Rays’ Mason Auer Puts Best Foot Forward In Full-Season Debut

Outfielder Mason Auer had been to Tropicana Field a couple times previously.

As a high schooler, he played in the one of the Perfect Game showcase events. As a Rays fifth-round pick last year, he got to take in a game after signing out of San Jacinto (Texas) JC.

But standing by the Rays dugouts waiting to get an award after a successful first full minor league season, it felt a lot closer.

“Just to be out here, to see this field and see where you could be playing in the future and stuff, it’s awesome,’’ Auer said.

He was honored as the Rays’ minor league baserunner of the year for stealing 48 bases in 55 attempts between Low-A Charleston and High-A Bowling Green, but there was a lot more he accomplished.

In 115 games at both Class A levels, Auer hit .290/.372/.487 with 15 home runs, 55 walks and 110 strikeouts. He split time between center field and right.

Auer noted that the biggest adjustment between junior college and pro ball was the steady stream of higher quality pitchers. The biggest improvement the righthanded hitter was able to make was with his swing.

“We worked on that a lot,’’ he said. “We had a lot of good people around me helping me day in and day out with my swing . . . I think my swing really progressed over the season. And I think that’s what really helped me get to where I’m at.’’

That included a significant change.

“I used to have a leg kick and now I do a toe tap,’’ he said. “And that’s led to a lot of success for me.’’

In October, the Rays assigned Auer to the Arizona Fall League, where he was again on the run.

His only real regret from a successful regular season was narrowly missing 50 steals.

“I just didn’t really get an opportunity (the last game) to get out there and steal,” he said.

Now it’s just a matter of getting a few steps closer to playing at the Trop.


— Righthander Easton McGee, a 2016 fourth-round pick, got an unexpected opportunity to pitch in the majors as the Rays cycled through calling up pitchers from Triple-A Durham in the final week of the season to make sure they had a fresh arm available in the bullpen. McGee pitched well, allowing an unearned run over three innings at Houston on Oct. 2. After the outing, Tampa Bay designated him for assignment and the Red Sox claimed him.

— First baseman Kyle Manzardo was named the organization’s minor league player of the year and lefthander Mason Montgomery its top pitcher. Both split their seasons between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery. Other organization-wide award winners were Javy Guerra as top reliever; Carson Williams as top defensive player; and Bobby Seymour as the Erik Walker Community Champion.

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