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 next position I'm going to look at is First Base.
Right now one of Russ Canzler/Juan Miranda seems to be the best choice for the 1st Base job in the majors. But, that will almost definitely change till Spring Training with the Rays needing an adequate First Baseman as well as depth in the minors. Candidates include some Padres sluggers (Blanks, Rizzo, Guzman, Alonso), two Angels (Morales PLEASE, Trumbo PLEASE NOT) as well as some Free Agents or other trade targets (Pena, Kotchman, Barton, ...). Therefore I'm projecting Canzler and Miranda to be in Durham come Spring Training.
Russ Canzler (R), Juan Miranda (L), Henry Wrigley (R)
Durham seems to be very well set once again at First Base. Russ Canzler will almost definitely see some time in the Majors in 2012 but unless the Rays only sign one more 1B/DH I don't see him being part of the big league club out of the Spring (barring injuries of course). In Durham, he, Juan Miranda and Henry Wrigley (let's see what he can do in AAA) should share 1B while also rotating into 3B (mostly Wrigley), LF (mostly Canzler) and DH (all three of them). I expect the Rays to sign one more power bat for major league depth (Nick Johnson, please) who will share the 1B/DH/3B/LF duties with Canzler, Miranda, Wrigley, Vogt, Mangini and Leslie Anderson. If then no major leaguer is injured by the start of the season, I could even see Henry Wrigley starting back in AA again. He'd then have his back packed all the time as he should be the first player called up if an injury occurs. But even without this additional bat the Bulls are very well represented at 1B.
Michael Sheridan (L)
That's where it becomes tricky. If Wrigley moves up to AAA the only true First Baseman now within the organization and whom I can imagine being in AA next year is Michael Sheridan. The 2008 5th round draftee was well regarded for his hit tool at the time of the draft but that didn't translate into pro ball (yet). Since Matt Sweeney was picked up by Baltimore in the minor league portion of the rule 5 draft I can only imagine a) Henry Wrigley also starting in AA and manning 3B/1B with Sheridan and Gregory Sexton, b) Gregory Sexton playing some 1B as well and versitale players like Matthew Hall helping out at 3B or c) the Rays bringing in a minor league free agent.
Charlotte Stone Crabs:
Philip Wunderlich (L)
The First Base picture in Port Charlotte should be the same as last year in Bowling Green. Philip Wunderlich will play there most of the time with Steven Tinoco (mostly in the OF) and possibly also Nick Schwaner (also a primarily outfielder) filling in on his days off. Another possibility could be the Rays being aggressive in promoting Jeff Malm or Cameron Seitzer to advanced A. And while I could see both of them playing in Port Charlotte in 2012, I don't think it will be by the start of the season.
Bowling Green Hot Rods:
Jeff Malm (L), Cameron Seitzer (L), Junior Rodriguez (R)
While Montgomery and Charlotte lack high-end 1B prospects, the Hot Rods have two very interesting prospects on their roster come 2012. Jeff Malm was drafted with high praise for his power and while he disappointed in his first two stints in rookie ball, he showed a bit of what he can do last year. His plate approach is solid and he has HR power. Now, he is step-by-step facing better pitching, which will test his hit-tool. Cameron Seitzer was very impressive last year after being drafted in round 11. He should start in A-ball as I think that a jump from Princeton to Port Charlotte might be too steep. Nevertheless, I'm not surprised if Jeff Malm joins his fellow '09 draftees Luke Bailey and Todd Glaesmann in A+ next season, nor if Cameron Seitzer mans 1B in Port Charlotte anywhen in 2012. Junior Rodriguez hit well in limited action last year and seems to be a back-up for both corner infield positions in Bowling Green.