Much attention will be paid to the rotation battle that'll be waged this spring training, and that has a trickle down effect on the minors. Durham will probably benefit the most because they'll be receiving those that were unable to earn a spot with the Rays and will continue developing as starters. The depth is impressive, and here's what I'm currently projecting for the full-season affiliates. For the purpose of this exercise, I'm assuming the Rays' rotation is as follows:
This rotation has both talent and experience at AAA, and that should help them rebound from their 66-78 season, the team's worst since 2006. There's no word if players are still forced to shower in sewer water as they were in 2006, but if the Rays have to deal with any injuries to their rotation, Archer and Odorizzi should be ready to hit the Evian showers if necessary. Those two combined to make 43 AAA starts in 2012, and they both had a cup of coffee in the big leagues. Torres himself has over 200 innings pitched in AAA in his career, but after the season he's coming off of, he'll need to show improvement this year to reach the majors again.
Colome finished 2012 with the Bulls, and he'll join fellow top 10 Rays prospects Archer and Odorizzi in AAA full time in 2013. He could be ready for the majors at some point this season, especially if he could be used in a relief role later in the year. Whatever his role, he'll need to improve his control and durability. Buschmann, David Price's Vanderbilt teammate, is just an organizational soldier, but he was pretty solid for Montgomery in 2012.
Like any other team, Montgomery will surely have injuries to their staff. With the additional minor league wrinkle of promotions to and from the team, they're going to need more than five starters at some point. Montgomery, Barnese and Thompson all have prior AA experience, and the latter two are likely to not start the season in the rotation as lower priority prospects. Montgomery and Romero with their great stuff will form the backbone of this rotation, but Montgomery could certainly move up quickly if he can turn his career around.
This rotation comes with a lot of injury risk. Barnese missed a large portion of 2012, Montgomery has complained of elbow problems in the past, and we haven't even gotten to the last three on the list. To be fair to Suarez, he did make 25 starts totaling 125.2 innings last year, but prior to that his career high in innings was just 50.2. Rodriguez and Garvin combined for only 90.1 innings last year, and Rodriguez only threw 45 innings in 2011 too. There's clearly a lot of risk in this rotation, but there is upside as well.
Charlotte Stone Crabs
This rotation features quite a bit of upside as well as some okay arms moving up a level. Markel (#21), Rivero (#16) and Hahn (#15) are all in the writers' top 30, and Carpenter received a (my) vote too. The most notable member here is certainly Hahn; between Hahn, Floro and Ames, I think he's the best candidate to skip over Bowling Green entirely. After posting a 2.07 FIP in 52 innings in his anticipated professional debut with Hudson Valley, he's shown he can handle the lower levels of minor league hitters with his ACC experience. Controlling a pitcher's innings in a warmer climate is never a bad idea either.
Floethe, Carpenter, Markel, Rivero and Gomez all move up a level from 2012. While Floethe is more of an organizational arm just there to eat innings, a recent report from Baseball America indicates Gomez could be a little more than that. I'd expect that the organization will ditch the piggyback system with Gomez and Rivero and allow them to build on their 120 IP and 113.1 IP seasons respectively. Floethe and Markel will also look to set career highs in innings pitched after each made a trip to the DL in 2012.
Bowling Green Hot Rods
All five starters here will be making their full-season debuts in 2013. With the exception of Snell, arriving from Princeton, all will be carryovers from Hudson Valley's championship winning rotation. Floro's ceiling is almost certainly the lowest in this bunch, but his career path seems very similar to Ryan Carpenter's; he was drafted by the Rays out of high school, chose to attend a solid west coast collegiate program and experienced some early pro success after being drafted by the Rays again. Much to the chagrin of the former frequent commenter on Rays Prospects, Spann is pretty close to an organizational arm himself, but the other three offer more upside than maybe every rotation in the organization. The trio of 2011 first rounders, Guerrieri, Ames and Snell, combined for 168 strikeouts and just 42 walks in 163.2 innings last year.
Many teams have no problems sending high school pitchers fresh off their draft year, but that's not the way the Rays do business. That means fans are going to have to wait to see Damion Carroll and Nolan Gannon in box scores until June, when they're assigned to either Hudson Valley or Princeton. The GCL Rays could be looking at some nice arms too. Jose Mujica andwere two of the top players available in the July 2nd signing period last year, and they could come stateside in 2013. If not, they'll probably pitch for the Rays' affiliate in the Venezuelan Summer League which remarkably still exists.