Earlier in the off-season, I threw darts at potential Rays' minor league rotations and upper level affiliate lineups. I'll complete the prediction series here. When I did the last lineup piece, I included Drew Vettleson who was still in the organization at the time. I had Kes Carter listed as the DH, so he'll just slide into the outfield. Jeff Malm could then slide into the lineup at DH.
Charlotte Stone Crabs
CF Andrew Toles
RF Joey Rickard
3B Tyler Goeddel
LF Josh Sale
1B Justin O'Conner
SS Leonardo Reginatto
C Luke Maile
DH Tommy Coyle
2B Maxx Tissenbaum
In January, the Rays seemed non-committal about Sale being in the lineup Opening Day (emphasis mine):
Activating him off the restricted list is now a matter of paperwork, Lukevics said, one the Rays hope to complete toward the end of Spring Training. Lukevics confirmed that he expects Sale to play this year, assuming he stays on track.
Maybe I'm just reading too much into the quote, but to me it didn't look definitive. Regardless, I'll go ahead and pencil him in. I'm looking forward to seeing his return.
He'll be joined in the outfield by Toles and Rickard, two players capable of playing center field. Toles is a high ceiling player and one of the team's top 10 prospects, and Rickard was a very good performer last year looking to prove he can play well again. It wouldn't surprise me if Sale spent a bit of time at DH to stay healthy and ease him back in.
Tissenbaum is interesting. Before being traded to the Rays this winter, the Padres were experimenting with him at catcher in instructs. I don't know if the Rays plan on continuing that, but with the catching depth they have, it may not be an option. O'Conner is again a top 30 prospect in the organization according to Baseball America, and there's no reason to believe he won't be playing catcher most days. Maile deserves to be playing too, but maybe he'll skip over Charlotte and join Luke Bailey with Montgomery.
Coyle is obviously not the prototypical DH, but he and Tissenbaum are likely second base only and should probably be playing at this level. Maybe one of them will make the Cameron Seitzer jump right over Charlotte to Montgomery. If I had to pick one to do that, it would be Coyle.
Last year, Goeddel played eight games at shortstop, and I wonder if he'll get some more time there this year. They'd probably also like to get Reginatto to move around the diamond to increase his versatility, and that could be an opportunity for Goeddel.
Bowling Green Hot Rods
SS Brandon Martin
2B Ty Young
3B Patrick Leonard
LF Hunter Lockwood
1B Darryl George
DH Yoel Araujo
C Oscar Hernandez
RF Granden Goetzman
CF James Harris
Low-A affiliates always have a nice mix of players; there will be 2013 picks from college (2), other players from affiliates below Bowling Green (2 from Hudson Valley and 1 from Princeton), and players that at least got a taste of full-season ball last year (4).
Leading the contingent of returning is Leonard after spending the entire 2013 season with the Hot Rods. He was pretty underwhelming (.648 OPS, 23.9 K% and 8.5 BB%), However, he did play better baseball in the second half (.207/.291/.290 in the first half compared to .242/.315/.399 in the second), and maybe that gives the Rays enough confidence to bump him up. He's only 21 though, and no longer being paired with Tyler Goeddel will let him move back to third base.
Hernandez got a cup of coffee with Bowling Green last year, and I'm going with him here over first round pick Nick Ciuffo. In some organizations, he probably would be going to full-season ball already, but I think the Rays will hold him back in extended spring training for one year. Plus, Hernandez is a bit older. Martin and Goetzman also briefly played for Bowling Green in 2013.
One player I did not include here that I'd imagine will be suiting up for Bowling Green is Johnny Eierman. The former third rounder showed some impressive power with Princeton last year (.218 ISO), but his approach is still aggressive and doesn't make contact enough. I still think he'll get bumped up along with Araujo and split time at DH and also in the outfield.
Speaking of Eierman in the 2011 draft, the Rays had 11 picks in the top 75. Eierman wasn't one of them (119th overall), but three more hitters from that big draft are here in my guesses: Martin (38th), Harris (60th) and Goetzman (75th). Maybe time hasn't completely run out on them, but the clock is certainly ticking.