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 Relief Pitching.
As it is right now I see 6 locks in the Rays bullpen: Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Jacob McGee, J.P. Howell, Fernando Rodney and Burke Badenhop. As I fully expect one starter to be traded between now and Spring Training, I don't see any of the starters moving to the pen. Therefore, there is 1 more opening. Right now I go with my intuition and say that Brandon Gomes gets the final spot in the pen (does Cesar Ramos have an option left? I thought not, but I see right now that he has? If not, I see the Rays giving him the 7th spot in the pen).
Cesar Ramos (L), Dane De la Rosa (R), Josh Lueke (R), Jhonny Nunez (R), Jay Buente (R), Matt Bush (R), Marquis Fleming (R), Zachary Quate (R), Ryan Reid (R)
This projection is very much subject to change as Ramos, De la Rosa and Lueke could very well start the season in the majors as injuries can and probably will happen. The lack of left handed relievers behind Cesar Ramos (I left Frank De los Santos, Sergio Espinosa and Neil Schenk in AA) should also be addressed. Ramos, De la Rosa, Lueke, Nunez and Buente provide high quality depth for the majors while I'm eager to see how Matt Bush progresses as a pitcher and how Fleming, Quate and Reid handle AAA. If the Rays sign 1-2 more pitchers for Durham, I see Quate and Reid starting in AA once again.
Alex Koronis (R), Merrill Kelly (R), Scott Shuman (R), Kirby Yates (R), Ricky Orta (R), Neil Schenk (L), Sergio Espinosa (L), Chad Thall (L), Adam Liberatore (L)
If you remember this post, I've projected the '12 Biscuits rotation as a combination of Colome-Thompson-Cruz-Lobstein-Dyer-De los Santos. This leaves Alex Koronis and Merrill Kelly out of the rotation. As I think that their futures will be in the pen, they'll start their road (hopefully) to the majors as full-time-relievers in 2012. I could even see Alex Koronis being used in high leverage situations next to Scott Shuman, Kirby Yates and Neil Schenk or Josh Satow. Overall, the bullpen is full of a bit older prospects who all have performed well at some point. With their experience, they should do very well next season in AA. UPDATE: Josh Satow was released by the Rays.
Charlotte Stone Crabs:
Lenny Linsky (R), Matt Stabelfield (L), Chris Rearick (L), Jimmy Patterson (L), Nate Garcia (R), Austin Hubbard (R), Felix Fuentes (R), Stephen Hiscock (R), Eliazer Suero (R), Victor Mateo (R)
The Rays won't have any difficulties finding relief pitchers for their affiliate in the Florida State League. I counted 14 possible candidates for those spots, listing 10 of them up there. Bowling Green standouts Chris Rearick, Nate Garcia and Jimmy Patterson will handle high leverage situations together with Matt Stabelfield and Lenny Linsky. I see Linsky - who projects as a high leverage reliever in the majors - as the closer. Austin Hubbard, Felix Fuentes, Stephen Hiscock, Eliazer Suero and Victor Mateo (long man?) round out a crowded pen. Other candidates for the Stone Crabs BP include: Justin Woodall (I've him in Bowling Green), Drew Leary and Jairo de la Rosa (injured all of '11 ... does anybody know something new?)
Bowling Green Hot Rods:
Justin Woodall (L), Matt Ramsey (R; ready come Spring?), David Kubiak (R), Jacob Partridge (L), Charlie Cononie (R), Robert Dickman (L), Theron Geith (L), Garret Smith (R), Shay Crawford (L), Stayton Thomas (R), Daniel Bream (R), Wilmer Almonte (R; injured all of '11), Matt Spann (L), Jason McEachern (R)
So, that's tough. I've about 17-19 pitchers who should be considered for a role in the Hot Rods pen. I've trimmed it down a bit to 14 but even of those 14 some might start in Hudson Valley while others might be released. Justin Woodall, Matt Ramsey (if healthy) and David Kubiak should be used in high leverage situations while Wilmer Almonte (healthy?), Matt Spann and Jason McEachern could all see some starts during the season. If coming out of the pen, especially Matt Spann could be used in high leverage situations as well. Other possibilities for the BG pen could be: Lucas Irvine (R), Jesse Hahn (R), Jeff Ames (R), Matt Swilley (R), Pedro Silvestre, Ian Kendall (R) or Roberto Gomez (R).