The Royals top minor league affiliates have begun setting their preliminary rosters, with top Royals pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer headed to AA Northwest Arkansas, according to beat writer Paul Boyd. This will be Zimmer’s fourth stint in AA, having spent time their in 2013, 2015, and 2016, although he has combined for just 67 2⁄3 innings there. Zimmer threw just 5 2⁄3 innings last year before he had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.
Zimmer heads up a rotation that will also include talented, but enigmatic prospect Miguel Almonte. Almonte, who had a cup of coffee with the Royals in 2015, was on the cusp of breaking through, but took a major step backwards with a rough 2016 season that saw him demoted from AAA to AA. Right-handers Corey Ray, Zach Lovvorn, Christian Binford, and left-hander Matt Tenuta will round out the rotation.
@royalsreview they love the pitching coach in AA. I'm not shocked they want him working there— Cody Tapp (@codybtapp) March 30, 2017
The bullpen will include promising 22-year old right-hander Pedro Fernandez with other right-handers Evan Beal, Reid Redman, Ashton Goudeau and Jake Newberry with left-handers Tim Hill and Sam Selman.
Zane Evans and Parker Morin will serve as the team’s catchers. Promising first base prospect Samir Duenez will anchor the infield with middle infielders Jack Lopez, Humberto Arteaga, and Carlos Diaz. Mauricio Ramos, who represented Colombia in the World Baseball Classic, will man third base.
The outfield will be highlighted by Donnie Dewees in centerfield, the young prospect acquired from the Cubs last winter for Alec Mills. Minor league free agent Ruben Sosa, who spent last year in the Mexican League and the independent Atlantic League, will join him in the outfield. Blue Springs, Missouri native Logan Moon will also patrol the Naturals outfield with Alfredo Escalera. Frank Schwindel will play some first base and DH.
The moves also clarify who will likely be on the Omaha roster, which has not yet been announced. Ryan O’Hearn and college teammate Corey Toups look to be ticketed to AAA this year after very productive seasons in 2016. Infielders Ramon Torres, Dean Anna, Garin Cecchini, and Hunter Dozier, outfielders Jorge Bonifacio, Billy Burns, Bubba Starling, and Peter O’Brien, and catchers Cam Gallagher and Brayan Pena seem likely to be on the Storm Chasers roster.
Rotation candidates would be Jake Junis, Jonathan Dziedzic, Luke Farrell, Eric Skoglund, and Josh Staumont, with a bullpen featuring Scott Alexander, Malcom Culver, Andrew Edwards, Kevin McCarthy, Chris Withrow, and Onelki Garcia. Major League veteran Al Alburquerque could also join the bullpen if he does not exercise his opt-out.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals open the season on Thursday, April 6 at home against San Antonio. The Omaha Storm Chasers open the season Thursday, April 6 at Colorado Springs. Rosters are still subject to change.