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What might the Rays’ minor league pitching staffs look like?

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

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Every year near the end of March, I try and guess what each full-season affiliate’s rosters might looks like, from the rotation to the everyday lineup. This season, predicting what the pitching staffs might look like was especially difficult — not because of a lack of prospects, but because so many players are hurt. Anthony Banda, Jose De Leon, Austin Franklin, Brent Honeywell, Jose Mujica, and Drew Strotman all can’t be penciled into spots to start the season, leaving a lot of holes to fill — and also giving opportunities to other players.

My focus is on the rotations, but I also took a (clearly nonexhaustive) look at some relievers too. The starters are in bold.

Minor league pitching

Triple-A Durham Double-A Montgomery Class A-Advanced Charlotte Class-A Bowling Green
Triple-A Durham Double-A Montgomery Class A-Advanced Charlotte Class-A Bowling Green
Jake Faria Blake Bivens Resly Linares Shane Baz
Ryan Merritt Josh Fleming Tobias Myers Shane McClanahan
Andrew Moore Brandon Lawson Tommy Romero David Mercado
Benton Moss Brendan McKay Brian Shaffer Nicholas Padilla
Austin Pruitt Riley O'Brien Mikey York Michael Plassmeyer
Ian Gibaut Spencer Jones Orlando Romero Trey Cumbie
Matt Krook Dalton Moats Simon Rosenblum-Larson Tanner Dodson
Colin Poche Jhonleider Salinas
Curtis Taylor Phoenix Sanders

Players for Durham are typically tough to predict before the Rays’ roster is set because a surprise inclusion can mean someone unexpected starts the season in the minors. In this case, Jake Faria was optioned early, and Austin Pruitt and Ryan Merritt will be stretched out for lengthier outings, per Juan Toribio. Andrew Moore pitched 83 innings for the Bulls last season, and Benton Moss’ performance warrants a spot in the Triple-A rotation.

Montgomery’s rotation was the toughest of the four. I think Brendan McKay should be there, and Blake Bivens and Brandon Lawson return from last season. After that, there aren’t pitchers who had a lot of innings with Charlotte who are obviously ready for a promotion. Josh Fleming had more innings than the other options, and Riley O’Brien being 24 years old led me to pick him.

Brian Shaffer, on the other hand, isn’t 23 until August, so I think he’ll return to Charlotte to start the season. He’ll be joined by Resly Linares, Tobias Myers, and Tommy Romero, all of whom have earned promotions from Bowling Green. Mikey York will get another shot after struggling in the Florida State League in 2018.

The Rays surely would’ve liked to see Franklin and Strotman in that rotation.

Obviously, there’s a big name missing from the Bowling Green staff — Matthew Liberatore. The No. 16 pick is likely ready to pitch in the Midwest League, but my guess is he’ll start in extended spring training to manage his innings in his first full season.

There are still plenty of prospects in that rotation though. Shane McClanahan should start with the Hot Rods but may not finish the season with them. Michael Plassmeyer — acquired in the Mike Zunino trade — might not last long at this level himself if his pro debut last season is any indication. I think Shane Baz and David Mercado should get a chance to pitch in a full-season league too.