Opening Day fever is in full pitch today, but it will keep up a little more for prospect enthusiasts. On Thursday, most full-season minor league affiliates will begin their seasons. For me, this is just as exciting as the start of the major league season. The minors interest me just as much as the majors. The stakes, in terms of wins and losses anyway, aren't nearly as high, but the player development is vital for the health of the organization. On Sunday, Montgomery beat writer Stacy Long posted the rosters for all four Rays full-season affiliates, and here's how they look going into 2013.
Chris Archer, Alex Colome, Frank De Los Santos, Steve Geltz, Brandon Gomes, Will Inman, Josh Lueke, J.D. Martin, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, Jim Paduch, Alex Torres, Kirby Yates
Craig Albernaz, Chris Gimenez
Leslie Anderson, Tim Beckham, Vince Belnome, Cole Figueroa, Mike Fontenot, Hak-Ju Lee
Jason Bourgeois, Brandon Guyer, Wil Myers, Rich Thompson
Durham's streak of five consecutive winning seasons ended with an ugly 2012, but on paper, this looks like a very strong team, led by that starting rotation. All five starters are in the top 30 of the DRaysBay writer top 30 poll: Archer (2), Odorizzi (5), Colome (7), Montgomery (25) and Torres (26). This depth is great for Durham fans and piling up minor league wins, but more importantly, that's great depth for the Rays. A great case certainly could've been made for Archer to start the year in the majors, but unfortunately for him, that's not the direction they went in.
The lineup has impressive depth as well. Gimenez will return to Durham for the second season, but there are many that felt he earned a spot with the big club where he played in 42 games in 2012. The Bulls could become quite crowded behind the plate. If Robinson Chirinos and Stephen Vogt clear waivers, they could be assigned to Durham. By the end of the year, that depth will be tested because it's hard to imagine Myers, Guyer and maybe even some of the infielders being in AAA all year.
Matt Buschmann, Marquis Fleming, Merrill Kelly, Braulio Lara, Adam Liberatore, Victor Mateo, Jimmy Patterson, C.J. Riefenhauser, Enny Romero, Juan Sandoval, Neil Schenk, Albert Suarez, Jake Thompson
Mayo Acosta, Mark Thomas
Robi Estrada, Shawn O'Malley, Robby Price, Cameron Seitzer, Greg Sexton, Riccio Torrez
Todd Glaesmann, Kevin Kiermaier, Mikie Mahtook, Ty Morrison
DL (rehab in Port Charlotte)
RHP Matt Nevarez, OF Brett Nommensen, RHP Zach Quate
There probably isn't much doubt that this is the least exciting roster as far as prospects go, and that starts with the rotation. Romero is the only starter in the writers' top 30 (8), and there isn't much long term promise either. Lara has very impressive stuff, especially for a lefty, but he didn't last long in Marlins spring training after being taken in the rule 5 draft. Ideally, Riefenhauser finally becomes a reliever full time since that's where he's excelled, but with the lack of depth, he may be called on to start at some point.
The outfield is what to watch for at Montgomery. Glaesmann making the jump up is very encouraging. He only had 148 plate appearances at Charlotte, so it wouldn't have been a surprise for him to start back there again. He must have impressed during spring training though, and he's certainly one of the more impressive position player prospects they have right now. With the outfield depth in Durham, Mahtook and Morrison will both return to AA to start the year, but I would guess they won't finish there. Of note in the infield, Seitzer skips Charlotte to allow Jeff Malm to play first base there every day.
Andrew Bellatti, Ryan Carpenter, Jake Floethe, Nate Garcia, Roberto Gomez, Jesse Hahn, Austin Hubbard, Lenny Linsky, Parker Markel, Jake Partridge, Felipe Rivero, Eliazer Suero
Luke Bailey, Curt Casali, Jake DePew
Hector Guevara, Jake Hager, Jeff Malm, Taylor Motter, Alejandro Segovia, Richie Shaffer
Kes Carter, Kyeong Kang, Steve Tinoco, Drew Vettleson
LHP Grayson Garvin, RHP Jason McEachern, IF Juniel Querecuto, RHP Wilking Rodriguez
Garvin and Rodriguez get off to a head start in spending time on the DL. Throughout the off-season, I assumed Garvin's elbow surgery wasn't serious, and he would be ready to start the year. Apparently, that's not the case. There's plenty of depth in the rotation anyway, and it'll be interesting to see how it shakes out. Carpenter, Floethe, Gomez, Markel and Rivero made up an impressive Bowling Green rotation last year, and Jesse Hahn skipping over Bowling Green gives them a sixth arm that should probably be pitching in a rotation.
The lineup has plenty of names to watch too, and that's before Josh Sale and Ryan Brett return from their suspensions. The catching situation presents a couple surprises. Bailey returns for a second season with Charlotte, and a year repeating a level could give the young catcher a chance to relax. Casali spent half the season in the Florida State League in the Detroit organization, so where does that leave Segovia? The fact that he's not listed as a catcher took a while to jump out at me. Other than catcher, first base is the only position he's played in his career, and I'm assuming Malm will be there every day.
Jeff Ames, Sean Bierman, Shay Crawford, Dylan Floro, Ryan Garton, Taylor Guerrieri, Brandon Henderson, Marcus Jensen, Reinaldo Lopez, Jose Molina, Eduar Quinonez, Nick Sawyer, Blake Snell
Luke Maile, Geoff Rowan, Justin O'Conner
Tommy Coyle, Ryan Dunn, Tyler Goeddel, Ben Kline, Patrick Leonard, Leonardo Reginatto
Marty Gantt, Joey Rickard, Andrew Toles
RHP Trevor Shull
Guerrieri will in fact finally pitch in full-season ball, eventually. Long also reported that he'll spend one extra week in Charlotte in extended spring training and then report to Bowling Green. He apparently didn't pitch enough innings in camp to be prepared to start the season, but it appears one week is enough to straighten that out. In the meantime, the rotation will be led by another 2011 first rounder, Blake Snell. Snell had an impressive season for Princeton last year, and he'll be asked to pitch quite a few more innings this year.
The most surprising thing here is Goeddel's return. His potential assignment was the subject of a lot of discussion this off-season, and I think the consensus was he would move up to high-A, leaving Leonard the chance to play third base every day. I'm not sure how the Rays will distribute plate appearances for this group of position players, but it wouldn't be surprising at all to see either third baseman play some games in the outfield to get them both in the lineup. O'Conner will finally make his full-season debut. The only thing left to see with him is if he'll actually play the field.
And because Long is incredibly thorough, he has the players in extended spring training as well. There are some significant names here. Last year, I wrote about the long odds Josh Sale was facing starting a second full season in extended spring training, and there are four more Rays first round high school hitters starting their second full season in XST: Brandon Martin, James Harris, Johnny Eierman and Granden Goetzman. Goetzman has missed a lot of time with injuries, and it's concerning that the other three are still so raw that they're not ready for the next step.