Spring Training is over and baseball is happening all over the country. Well at least Major League baseball is happening and soon Minor League baseball will be happening too. The Royals recently released their minor league rosters so today we will be taking a look at my favorite Royals Minor League club, the Omaha Storm Chasers. On April 16, 2011, Danny Duffy took the mound at Werner Park and tossed the first pitch in the new stadium at 7:11pm. On April 5th, 2018, the players will take the field at Werner Park for the seventh season at the stadium and their 50th overall season of Royals Minor League Affiliation.
Team, Level: Omaha Storm Chasers, AAA
Ballpark: Werner Park
2017 Record:69-72 (3rd in Pacific Coast League American Northern)
Manager: Brian Poldberg
Royals Farm Report 100 prospects: (#4) Hunter Dozier, 1B/3B, (#9) Richard Lovelady, LHP, (#10) Trevor Oaks, RHP, (#15) Josh Staumont, RHP, (#16) Heath Fillmyer, RHP, (#17) Ryan O’Hearn, 1B, (#18) Eric Skoglund, LHP, (#33) Scott Barlow, RHP, (#42) Andres Machado, RHP, (#46) Eric Stout, LHP, (#47) Humberto Arteaga, SS, (#49) Ramon Torres, IF, (#61) Nick Dini, C, (#63) Frank Schwindel, 1B, (#68) Logan Moon, OF, (#88) Jack Lopez, SS, (#92) Kevin Lenik, RHP, (#93) Jonathan Dziedzic, LHP.
The Storm Chasers will be led by Manager Brian Poldberg, Pitching coach Andy Hawkins and, Hitting coach Brian Buchanan. They will lead a team that will consist of 16 players who wore the Storm Chasers uniforms last year and, according to Baseball America, seven of the Royals to 30 prospects. Some players will be playing new positions and other players will trying to come back from season long injuries. If you followed the Storm Chasers last year or were paying attention to Spring Training this year then some of these name will be very familiar to you.
Spring Training sensations Ryan O’Hearn and 2017 Omaha Player of the Year Frank Schwindel will return and once again spend time at first base and DH. They will face some competition from the 2016 Omaha player of the year Hunter Dozier. Expect all three to split time at first base and designated hitter and look for O’Hearn and Dozier to also see some corner outfield time too. Dozier is on the 40-man roster and Net Yost says that he will play primarily first base while in Omaha this year. That means O’Hearn and Schwindel, who were both non-roster invitees to Major League Spring Training for the first time, will have to battle it out for playing time at first. Most likely you will see both of them batting in the DH spot and playing some corner outfield when not at first base.
Up the middle and in the other corner your going to find a combination of Ramon Torres, Jack Lopez and 2017 Texas League Mid-Season All-Star Humberto Arteaga. All three will see time at second base, shortstop and third base. Ramon Torres played all three positions for the Royals during the 33 games he played for them in 2017. Lopez saw action at all three positions for AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals in 2017 and played shortstop for AAA Omaha in his 18 games with the team. Arteaga also saw action at all three positions for AA Northwest Arkansas.
The outfield is going to look nearly the same as last year with the one major missing piece being Jorge Soler who will be in Kansas City all year. The two speedsters Terrance Gore and Billy Burns will be roaming the friendly confines of the Werner Park outfield. Both these guys saw action with the Royals last year but spent most of the season in Omaha and combined for 37 stolen bases. Last year was quite a memorable one for Gore who spent time in AA Northwest Arkansas before getting the promotion to AAA Omaha. It was in Omaha where he hit is first professional home run after over 1900 plate appearance’s. Logan Moon also saw time with the Storm Chasers in 2017 after starting the season in AA Northwest Arkansas. In his short 29 game stay with the Storm Chasers he had a batting average of .336, slugged .542 and had an OBS of .910. Unfortunately he will be starting the season on the DL. Joining them will be newcomer Tyler Collins who split the 2017 season with the Tigers and AAA Toledo. Rounding out the outfield is newly acquired Abraham Almonte who spent 2017 with the Indians and AAA Columbus. Almonte, who is on the 40-man roster, spent time at all three outfield positions in both AAA and MLB in 2017.
The Storm Chasers opening day catchers will be Nick Dini and Parker Morin. Parker Morin has spent time bouncing between Rookie ball and AAA Omaha since he was drafted in the 14th round in the 2012 June draft. He will be the back up catcher for the majority of the season especially once Cam Gallagher returns to AAA when Salvy comes back from the DL. Nick Dini split the 2017 season in single A Lexington and AA Northwest Arkansas and also played in the Arizona Fall League. This will be the first time he will be in AAA and is mainly there to cover for Cam Gallagher until he returns. At that point I would expect to see Dini return to AA. Dini did put up some good numbers throughout his stops last year with a slash line of .302/.364/.403 with 93 hits, 36 RBIs and 22 walks in 88 games.
The pitching staff will feature six players on the 40-man roster including four of the Royals top prospects and will be highlighted by a bullpen that some consider the best in the Royal organization and may also rival the Royals themselves. Returning to AAA Omaha will be Kevin Lenik, Kevin McCarthy, Eric Stout, Seth Maness and Josh Staumont. McCarthy pitched 45 inning over 33 games for the Royals last year while Maness pitched 9.2 innings over 8 games for the Royals. Lenik had a painful offseason playing for Tigres de Licey but looks to have recovered nicely (He got hit in the face by a ball in his first game). Staumont has an arm that can throw fire but his biggest problem is controlling it. Going to the bullpen will help him with his control much like it helped out Danny Duffy. Joining them in the bullpen will be AAA new comer Richard Lovelady. Richard spent the 2017 season in A ball Wilmington and AA Northwest Arkansas. Richard is someone to keep an eye on and may be in Kansas City sooner rather than later. Mike Broadway and Wily Peralta will top off the bullpen. Willy Peralta is a former 17 game winner for the Brewers, while Broadway had an impressive spring training.
The starting rotation will consist of Scott Barlow, Jonathan Dziedzic, Heath Fillmyer, Andres Machado, and Trevor Oaks. The starting pitchers returning from 2017 are Dziedzic, who pitched nine games and Machado, who pitched seven games. Machado also went on to pitch in Kansas City going 3.2 innings over two games in September. Trevor Oaks was acquired via a trade with the Dodgers where he spent the season in rookie ball and AAA Oklahoma City making 18 starts. Heath Fillmyer was acquired in a trade with the A’s where he made 29 starts for AA Midland. Scott Barlow was signed this offseason and was added to the 40-man roster right away. Before that he pitched for the Dodgers in AA Tulsa and AAA Oklahoma City where he started 26 games.
This roster will likely fluctuate quite a bit during the season as players get injured in the MLB and that will require the Royals to be filled from the farm. One of the most exciting things that could happen to the roster would be a rehab assignment by Salvador Perez. He will be on the DL for several more weeks and may require a little playing time in Omaha to get back into the swing of things. As I mentioned earlier Cam Gallagher will return after Perez makes it back to the Royals. I also think you will see lots of fluctuation in the pitching staff as the season goes on. I really think your going to see McCarthy, Oaks, Fillmyer, Machado, Stout and others get some time in Kansas City. It may be a longer shot but I can also see Lovelady, Lenik, O’Hearn and Schwindel getting a September call up if not by the All-Star break. All of them would have to be added to the 40-man roster before that happens though. At some point you will also have the injured players returned to the Omaha roster. Expect to see Adalberto Mondesi and Bubba Starling show up. There are also chances that your going to get to see the AA players start to work their way up. Nicky Lopez, Donnie Dewees and a few others have a chance to appear in AAA Omaha this year.
Photo Credits: Minda Haas Kuhlmann
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