As I did last year, here's a first glance at potential minor league affiliate rotations (full season only). I do not generally look at the short season affiliates because there are so many moving parts, particularly with the draft. I do try to anticipate which recent draft picks will stay in short season ball, just to be sure I haven't left any important prospects out completely.
Two notable names absent from this list - Yordano Ventura and Will Smith. Smith obviously is going to be in the pen, probably with the big club. Ventura is said to have a rotation spot that is "his to lose." Unless the Royals do a lot in the FA market, that means Ventura is in KC.
As for this rotation, anything can happen. I could see any of those lefties being a part of a trade.I could see Adcock being moved in a deal (or in KC as a part of the pen). Rodriguez could be in Omaha's pen. This is absolutely the most unsettled rotation in the organization, although that is not a bad thing right now. Once the big league roster settles, this group will become a lot clearer.
NW Arkansas (AA)
This is an interesting rotation to watch. I think the org will let Kyle air it out in Springdale before sending him to Omaha unless he is just amazing this spring. The rest of the rotation is pretty underwhelming, honestly. Marimon and Brooks are org guys. Pounders is probably a back of the rotation guy at best. Lamb is a failed prospect unless he finds his velo again. Adam is probably a back of the rotation guy, but maybe he could be a mid rotation guy if he starts to get some swing and miss in his game.
Every single guy in this rotation has a HUGE year in front of them. For Marimon, Pounders and Brooks, its a fight to stay relevant in the organization. Lamb is hanging on to his baseball life at this point. For Adam, it's a chance to go from being a low level prospect to being a prospect. And then there's Zimmer. If he has a big year, he could start at AA and finish in the big league rotation. This is just such a big year for the guys at this level.
JC Sulbaran (R), Miguel Almonte (R), Angel Baez (R), Sam Selman (L), Christian Binford (R), Daniel Stumpf (R), Sean Manea (L)
Sulbaran may be the odd man out here. He just hasn't progressed. He's probably a bullpen candidate at this point. The group from lo-A (Almonte, Baez, Binford, Stumpf) all need to move up a level and sink or swim. No real point in sending any of them back to lo-A, especially with Rule V considerations after next year for Baez and Almonte. Selman needs to find his control, and he can't do that when he can just blow guys at the lower levels away with his pure stuff.
I am particularly interested in Binford and Stumpf. They aren't prospects at all. Binford is the type of guy that might have great numbers in the Carolina League, then hit the wall in the Texas League. Thing is, you might as well find that out over the next couple of years rather than holding him back. Same with Stumpf. Just a lot more benefit in moving these guys up a level than there is in keeping them in the Sally.
Baez could be headed to the pen, but the Royals have been hesitant to do that with their healthy starters until AA ball, so I think he will continue to start this year, unless he proves ineffective.
As for Manea, I think he starts out in extended spring training, then moves to Wilmington in late May. Since he didn't get a bunch of innings this year, I doubt he goes much over 110 IP next season. This would seem to be a good challenge for him. If Stumpf or Binford struggles, he takes their spot in the rotation. If Baez struggles, he can either drop back to lo-A or go to the pen. Either way, Manea spends most, if not all of next season in Wilmington, then the Royals evaluate whether to put him on the fast track (Zimmer plan) or take their time (Duffy plan).
Aroni Nina (R), Colin Rodgers (L), Patrick Conroy (L), Jonathan Dziedzic (L), Yender Caramo (R)
This rotation will probably be heavy on Idaho Falls imports. Could even see Jake Junis here if the Royals believe he will develop (hasn't pitched well in 2 years). I believe the Royals will give Nina another go as a starter to see if his control will hold up. If not, he heads to the pen. Rodgers probably has 2 more years as a starter before his wildness sends him to the pen.
Overall, this is a huge year for the Royals pitching development. Besides the guys at the ML level (Duffy and likely Ventura), the Royals are at a crossroads with Dwyer, Verdugo, Adam, Marimon, Brooks, Lamb, and Sulbaran. Manea and Zimmer are first round picks (or at least got first round money). Almonte may be the fastest rising prospect. Binford may be the biggest sleeper. A big year from 3 or 4 of these guys could alter the perception of this organization. A poor year from 3 or 4 guys could sink the organization for the next half decade.