Overall, it looks like the 2010 Mudcats will be better than 2009 team, but I wouldn't get my hopes up too high. The AA team is certainly the most difficult team to predict, but they're probably only a couple minor league free agents away from being one of the better teams in the league.
Projected starting lineup:
CF Felix Perez
3B Alex Buchholz
2B Cody Puckett
1B Neftali Soto
RF Kyle Day
C Yasmani Grandal
LF Josh Fellhauer
SS Miguel Rojas
C Kevin Coddington
IF Jose Castro
IF Carlos Mendez
OF Justin Reed
Dallas Buck/Mark Serrano
Catcher: Could we see Grandal in AA so soon? To be honest, I doubt it, but it wouldn't be a complete shock. If it happens, Kevin Coddington would become the backup catcher and Neftali Soto the third catcher. Another scenario I can envision is Chris Denove (or an acquisition similar to Brandon Yarbrough) splitting time with Coddington.
First base: The Neftali Soto project at catcher isn't officially over, but if he's going to spell Grandal or Coddington, Carlos Mendez would handle first base on the days Soto is catching. Then again, the organization might prefer Eric Eymann (who may leave as a six-year MLFA) or Mike Costanzo. Another possibility is that Chris Richburg could earn a quick promotion.
Second base: Cody Puckett deserves to get all the consideration here, but he might be moved to a corner position or stuck in Lynchburg if Chris Valaika doesn't make the Major League squad out of spring training. That's because it would most likely result in Jake Kahaulelio repeating AA. Jose Castro may stick around as depth.
Third base: Alex Buchholz is the favorite, but he could always stay down in Lynchburg or move to the middle infield. If that happens, the job belongs to Eymann, Costanzo, or Mendez, but there's a good chance none of them will be around next year. There are decent odds that Shane Carlson and/or Jose Gualdron could come up to take over Jose Castro's role.
Shortstop: I expect Miguel Rojas to be the starting shortstop, but if Cozart isn't playing in Cincinnati, that could push Negron back to Carolina. Unless you count Negron, the only other threat to take away playing time from Rojas is Alex Buchholz.
Outfield: If Dave Sappelt somehow makes the Reds' roster (and it's a possibility now that Dickerson has been traded), we could see Felix Perez replace him in AAA, which would mean that Cody Puckett might have to go to left field (and Fellhauer to center) in order for the Mudcats to field their best possible lineup. I expect a Luis Terrero-type to be signed in the off-season, but if Denis Phipps proves he can hit Southern League pitching, he might push Kyle Day over to left field or serve as Louisville's utility outfielder. I can't emphasize enough how think the organization's mid-minors are in regards to outfielders.
Starting rotation: Matt Fairel, Scott Carroll, and Jordan Hotchkiss are probably safe bets for the rotation. Mark Serrano hasn't been lights-out in Lynchburg, but he should be good enough to get AA hitters out. Dallas Buck is always a question mark due to injuries, so if he isn't ready to go, Curtis Partch could take his place. Daryl Thompson would be an upgrade over either pitcher, but I suspect he'll leave as a free agent.
Bullpen: James Avery, Federico Baez, Tom Cochran, Gilbert De La Vara, Jesus Delgado, Scott Gaffney, Jerry Gil, Daniel Guerrero, Ruben Medina, Zach Ward, Abe Woody . . . Any of those guys could come back to Carolina, but all of them are candidates to hang up the spikes. Scott Gaffney, Aguido Gonzalez, Derrik Lutz, and Mace Thurman will all need to prove they're healthy to be considered for spots. The good news is that Donnie Joseph, Chase Ware, and Nick Christiani will make a great trio for the back of the bullpen. That leaves Justin Freeman, who has been nothing short of solid, and Drew Bowman, who has big trouble finding the plate. Also, the AAA team will be so stacked with left-handers (Aroldis Chapman, Daniel Ray Herrera, Jeremy Horst, Ben Jukich, Joe Krebs, Matt Maloney, Lee Tabor, Phil Valiquette, Travis Wood) that someone might be held back. Whatever happens, the Carolina pitching should be improved.