This will of course be shaken up if/when the Royals pick up random free agents when the FA market opens up on Friday. Before I begin, here are some highly bookmarkable links for you: the list of MLB free agents, and Minor League free agents.
Now, here's who I think we'll be seeing in Omaha next year, at least to start. The usual caveat applies: I'm not an expert, and I'm preemptively labeling this post with "eating my words" for when this roster is totally wrong.
Brandon Duckworth (gets placed above Cortes solely b/c of seniority)
Duckworth, Wright and Capellan are ultimately roster filler. I'd love to try Wright as a long reliever but there's currently not enough starting pitching depth to test that theory. Cap is a decent pitcher but has never quite been able to crack it in the Majors because of a lack of movement in his fastball. However, no AAA team would suffer from having them on the roster, and of course Duckworth is good for a handful of spot starts in the event of an injury.
**Note: Roman Colon can be used effectively as a starter if any of the 5 on this list are not retained or if Cortes starts the season at AA again (not entirely sure why that would happen, but it could). Colon showed the ability to throw a lot of innings when he had to start games last year, often going deeper into games than some of the regular starters. However, I’ll also list him as a possible reliever, because he can be either according to the team’s needs.
Devon Lowery should start the year at Omaha; his September performance showed he has the ability to strike batters out, but he still gave up too many hits in limited appearances. He’s not quite ready for the Majors and will spend part of next season dominating AAA batters.
Greg Atencio, who was promoted from AA NWArk late in the 2008 season, will start the season at Omaha this time around. He’ll again serve as a durable middle reliever, and maybe even see a little time in the Majors later in the season.
Brad Salmon had a rough 2nd half of ’08 after being thrown into a starter’s role for which he wasn’t fit. If he gets to go back to the pen full-time he’ll be OK but probably won’t be first in line for a callup if KC has a need in their bullpen.
Because the Blue Jays claimed SS Angel Sanchez in November, the Omaha middle infield will be even more full of holes than before – and I didn’t think that was possible. Unless Dayton Moore makes some moves here, Omahans may be stuck watching Josh Labandeira and Gookie Dawkins butcher everything that comes their way again. Throw Dave Matranga into that mix as well, although Matranga is the most talented of this trio of filler.
Kila Ka’aihue will likely anchor 1st base for at least the start of the year. On days he needs to take off, Mike Stodolka can come in from the outfield to fill in. This could change depending on how Dayton Moore handles Billy Butler, who is not out of options.
Third base is more up in the air, as stud Mike Moustakas isn’t going to be ready for AAA for a while yet. Expect to see 3b manned by a revolving door of fill-ins like the middle IF trio mentioned above, and even catcher-cum-utility man Brayan Pena as needed.
The Royals will stick with Chris Lubanski in the outfield, but only because they have to. As soon as a different option comes along, the team should cut ties with Lubanski, who has been a pretty big disappointment after being the team’s #1 draft pick in 2003. I think Shane Costa will return, because his late-season injury problems will chase away any teams that might have otherwise wanted him. Mike Stodolka and Damon Hollins will probably return, but again it’s just out of necessity and a lack of OFs in the lower minors who are ready to move up to Triple-A.
Brayan Pena has been added to the 40-man roster, and Matt Tupman was removed from it, a sensible move given Tupman’s lack of power, failure to develop throughout his 20s, and recent injury history. Pena will likely see more of the starts in ’09, but the two will continue to share duties. If one is hurt, the club can bring up someone like Demaso Espino from AA.
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