Projecting The Affiliates

ST PETERSBURG FL - OCTOBER 07: Desmond Jennings #27 the Tampa Bay Rays waits on deck during Game 2 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field on October 7 2010 in St. Petersburg Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The big signings of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez mean that the 25-man roster is beginning to take shape, and they also had some ramifications for the minor leagues. Without a clear opening at the major-league level, we know that Desmond Jennings is a near-lock to return to Durham now. With spring training games still a month from getting started, there's still a lot to sort out -- Is Jake McGee a Ray or a Bull, a starter or reliever? -- but after the jump I take a look at how the full-season team rosters are shaping up.

Durham Bulls

C: Robinson Chirinos
1B: Leslie Anderson
2B: Cody Cipriano
SS: J.J. Furmaniak
3B: Russ Canzler
OF: Desmond Jennings
OF: Brandon Guyer
OF: 

SP: Alex Torres
SP: Alex Cobb
SP: David Newmann
SP: 
SP: 

RP: Dane De La Rosa
RP: Brandon Gomes
RP: 

Desmond Jennings will be back in the Durham outfield to try to improve on last year's performance. Hindered early by a wrist injury, he never really got into a groove and his .756 OPS in 2010 was his lowest since his debut season in Princeton way back in 2006. With a performance more like his 32-game cameo there in 2009 -- a .910 OPS -- he could earn a trip back to the majors, but if Johnny Damon is playing well, it's tough to see Jennings called up to play a bench role. 

Joining him in the outfield will be Brandon Guyer, who broke out in a big way last year for the Cubs double-A affiliate, Tennessee. He's seen a lot of time in center field, and should get rotated in if the Rays expose Jennings, the likely everyday center fielder, to the corner spots. At the plate, Guyer set career highs in 2009 in virtually every category, so he'll need to show the advances were for real. Most importantly: his power (13 home runs in 2010, just three in 2009) and plate discipline (his weakest attribute as a hitter; 91 walks in 356 career games).

Two of Guyer's Tennessee teammates will join him in Durham. Catcher Robinson Chirinos, also a member of the Matt Garza deal, is the second-best hitting prospect on the team behind Jennings. Chirinos finished last season at triple-A and, like Guyer, set career highs across the board. Converted to catcher only three seasons ago, he just needs more reps behind the plate. If John Jaso or Kelly Shoppach were to go down early in the season, the Rays might choose to promote Jose Lobaton or Nevin Ashley instead of Chirinos.

Third baseman Russ Canzler also posted a career high OPS for Chicago's double-A affiliate, but he was picked up as a minor league free agent. He's not much of a prospect, but could be a short-term at a corner infield spot, a la Willy Aybar of years past, though Canzler isn't on the 40-man roster. Leslie Anderson, the Cuban defector, is, and he'
s likely to split time between 1st base and the outfield to keep him sharp.

The rotation will be led by the two-headed Alex monster, Cobb and Torres, and perhaps Jake McGee. All three season began 2010 in Montgomery's rotation, though McGee of course made it to the majors in a relief role. Where he begins the 2011 season, bullpen or rotation, Tampa Bay or Durham, will be decided in spring training. David Newmann, who had a disappointing season last year, will try to rebound at a new level.

Dane De La Rosa, an indy ball refugee, was added to the 40-man roster in the off-season and is a dark horse to win a bullpen spot. With Durham's bullpen experience an exodus similar to the one in St. Pete, De La Rosa could emerge as the Bulls closer if McGee is in the rotation or Tampa Bay. His main competition would be Brandon Gomes, who dominated double-A for two seasons in the Padres system and will get a shot at triple-A after coming over in the Jason Bartlett trade.


Montgomery Biscuits
C: Stephen Vogt
1B: Henry Wrigley
2B: Cole Figueroa
SS: Tim Beckham
3B: Matt Sweeney
IF: Shawn O’Malley
OF: Isiais Velasquez
OF: Kyeong Kang
OF: Reid Fronk

SP: Matt Moore
SP: Chris Archer
SP: Nick Barnese
SP: Joe Cruz
SP: Shane Dyer

RP: Josh Satow
RP: Marquis Fleming
RP: Zach Quate
RP: Neil Schenk

Let's start with the pitching staff because, wow, is it a good one. Matt Moore and Chris Archer need no introduction, they have some of the nastiest stuff in the minors. Archer pitched a half-season in double-A with the Cubs and would be in line for a mid-season promotion to Durham with continued success. Moore will be a Southern League newbie, but if his second-half adjustments carry into 2011, he could force the Rays' hand as well. Nick Barnese and Joe Cruz are two intriguing righties who are breakout candidates this year.

Charlotte's bullpen a season ago was arguably the best in the minors, and they graduate to Montgomery for 2011. Double-A is a tough test that Zach Quate, Marquis Fleming, Neil Schenk, and Josh Satow will need to prove they can pass. Scott Shuman, who was dominant in Bowling Green's bullpen last year, could also join this group.

Stephen Vogt led the Florida State League in OPS, but as an older prospect with an iffy defensive rotation, has a lot to prove in 2011. Tim Beckham looks like he'll begin the season still at shortstop, but may not end it there. If he does wind up shifting to third base or the outfield, he'll have to show more with the bat. Cole Figueroa, a part of the Bartlett trade, will join Beckham up the middle. Matt Sweeney and Shawn O'Malley will look to bounce back from disappointing injury-plagued 2010 seasons.

Charlotte Stone Crabs
C: Jake Jefferies
1B: Mike Sheridan
2B: Tyler Bortnick
SS: Hak-Ju Lee
3B: Greg Sexton
OF: Ty Morrison
OF: Cody Rogers
OF: Chris Murrill

SP: Alex Colome
SP: Jake Thompson
SP: Wilking Rodriguez
SP: Kyle Lobstein
SP: Albert Suarez

RP: Matt Bush
RP: Scott Shuman
RP: Kirby Yates

Again, it looks like the pitching will be the strength here. All five starters are at least solid prospects who could make the leap in 2011. Alex Colome and Jake Thompson have the biggest arms but haven't quite put it together to be consistently dominant. The Rays have almost never promoted starting pitchers out of high-A, so these guys should get comfortable with the Charlotte Sports Park mound. In the bullpen, Matt Bush and Scott Shuman both have an argument to make Montgomery's roster, but there may simply not be enough innings to go around there.

At the plate and in the field, Hak-Ju Lee will surely command the most attention. He has potential with his bat, his wheels, and his fielding ability, but all three areas are still rough around the edges. Tyler Bortnick has performed very well at the plate as a 16th round pick in 2009 while his defense remains well-regarded. 

Ty Morrison, Cody Rogers, and Chris Murrill will eat up fly balls all over the outfield as all three have plus speed. Rogers has plus raw power at the plate, but struggled to make contact last year. Morrison also has some swing-and-miss in him, though his walk total improved each month last season. Still, he stole a system-leading 58 bags despite a .324 OBP. 

Speed is going to rule this team, as Lee, Bortnick, Morrison, and Murrill each stole at least 30 bases last season, while Rogers probably would have had he played a full season.

Bowling Green Hot Rods
C: 
1B: Phil Wunderlich
2B: Robby Price
SS: Derek Dietrich
3B: Julio Cedano
OF: Kevin Kiermaier
OF: 
OF: 

SP: Enny Romero
SP: Braulio Lara
SP: Jason McEachern
SP: Merrill Kelly
SP: Wilmer Almonte

RP: 
RP: 
RP:

This is where it starts to get iffy. The Hot Rods could get some major star power if the Rays are aggressive with the top 2010 high school draftees: outfielders Josh Sale and Drew Vettleson plus catcher Justin O'Conner. The 2009 high school position player draftees, Todd Glaesmann, Luke Bailey, and Jeff Malm, also have a shot to play in Bowling Green despite disappointing 2010 seasons. Given the Rays historically conservative approach, though, I'm not quite ready to pencil any of them in.

The guys I do have going here are polished players who lack star ceilings: Robby Price and Derek Dietrich in the infield, Kevin Kiermaier in the outfield. Phil Wunderlich is a nice sleeper with some big raw power, but his contact and plate discipline need work.

A pair of lefties, Enny Romero and Braulio Lara, dominated the Appalachian League last year and are poised to make the jump to full-season ball. Jason McEachern was one of my favorites before the year, but his control and command took a step back while his stuff stagnated. He'll get another chance at the Midwest League, still just 20 years old. Merill Kelly was last year's eighth round selection and brings some polish to the young rotation.


Feel free to go ahead and dissect these now. I'm pretty sure I got in all the big prospects, but there's a good chance I forgot someone. So if there's anyone you'd like to see on here, post in the comments and I'll edit him in.

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