Rangers' O'Neill stuffs box score in Fall League action
By William Boor
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Michael O'Neill put up the best season of his professional career in 2017 and carried that momentum over to the Arizona Fall League, where he led Surprise to a 3-1 win over Salt River on Wednesday night.
The Rangers' prospect stuffed the box score, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a stolen base out of the leadoff spot in his first action of the fall.
"First couple of AB's, just trying to get some timing in," O'Neill, the nephew of former Yankee Paul O'Neill, said. "Those were the first live at-bats I've had since our season ended three or four weeks ago. The first couple AB's were good, just to see a couple pitches and I felt pretty good after I got that first one, felt like my timing was where it needed to be."
O'Neill, 25, was a third-round Draft pick of the Yankees in 2013. However, after spending a few seasons in the Yankees system, he was released following the 2016 campaign.
The outfielder signed with the Rangers prior to 2017 and posted a career-best .266/.336/.445 slash line, including 15 homers (also a career best) in 119 games with Class A Advanced Down East and Double-A Frisco.
"I owe it all to the Rangers," O'Neill said. "I was in a weird place in my career after leaving the Yankees and the Rangers just accepted me. … I've made a couple big-time swing changes, which have allowed me to hit for more power and be more consistent at the plate. It's just trusting them and them trusting me. It came together this year."
In addition to the increased offensive numbers, O'Neill also had a strong season on the bases, doubling his career high with 28 stolen bases in 33 attempts.
O'Neill showcased that ability as well on Wednesday as he swiped second base after reaching on a fielder's choice in the third.
"I've always had decent speed and I just try to use it as much as I can," O'Neill said. "I like stealing bases, I like running the bases hard and just helping the team get runs."
Cardinals' No. 12 prospect Edmundo Sosa got the scoring started as he plated a run with a fielder's choice before O'Neill drove him in with a single to cap a two-run fifth.
Salt River scratched across a run of its own in the bottom half of the frame, and the 2-1 score held until O'Neill's second hit provided the Saguaros with an insurance run in the seventh.
O'Neill wasn't the only Rangers prospect to thrive in the win as David Ledbetter, a 25-year-old right-hander, put together a strong performance on the mound.
Ledbetter threw 17 of his 25 pitches for strikes and gave up two hits over three scoreless frames.
"He looked great," O'Neill said. "It's nice being in center field because you can see the way his pitches are moving. I thought his breaking ball looked really good, he had great command of his fastball."
William Boor is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.