The Royals have dumped quite a few starters into their system with the last couple of drafts. With the signing date moved up this year, all of the Royals draftees that signed were assigned to somewhere, meaning most everybody started out in rookie ball this year. So where do the starters go next year.
Here's my best guess.Omaha Storm Chasers
(name, throws, age as of May 1, 2013, levels pitched in 2012, SO/BB rate)
Nate Adcock, R, 25, AAA and KC, 1.81
Ryan Verdugo, L, 26, AAA and KC, 1.82
Chris Dwyer, L, 25, AA and AAA, 1.58
Mike Montgomery, L, 23, AA and AAA, 1.59
That's a pretty young group. A couple of disappointing former top prospects, a top prospect and a couple of fringe/ spot starter types that every AAA staff has to carry just in case the major league team needs someone on short notice. It's possible that KC could have Verdugo or Adcock in Kansas City to start the year, but that would probably mean Teaford in Omaha. One thing is clear - no need for a Doug Davis type next year in Omaha because there just won't be room for the minor league flier on a 30 something trying to make it back.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals
JC Sulbaran, R, 23, AA, 1.96
Yordano Ventura, R, 21, high A and AA, 3.02
Noel Arguelles, L, 23, AA, 0.76
Jason Adam, R, 21, high A, 3.38
John Lamb, L, 22, rookie and AZ Fall
Sugar Ray Marimon, R, 24, high A and AA, 2.25
Justin Marks could be in Omaha coming out of the pen. Same for Michael Mariot and Tim Melville. Each of those guys could end up staying in Springdale another summer. Sugar Ray gets a crack at seeing if he's more than an organizational arm. Arguelles has that major league contract that pretty much guarantees he's in the rotation. Adam deserves the promotion next Spring. Ventura is probably the next best prospect after Odorizzi. Sulbaran will stay in the rotation somewhere, and it doesn't look like there will be room in Omaha. Lamb will probably start the year in Arkansas and move to Omaha when he's ready. Marimon will be there to take Lamb or Sulbaran's spot when they make the jump. Until then he's probably the long man.
Wilmington Blue Rocks
Kyle Zimmer, R, 22, rookie and low A, 7.2
Kyle Smith, R, 21, rookie and low A, 4.92
Greg Billo, R, 22, low A and high A, 2.8 Aaron Brooks, R, 23, low A, 4.81
Leondy Perez, R, 23, rookie and high A, 3.57
Brooks Pounders, R, 22, low A and high A, 2.69
Andy Ferguson could also figure into this mix, although he's a little older. Scott Alexander also figures to get a look for this rotation. Zimmer and Smith represent the first in the next wave of potential pitching prospects. Billo and Perez have had some success at the lower levels and they have a chance here to put themselves into the conversation as potentially more than just organizational filler. Pounders is in a unique position in that he's not not a prospect, but with all of the arms lining up behind him he could end up like Tim Melville and Tyler Sample if he's not careful.
Kane County Cougars
Sam Selman, L, 22, rookie, 4.56
Angel Baez, R, 22, low A, 2.79
Jake Junis, R, 20, rookie, 4.4
Bryan Brickhouse, R, 20, rookie and low A, 1.57
Colin Rodgers, L, 19, rookie, 1.58
This will likely be a very, very young group. The average age in the Midwest League is 21.8 for pitchers. Of course, there are lots of other pitchers that could be in the conversation here - Yender Caramo, Christian Binford, Daniel Hernandez, Ali Williams, Zeb Sneed - but I think that quintet represents the potential of the next wave of pitching prospects. Rodgers is the most likely candidates to get sent to short season again because he is so young (in favor of a college guy like Sneed or Williams) and hasn't been to full season yet, but I think Selman, Baez, Junis and Brickhouse are a lock for this rotation. Selman could be a fast mover if the Royals are aggressive ahead of him with Odorizzi, Lamb, Ventura, Zimmer, and Smith, or if Montgomery or Dwyer suddenly remembers how to pitch well.
More than anything, the quicker signing period means that every year the short season teams will be flooded with the new draft classes, meaning full season affiliates will have to make room for pitchers and batters that outgrow those short season locations, as Kane County had to do this year for Zimmer and Smith. In turn, High A Wilmington will have to make room the following spring for guys that did well at short season or low A the previous year to make room at Low A Kane County for the next crop graduating from short season to full season ball.
I predict that next year's class A affiliates will both be quite strong. In addition to the pitching, the B-Town Bomb squad will probably all be moving to full season ball and quite a few Idaho Falls players will also need to see some full season action. Omaha will likely be weaker than they have been the last couple of years as guys like CRob, Giavotella and Lough will probably either be in KC or with another organization. After a rough year this year, NW Arkansas will rebound with more talent at their disposal than they have had this season.
Edit - in addition to the guys listed above, the Royals will have three starters needing rehab starts before moving to their proper levels. Danny Duffy (June), Felipe Paulino (July) and Greg Billo (August) will be coming back into the rotations and will need to get some rehab work in. Duffy will be especially interesting in that he will need to begin his rehab work before short season starts if there aren't any delays in getting back on the mound. He can do some work in extended spring training, but at some point he has to go to either Springdale or Omaha before returning to Kansas City. Paulino may be able to grab a few short season starts, but he will also need to make a start or two in the upper minors before returning to the Royals. Billo may spend all of next season in short season ball, but his proper level would be high A. Billo's return will also come after next season's draft class is assigned, so that may affect his placement and work as well. I don't think he's advanced enough for the AFL, so he will need to get innings during the minor league season or in winter ball to make sure he's on track for the 2014 season.
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