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 position I'm going to look today is Catching.
Right now Jose Molina and one of Jose Lobation/Robinson Chirinos seem to handle the catching in St. Petersburg. I think that, barring any trade or acquisition, Lobaton will be Molina's back-up as he seems to be out of options and as he is more sound defensively than Chirinos.
Robinson Chirinos (R), Nevin Ashley (R), Stephen Vogt (L)
The Bulls seem to have an above average catching due/trio once again in 2012. Robinson Chirinos has a bat that is major league ready but he has more work to do defensively. Nevin Ashley finally should be allowed to play a full season in Durham as his defense is excellent and his bat adequate (at least for AAA). Stephen Vogt's calling card is his bat while most people don't think he'll be able to play behind the dish in the majors. He'll spend time in the outfield (LF), at DH as well as occasionally behind the plate.
Mark Thomas (R), Craig Albernaz (R), David Wendt (R)
Mark Thomas seems to be having made great strides defensively as BA named him the best defensive catcher in the Rays system (ahead of good defensive catchers like Nevin Ashley and Jose Lobaton). His arm is excellent (48% CS) and his bat once was very well regarded. This is me hoping for him improving his hit-tool. The power is above average for a catcher anyway. With Jake Jefferies being traded to the Marlins (for Burke Badenhop ... and excellent trade by the way), the back-up catching job in Montgomery is up for grabs. Craig Albernaz in his role as an upper-level insurance catcher, David Wendt, Alejandro Torres, Mayobanex Acosta and Keith Castillo seem like options for this catching opening in Montgomery.
Charlotte Stone Crabs:
Lucas Bailey (R), Keith Castillo (S), Mayobanex Acosta (R)
Count me in as one of the last believers in Luke Bailey. But, if he doesn't show some promise in Port Charlotte even I have to give by. Together with 2 of Keith Castillo, Mayobanex Acosta and Kyle Holloway he'll form the Stone Crabs catching group.
Bowling Green Hot Rods:
Matt Rice (R), Alejandro Segovia (R), Kyle Holloway (R)
With highly coveted prospects Justin O'Conner and Jake DePew struggling heavily in rookie ball, I don't see them making the jump to full-season ball in 2012. Nevertheless, the catching group in Bowling Green is one to look out for. Matt Rice played very solid upon being drafted and adds leadership to the Hot Rods team. International prospects Alejandro Segovia and Gerardo Oliveras (UPDATE: Selected by the Red Sox in the AA portion of the Rule 5 Draft ... forgot about that, sorry!) are slated in behind Rice. Especially Segovia, who dominated in the Liga Paralela this off-season, is a very interesting prospect to follow. A possible third catching job could be filled by the catcher who doesn't get a job in Port Charlotte.