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What might the Rays’ 2018 minor league lineups look like?

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As minor league season nears, it’s time to speculate about what the rosters might look like.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays will have to stretch to justify Willy Adames playing in the minors for very long in 2018
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Here are my guesses for what the Rays’ full-season lineups might look like. Decisions for the major league roster obviously affect Durham, like what happens with the backup infielders.

Rays minor league lineups

Position Triple-A Durham Double-A Montgomery Class A-Advanced Charlotte Class-A Bowling Green
Position Triple-A Durham Double-A Montgomery Class A-Advanced Charlotte Class-A Bowling Green
Catcher Adam Moore Brett Sullivan David Rodriguez Zacrey Law
First base Jake Bauers Dalton Kelly Nathaniel Lowe Brendan McKay
Second base Kean Wong Brandon Lowe Miles Mastrobuoni Vidal Brujan
Third base Christian Arroyo Michael Russell Kevin Padlo Adrian Rondon
Shortstop Willy Adames Jake Cronenworth Lucius Fox Taylor Walls
Left field Joe McCarthy Jake Fraley Jesus Sanchez Angel Perez
Center field Johnny Field Ryan Boldt Josh Lowe Carl Chester
Right field Justin Williams Nathan Lukes Garrett Whitley Eleardo Cabrera
Reserves Nick Ciuffo Nick Solak Jermaine Palacios Chris Betts
Grant Kay Tristan Gray
Zach Rutherford

For Durham, Adam Moore does not have a post-spring training opt-out clause in his contract that I’m aware of, so he’ll be the Bulls’ catcher until Nick Ciuffo’s suspension is over.

In the infield, Durham should certainly start with Willy Adames and Christian Arroyo on the left side. However, that will change at some point when Adames is out of “things to work on” in the minors. Arroyo will certainly get a shot with the Rays at some point as well. A promotion for either of those players could set off a chain reaction of promotions throughout the organization.

I wouldn’t expect Jake Bauers to play every day at first base, and Joe McCarthy probably won’t play every day in left field either. I personally think Bauers is a first baseman and not an outfielder, but that certainly doesn’t mean the experiment will end. Like Adames and Arroyo, he probably won’t be a permanent fixture in the Durham lineup this season.

Nick Solak certainly isn’t a reserve player, but I opted to list him in there instead of as an everyday player at a new position. He’ll certainly get his fair share of innings at second base, and he could probably get some chances in the outfield too.

Jake Cronenworth is certainly one player who could get bumped up to Durham once Adames is done there. He had 179 plate appearances with Montgomery in 2017, so he’s not new to the level. He held his own in Double A last season, but a little more experience won’t hurt.

In the outfield, Ryan Boldt gets a promotion after a solid season with Charlotte. Jake Fraley missed most of last season and wasn’t good when he did play in the regular season, but with his collegiate experience and at-bats in Australia in the offseason, I think the Rays will give him a shot at a higher level than last season.

Like Fraley, Kevin Padlo was injured last season and struggled. He could get promoted and take Michael Russell’s place in Montgomery’s lineup, but since he’s only 21, I leaned toward repeating Charlotte, at least to start the season.

Jermaine Palacios is like Solak — obviously he’s not a backup player in the minors. I would guess he’s going to get a lot of time at second base because Lucius Fox is certainly going to be playing every day at shortstop.

Bowling Green’s talented outfield from last season moves up a level in 2018. Josh Lowe took a larger percentage of games in center field than I expected last season, and I don’t expect the distribution of games will change at that position this season. That means Garrett Whitley in right field and Jesus Sanchez in left field.

Where Brendan McKay starts is the biggest question when it comes to the two lower-level lineups. I don’t think it would be surprising for him to start at Charlotte or Bowling Green. If he does start at Charlotte, Devin Davis will probably be Bowling Green’s first baseman. The Baseball America Prospect Handbook indicates McKay is expected to start in the Midwest League. I think with the two-way experiment, the Rays may take the more conservative approach.

The Hot Rods’ infield should be interesting. Vidal Brujan’s development is probably the priority in that group, so I’d expect him to play 115-120 games at second base as long as he’s healthy. At the other positions, there should be plenty of mixing and matching. Adrian Rondon is still very young, and I’m sure the organization hopes he can regain some of his promise. Tristan Gray should get action at a number of different positions, and there should be some time available in the outfield, where he played some in college at Rice.