The KC Royals’ farm clubs start play Tuesday. Who’s playing where this year?
The wait is finally over. Minor league baseball, shut down since last spring, resumes play Tuesday, and the KC Royals’ four affiliate clubs will all be in action.
The Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers host St. Paul, the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals travel to play the Arkansas Travelers, High-A Quad Cities play at South Bend, and Class A Columbia is at Augusta.
And with the hiatus about to end, the suspense of who’ll play where is over—the Royals announced their farm club rosters Thursday. Now known are the destinations of the organization’s top prospects and the fate of some long-term system fixtures:
But the names on the rosters tell only part of the story.
The big news, of course, is that top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. will open the season at Northwest Arkansas. Starting Witt at Double-A makes sense because he hadn’t played above Rookie ball before spending last season at the Alternate Training Site, this spring in the Royals’ big league camp, and the last few weeks back at the ATS.
So Omaha fans won’t see Witt immediately (or at all if he skips Triple-A and goes directly to KC at some point), but they’ll see some familiar faces. Headlining the Storm Chasers will be pitchers Daniel Lynch, second only to Witt on MLB Pipeline’s ranking of Kansas City’s Top 30 prospects, and Jackson Kowar, who ranks fourth. Lynch was 1-2 with a 7.71 ERA, and Kowar went 2-2, 10.80, for the Royals in spring training this year.
Also at Omaha will be No. 5 Pipeline prospect Kyle Isbel, recently demoted to the ATS after spending the first three weeks of the campaign with the Royals and hitting .265, but striking out too often.
To the continued wonderment of some, but probably no surprise to anyone, outfielder Bubba Starling returns to the Storm Chasers to resume his so-far unsuccessful quest to rejoin, and remain with, the big club. Starling’s struggle to hit major league pitching is all but legendary now, and a .222/.243/.444 spring didn’t help his cause.
Among other veterans headed for Omaha are pitchers Kris Bubic, Scott Blewett and Jake Newberry; catchers Meibrys Viloria, Sebastian Rivero and Nick Dini; infielder Kelvin Gutierrez; and outfielders Erick Mejia and Edward Olivares. Brain Poldberg will manage the club.
How do the other three KC affiliates look?