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 at today is Second Base.
A major league position can't be more set than it is with the Rays and 2B. Ben Zobrist is one of the primere Second Baseman in the majors both offensively and defensively. And while the Rays could switch him to RF or even 1B, I don't see that happening as his defense is much more valueable in the middle infield. In addition to Zobrist, the Rays have Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson. Both are more than capable of playing 2B, at least defensively.
Cole Figueroa (L)
With Elliot Johnson in Tampa Bay in this projection, I predict Cole Figueroa (starter) and Shawn O'Malley (backup for SS and 2B) playing at 2B for Durham. Both are nice prospects in my eyes with the possibility of becoming a utility player in the majors. Figueroa's ceiling might even be a little bit higher.
Tyler Bortnick (R)
Tyler Bortnick is one of my favourite prospects in the Rays system. He has an exceptional approach at the plate with an excellent eye-bat connection. Together with Hak-Ju Lee he once again will be the heart of the teams' defensive and offensive formation. It's very interesting to see how he manages the jump from A+ to AA. I keep my fingers crossed for him.
Charlotte Stone Crabs:
Hector Guevara (R), Robby Price (L)
With Bortnick and Lee gone from the Stone Crabs MIF, I see the Bowling Green MIF of '11 being the Port Charlotte MIF of '12. This means that Hector Guevara (primary) and Robby Price (also at 3B) will handle most of the duties at Second in '12. Depending on how much Price also plays 3B, Robi Estrada will fill in and provide depth at Second. The combination of Guevara's youth and projection with Price's very refined approach is very interesting to watch and it should give the Stone Crabs a solid duo at 2B.
Bowling Green Hot Rods:
Ryan Brett (S), Raymond Church (R)
The Hot Rods infield will be very crowded in '12. Unless one or two of Jeff Malm, Riccio Torrez, Cameron Seitzer or Taylor Motter starts in A+, the Hot Rods' infield consists of Jeff Malm, Cameron Seitzer and Junior Rodriguez (1B), Juniel Querecuto and Taylor Motter (SS), Riccio Torrez and Leonardo Reginatto (3B) and Ryan Brett as well as Raymond Church for 2B. These players will also rotate into the DH-role, but that's 9 players for 5 spots. Nevertheless, I do project all of them to start in A-ball while giving Riccio Torrez the highest probability of playing in A+ at the start of the season. Focusing on 2B, I think Ryan Brett is a very nice prospect. He has a great approach at the plate and is very fast. He only lacks some power and a defensive home in order to become one of the top prospects in the system. Raymond Church provides depth at 2B while I could also see him being released before the start of the season.