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Royals set minor league rosters

Where will top prospects be playing this year?

The Royals released their minor league rosters this week with teams beginning play on Thursday. The system is a bit down due to trades, graduations, and some poor performances last year, but there are still several prospects to keep an eye on.

Omaha's rotation is anchored by fireballer Miguel Almonte. The Omaha Storm Chasers will have a veteran-laden team, returning top hitters like Brett Eibner, Jose Martinez, and Balbino Fuenmayor, as well as utility man Whit Merrifield, who nearly made the big league club. Major League veterans Tony Cruz, Clint Barmes, Travis Snider, and Brian Duensing will provide guidance. Top prospect Kyle Zimmer is expected to be assigned to Omaha at some point, although Jeffrey Flanagan reports he is in extended spring training with a shoulder issue and is considered day-to-day.

Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA)

Manager: Brian Poldberg

Catchers: Tony Cruz, Parker Morin

Infielders: Clint Barmes, Dusty Coleman, Cheslor Cuthbert, Cody Decker, Balbino Fuenmayor, Whit Merrifield

Outfielders: Jorge Bonifacio, Brett Eibner, Jose Martinez, Travis Snider

Pitchers: Miguel Almonte, Jonathan Dziedzic, Luke Farrell, John Lannan, Kyle Zimmer?

Bullpen: Scott Alexander, Malcolm Culver, Brian Duensing, Brian Flynn, David Huff, Clayton Mortensen, Peter Moylan, Aroni Nina, Brooks Pounders

Disabled List: P Andy Ferguson, P Lester Oliveros

Top prospect Raul Mondesi, who made his Major League debut in last year's World Series, highlights the 2015 Northwest Arkansas Naturals roster, returning to AA. The rotation is anchored by  the "Royals Minor League Pitcher of the Year" from both 2014 (Christian Binford) and 2015 (Alec Mills) in addition to Matthew Strahm, who impressed Royals coaches with his performance in spring training. The Naturals will feature former first-round pick Bubba Starling, who took a step forward with the Naturals last year, hitting .254/.318/.426 in 91 games. According to Naturals beat writer Paul Boyd, former shortstop Orlando Calixte is being transitioned into an outfielder. Former first-round pick Hunter Dozier returns to the Naturals after a disastrous 2015 season.

Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)

Manager: Vance Wilson

Catchers: Zane Evans, Cam Gallagher

Infielders: Hunter Dozier, Jack Lopez, Raul Mondesi, Mauricio Ramos, Frank Schwindel, Ramon Torres

Outfielders: Orlando Calixte, Carlos Garcia, Logan Moon, Bubba Starling

Starting rotation: Christian Binford, Jacob Junis, Alec Mills, Erik Skoglund, Matthew Strahm

Bullpen: Yender Caramo, Starlin Cordero, Andrew Edwards, Brunino Pineda, Kevin McCarthy, Mark Peterson, Sam Selman, Eric Stout

Disabled list: P Reid Redman, P Glenn Sparkman

First baseman Ryan O'Hearn highlights the Wilmington Blue Rocks lineup, after he slammed 27 home runs across two levels last year. Wilmington will have a number of under-the-radar prospects with potential such as outfielders Roman Collins, Alfredo Escalera, and Elier Hernandez, and pitchers Josh Staumont and Pedro Fernandez. Staumont features is one of the hardest throwing pitchers in all of baseball, with an ability to reach triple digits. Colin Rodgers is a former third-round pick attempting to recover from Tommy John surgery. Derek Gordon is the brother of Royals outfielder Alex Gordon.

Wilmington Blue Rocks (High A)

Manager: Jaime Quirk

Catchers: Chad Johnson, Luis Villegas

Infielders: Humberto Arteaga, Austin Bailey, Wander Franco, Ryan O'Hearn, Robert Pehl, Corey Toups

Outfielders: Roman Collins, Brandon Downes, Alfredo Escalera, Elier Hernandez

Pitchers: Matt Alvarez, Evan Beal, Pedro Fernandez, Derek Gordon, Ashton Goudeau, Brennan Henry, Tim Hill, Zach Lovvorn, Mark McCoy, Luis Rico, Colin Rodgers, Josh Staumont, Matt Tenuta

Right-handed pitcher Nolan Watson, the Royals supplementary round pick in the 2015 draft, headlines the Lexington Legends roster in the South Atlantic League. Catcher Chase Vallot brings some pop to the lineup with shortstop Marten Gasparini providing the speed. Two standouts from the Big 12 will be in the outfield with Cody Jones (TCU) and Ben Johnson (Texas). Foster Griffin and Scott Blewett are two other pitchers to keep an eye on in the rotation.

Lexington Legends (Low A)

Manager: Omar Ramirez

Catchers: Xavier Fernandez, Chase Vallot

Infielders: D.J. Burt, Samir Duenez, Brandon Dulin, Jeckson Flores, Marten Gasparini, Mike Hill

Outfielders: Amalani Fukofuka, Ben Johnson, Cody Jones, Anderson Miller

Pitchers: Scott Blewett, Jacob Bodner, Torey Deshazier, Foster Griffin, Kyle Kubat, Yunior Marte, Jake Newberry, Emilio Ogando, Julio Pinto, Corey Ray, Niklas Stephenson, Franco Terrero, Nolan Watson

Rosters for rookie ball teams in Idaho Falls and Burlington will be announced when they begin their seasons in June. Players not assigned on a roster may be in Arizona for extended spring training.