30 Cory Arbiso RHP 6-2, 210, 25 y/o
2011 stats: Trenton; 40 GP/ 9 GS. 5-5, 5.23 ERA.
2012 forecast: Arbiso comes into the season in better shape and with a new curveball. Both have suited him well, as he was lights out in spring training. The fan favorite struggled at times last season, but will likely fill the same role as he did in 2011, serving as the team’s long man and spot starter. Much like Heyer, Arbiso could use a big year to continue climbing through the organization.
53 Preston Claiborne RHP 6-2, 225, 24 y/o.
2011 stats: Tampa; 38 GP/0 GS. 3-7, 3.11 ERA, 5 SV.
2012 forecast: Claiborne has moved quickly after being taken in the 17th round by the Yankees in 2010. It’s hard to see him blowing through the system like others have in the past, and a full year at Double-A could do him some good. He does have closing experience in the past, and will likely get some opportunities late in games with the Thunder.
54 Ryan Flannery RHP 6-2, 245, 26 y/o
2011 stats: Trenton; 4 GP/0 GS. 0-0, 9.00 ERA. Tampa; 36 GP/0 GS. 3-1, 1.24 ERA, 19 SV.
2012 forecast: Flannery will likely get more than a few chances to serve as the Thunder’s ninth inning man this season, despite struggling in his initial call-up to Double-A last season. The Carlstadt, NJ native put up impressive numbers in the Florida State League last year and will get another chance in Trenton this year.
27 Lee Hyde LHP 6-2, 205, 27 y/o
2011 stats: Syracuse (AAA, Nationals); 42 GP/0 GS. 2-0, 5.68 ERA, 1 SV.
2012 forecast: Raise your hand if you’d heard of Lee Hyde before about a week ago. Not seeing a lot of hands. Hyde is the prototypical “outside of the organization, veteran arm for Double-A” type. The bullpen’s only lefty, he could play a key role at times, although Tony Franklin rarely plays matchups. Given Hyde’s experience, he could also be on the Double-A/Triple-A shuttle if a veteran arm is needed a level above.
3 Kelvin Perez RHP 6-1, 160, 26 y/o
2011 stats: Tampa; 8 GP/0 GS, 0-0, 6.43 ERA, 1 SV. Charleston; 39 GP/0 GS, 0-4, 4.66 ERA, 8 SV.
2012 forecast: Right now the Thunder roster stands at 27. It needs to get cut down to 25. You look at Perez’s experience level, and he’d certainly have to be a candidate to start the season on the “phantom DL.” The Dominican-born righty is in his eighth season in the organization and didn’t put up impressive numbers at either stop he made last year.
20 Ryan Pope RHP 6-2, 205, 25 y/o
2011 stats: Scranton; 14 GP/0 GS. 2-1, 8.14 ERA. Trenton; 13 GP/1 GS. 0-1, 2.04 ERA.
2012 forecast: Pope has little left to prove in Double-A, and was somewhat of a surprise shift to the Thunder roster at the last minute in favor of Pat Venditte. Pope has been used in a late-inning role by Franklin before, and it’s possible that he could be the guy doing that again this year so as to best showcase him for another promotion. This is a big year for Pope, who both must pitch well and stay healthy after being taken off the Yankees 40-man roster last season.
48 Chase Whitley RHP 6-4, 220, 22 y/o
2011 stats: Trenton; 19 GP/1 GS. 3-4, 3.38 ERA, 1 SV. Tampa; 23 GP/0 GS. 1.68 ERA, 6 SV.
2012 forecast: Whitley is the lone Baseball America Top 30 prospect you’ll find in the Thunder bullpen. In just his first pro season, Whitley was impressive at High-A Tampa, but couldn’t dominate in Trenton the way he could there. Whitley says fastball command is a key for him this season, but he’ll need to refine his secondary pitches a little bit as well in order to keep progressing. Whitley is another legitimate candidate for late-game duty.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98