Jun 2, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns pitcherCody Boutte
(behind) falls to the ground as second basemanJace Conrad
(19) picks up the ball after it was dropped by Boutte in the fifth inning against the LSU Tigers during the Baton Rouge regional of the 2013 NCAA baseball tournament at Alex Box Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods
As you may have noticed above, I didn’t even talk about Tyler Young and Pat Blair as possibilities for the Stone Crabs. Young actually had a nice season, but given the logjam they already have up there, there simply may not be enough room for him. In any event, if the Rays are comfortable holding a few players back at Short Season-A, things should be OK at Bowling Green.
The Rays infield prospects who should clearly be at Low-A (or above) are Young, Blair, Jace Conrad, Coty Blanchard, Grant Kay, and Alexander Simon. However, none of those guys is a shortstop so it seems clear that one of Cristian Toribio or Riley Unroe should be on this team, likely Toribio. We should also mention Nic Wilson, who isn’t nearly as young as either of those players, but it looks like he’ll be stuck at Hudson Valley.
Now we will bring in the outfielders: Bralin Jackson, Braxton Lee, Hunter Lockwood, and Yoel Araujo. There are others, like Spencer Edwards and James Harris, but neither should be a major priority for the Rays right now. Thomas Milone is another candidate to skip over Short Season-A, but he will likely at least begin in extended spring training before the Rays see if he impresses them sufficiently to join the Hot Rods. For now, we’ll assume that he’s not part of the mix.
Glancing at the infield, Toribio will clearly be starting at shortstop, but that’s about all that is obvious. Blair and Conrad both play second base, Young and Blanchard both play third base, and Kay will end up all over the place. At first base, meanwhile, the Rays could consider playing Lockwood or Araujo over Simon at least occasionally.
Conrad has more upside than Blair and will likely start over him for now. Young should also end up playing a lot of DH with Blanchard’s athleticism standing out at third. Kay, on the other hand, should get enough at-bats as he moves between third base, second base, left field, right field, and DH. Given the Hot Rods’ alternatives, we should also see him at first base at some point.
With all of that in mind, the Hot Rods’ starting infield looks like Blanchard, Toribio, Conrad, and Simon from left to right. I could do a whole playing time chart like I did above (comment if you want it), but I am satisfied enough with that answer to stop for now.