of hitting ability and speed in '15, hitting .308 with 29 steals in 107 games for Triple-A Omaha. Through 31 games for Cangrejeros de Santurce, Fuentes leads the Puerto Rico Winter League with a .320 average and is tied for second with eight steals.
• Orlando Arcia, SS, Brewers -- The Brewers' No. 1 prospect (No. 12 overall) excelled last offseason playing for Caribes de Anzoategui, setting the stage for a breakthrough 2015 campaign in which he batted .307/.347/.453 with eight home runs, 37 doubles, eight triples and 25 stolen bases for Double-A Biloxi. It's been more of the same this offseason for the 21-year-old shortstop, who's hitting .295 with an .812 OPS and eight extra-base hits through 28 games for Caribes.
• Wuilmer Becerra, OF, Mets -- Back in 2012, Becerra was viewed as a "throw-in" as part of the R.A. Dickey trade that netted the Mets Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud. Now, he ranks as the organization's No. 12 prospect after hitting .290/.342/.423 with nine home runs, 27 doubles and 16 stolen bases in 118 games for Class A Savannah in his full-season debut. The 21-year-old outfielder -- who has the potential for average-or-better tools across the board -- has continued to impress this offseason in Venezuela, hitting .359 with a pair of home runs through 19 games for Tigres de Aragua.
• Peter Tago, RHP, White Sox -- Originally selected by the Rockies with the No. 47 overall pick in the 2010 Draft, Tago failed to develop as a starter during his first three pro seasons and continued to struggle after moving to bullpen in 2014. Tago was claimed by the White Sox and subsequently enjoyed a breakout '15 campaign with his new organization as he posted a 2.71 ERA with 15 saves and 73 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings (42 appearances) between Class A Kannapolis, Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. The 23-year-old righty followed with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League and has been equally impressive during his nine appearances for Cardenales de Lara, pitching to a 0.73 ERA with four saves in 12 1/3 innings.