In this series I'm going to take a quick look at the probable roster of each full season minor league affiliate at the beginning of the 2012 season. I'm going through it position by position. Keep in mind that these projections are very much subject to change (trades could happen, Rays could be more aggressive/conservative with some players, ...). We are going to do more in-depth pieces about the final roster for each affiliate when they are set. This is only to give you a short peek. For more information on the current state of the Rays Depth Chart, check out Doug's great work.
The first position I'm going to look at is Starting Pitching.
Right now I'm projecting the following 6 starting pitchers to start in the majors in 2012: James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann. Come March I think one of these 6 will be traded. Nevertheless, this leaves Alex Cobb and Alex Torres in Durham.
Alex Cobb (R), Alex Torres (L), Chris Archer (R), Nick Barnese (R), Matt Torra (R), Jim Paduch (R)
The rotation in Durham should be very solid in 2012. Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Alex Torres provide the Bulls with three prospects who are projected to end up in a major league rotation (with Cobb and Torres (nearly) being major league ready) and Nick Barnese is a solid prospect on his own. The rotation will be filled out with a bit older minor leaguers like Matt Torra, Jim Paduch and whomever I'm missing or will be signed in recent months. Shane Dyer (R) and Frank De los Santos (L) could be other possibilities.
Alex Colome (R), Jacob Thompson (R), Joseph Cruz (R), Kyle Lobstein (L), Shane Dyer (R), Frank de los Santos (L)
Alex Colome is the big name here in the rotation. It will be interesting to see whether he can take the next step in his development (offspeed pitches). Joseph Cruz is coming off an injury plagued season while showing solid results and stuff in years past. Kyle Lobstein has transformed into a nice pitchability guy. We'll see whether he'll hit the AA-wall. Jacob Thompson, Merrill Kelly and Alex Koronis seem to be better suited for the pen. Nevertheless, I think at least Thompson will be tried out in the rotation at the beginning of the season. Shane Dyer and Frank de los Santos are a bit older and could be slated into the end of the Bulls rotation as well. Overall, I don't see this rotation dominating the Southern League in 2012. Come midseason, though, help could be on its way to Montgomery (especially Albert Suarez and Wilking Rodriguez).
Charlotte Stone Crabs:
Enny Romero (L), Albert Suarez (R), Wilking Rodriguez (R), C.J. Riefenhauser (L), Braulio Lara (L), George Jensen (R)
I'm much more looking forward to the Stone Crabs' compared to the Biscuits rotation. Enny Romero is the most intriguing SP prospect in full season ball (with Moore in the bigs and Guerrieri in SS-ball) in my eyes and I'm looking forward to seeing him grow. Albert Suarez and Wilking Rodriguez had injury plagued seasons but are very much liked by the Rays. I hope and think that we see why in 2012. C.J. Riefenhauser was excellent in Bowling Green and I'm very much looking forward to see what he can do in Port Charlotte and Braulio Lara has intriguing stuff while not showing it on the mound (yet). George Jensen, Victor Mateo (R) or Jason McEachern (R) add depth to the rotation.
Bowling Green Hot Rods:
Parker Markel (R), Ryan Carpenter (L), Felipe Rivero (L), Andrew Bellatti (R), Grayson Garvin (L), Jake Floethe (R)
This will be another very intriguing rotation in 2012. Parker Markel (can he pitch according to the scouting reports?), Ryan Carpenter (can he re-gain some velocity) and Felipe Rivero (I think he'll make the jump over Hudson Valley) are very interesting prospects. Andrew Bellatti showed no weaknesses on the mound as well and he is very young. And Grayson Garvin is another highly anticipated prospect who might start his professional career in Bowling Green. Jake Floethe and Jason McEachern (can he finally show in BG what he did in the NY-P League?) give even more depth to the rotation while 2011 1st. supp. pick Jeff Ames, Matt Spann or Ian Kendall could join Felipe Rivero and move up from Princeton to Bowling Green. If they do, they (especially Spann and Kendall) seem to be unlikely to crack the rotation, though. Jesse Hahn (R), who had TJS before being drafted in 2010, could start his professional career in Bowling Green as well while I think that the Rays will take it slow with him, letting him throw in extended spring training before starting for the Renegades. Hudson Valley could have some very high draft picks coming their way in '12. Josh Sale, Taylor Guerrieri, Jesse Hahn, Jake Hager and Justin O'Conner are only some names who could play in Wappinger Falls next year.