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What might the Rays’ 2019 minor league lineups look like?

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

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Last week, I took a shot at guessing what the Rays’ full-season affiliates’ pitching staffs might look like. The Rays quickly made those guesses appear foolish, releasing Brandon Lawson but also receiving Rule 5 pick Sam McWilliams back from Kansas City. I could see McWilliams taking Lawson’s spot in Double A.

Although there are more players total to place when predicting four everyday lineups, because there aren’t any known significant injuries to hitters like the lengthy list of pitchers missing due to Tommy John surgery, it felt like the pieces fell into place a little easier for these guesses.

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 Nick Ciuffo David Rodriguez Ronaldo Hernandez Chris Betts
First base Nate Lowe Kevin Padlo Devin Davis Kaleo Johnson
Second base Nick Solak Tristan Gray Vidal Brujan Tyler Frank
Third base Kean Wong Jermaine Palacios Zach Rutherford Ford Proctor
Shortstop Andrew Velazquez Lucius Fox Taylor Walls Wander Franco
Left field Joe McCarthy Robbie Tenerowicz Carl Chester Michael Smith
Center field Jake Smolinski Josh Lowe Garrett Whitley Grant Witherspoon
Right field Ryan Boldt Jesus Sanchez Moises Gomez Jordan Qsar
Reserves Emilio Bonifacio Jake Cronenworth Zac Law Tanner Dodson
Mike Brosseau Miles Mastrobuoni
Jason Coats Brendan McKay
Nathan Lukes Rene Pinto
Brett Sullivan

Durham has an interesting mix of prospects and experienced players. In fact, everyone in bold on that roster has played in Triple A before except Ryan Boldt, although Nick Solak hardly played there at all last season.

While players are listed at specific positions, there is versatility in the group. Andrew Velazquez will continue to play everywhere to keep him ready for the role he would play with the Rays. Solak will probably see time in the outfield again, and Joe McCarthy will likely play some first base. Kean Wong will bounce around the infield. I don’t think any one player will monopolize innings in center field.

Brendan McKay is the biggest name on Montgomery’s expected roster, but I listed him as a reserve. That’s for a couple reasons. First is his obvious status as a two-way player — the same goes for Tanner Dodson with Bowling Green — but Marc Topkin also reported that he’s going to be the designated hitter when he’s batting this season, not a first baseman (Tampa Bay Times $).

The Biscuits’ roster should also feature multiple players who are able to take different positions. Lucius Fox, Josh Lowe, and Jesus Sanchez — plus the catchers — are probably locked into the same spots for nearly all of their games in 2019, but everyone else should move all around the diamond, particularly Tristan Gray.

Obviously it’s not a good thing that Garrett Whitley missed an entire season due to shoulder surgery, but now that he’s on a different roster than Lowe, it should give him an opportunity to return to center field. In 2017 with Bowling Green, he mostly played left field.

Other than Whitley and Devin Davis, that Charlotte lineup carried the Hot Rods to the Midwest League title last season. Vidal Brujan had a taste of the Florida State League in 2018 and dominated, posting a 1.015 OPS with 12 steals in 27 games. Along with Moises Gomez, Ronaldo Hernandez, and some under-the-radar players like Carl Chester and Taylor Walls, the Stone Crabs look to have one of the most intriguing lineups in all of minor league baseball.

Wander Franco — the player everyone wants to see — will start with Bowling Green, but will he finish there? The same question could be asked of Dodson. McKay didn’t play the whole season with Bowling Green, so I bet Dodson could earn a midseason promotion too.

Dodson will be joined by five other 2018 draft picks in the lineup. In the infield, Franco will be locked in at shortstop, but Tyler Frank and Ford Proctor won’t be limited to one position, nor should Kaleo Johnson.

Chris Betts is the veteran in that Bowling Green lineup. He was healthy and got his career on track in 2018. He’s now 22 years old, so a good start to the season would normally earn him a promotion. However, with Hernandez a level ahead of him, he might be stuck to make sure both players get the innings they need behind the plate.