2019 Royals Opening Day roster predictions: Northwest Arkansas (AA)

Team Name: Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Location: Springdale, AR
Stadium Name: Arvest Ballpark
League: Texas League
Level: AA

Starting Lineup:

C: Meibrys Viloria
1B: Travis Jones
2B: DJ Burt
SS: Jecksson Flores
3B: Kelvin Gutierrez
LF: Nick Heath
CF: Blake Perkins
RF: Khalil Lee
DH: Kort Peterson


  • Anderson Miller, OF
  • Xavier Fernandez, C
  • Angelo Castellano, SS

Starting Rotation:

  • Gerson Garabito
  • Ofreidy Gomez
  • Daniel Tillo
  • Scott Blewett
  • Foster Griffin


  • Grant Gavin
  • Walker Sheller
  • Jace Vines
  • Conner Greene
  • Jon Perrin
  • Cristian Castillo
  • Gabe Speier
  • Franco Terrero

There are a few different scenarios in play here.  Above, we predicted what we think is going to happen.  We think Cuthbert will be in Omaha and Kelvin Gutierrez will be back in NWA where he finished the season really strong.

Another scenario is that the Royals keep Cuthbert to DH at Omaha and have Gutierrez play third everyday.  If that is the case, Samir Duenez would more than likely end up back in NWA where he dealt with wrist/hand injuries last year.  Or, the Royals could find a way to keep Schwindel, Cuthbert, Gutierrez, and Duenez in Omaha next year getting all 500 at-bats. Given that Duenez has nearly 1,000 PA at the AA level, we don’t expect him back.

Another altering scenario here is the starting rotation.  The Royals like Vines and Perrin as starters.  However, there might not be enough space in the rotation for them which is the scenario we believed in bumping them to the bullpen.  If Blewett starts the season in Omaha, one of those two guys (Vines/Perrin) probably moves to the rotation.

Of course, Daniel Tillo could also end up starting the season in Wilmington, which opens up another rotation spot for NWA. The problem NWA will face in 2019 is the core of pitchers that figure to start in Wilmington, and be ready for a promotion by mid-season. Lots of crazy things could happen.

There is an outside shot that Daniel Lynch or another pitcher like Marcelo Martinez or JC Cloney could end up in NWA to start the season. Spring Training ought to be a big indicator as to who receives the starts between AA and AAA to begin 2019. With the core of pitchers that figure to start in Wilmington, time is ticking for middling arms like Vines, Perrin, Griffin, Oaks, Kalish, etc.

One highlight here is the catching situation.  This may be the best catching duo in the Royals minor league system outside MJ Melendez and Sebastian Rivero, who probably make up the best duo of catchers on the same team in all of minor league baseball.

This team looks like it is built on speed following the blue print of the major league team.  Lee, Heath, Perkins, Burt, and Flores could each steal 30 bases.  Anderson, Jones, and even Gutierrez can do a little bit of running as well.

There is a slew of guys at Wilmington who are waiting in the wings to get to this team and they may be here by mid-season.

Just missed the cut:

  • Rudy Martin
  • Emmanuel Rivera
  • Gabriel Cancel
  • Tyler Zuber
  • Chase Vallot


Photo Credits: MLB Photos

8 thoughts on “2019 Royals Opening Day roster predictions: Northwest Arkansas (AA)

  1. Great job as always, Drew. Your analysis is insightful and looks at various situations. The backlog at upper levels makes AA especially tricky. We also have a strong crew coming to Wilmington so room needs to be created for the 2018 Legends to move up. My best guess:

    C – Viloria and Esposito.
    1B – Duenez (like you said, he could easily go to Omaha. I had him there until resigning of Cheslor). He is becoming more of an org. guy
    2B Cancel and Burt
    SS – Mejia
    3B – Rivera and T. Jones (great flexibility with Burt, Mejia and Jones)
    OF – Lee, Perkins, Heath, Peterson, and Martin (super fast – who plays CF between Heath and Perkins)

    Rotation – Tillo, Gomez, Garabito, Griffin and Sotillet (I could see Watson, Perrin, too). I had Blewitt in Omaha. I don’t see Tillo returning to Wilmington with the group coming there, not enough innings for everyone). If Blewitt does return to NWA, I want to see dominate starts.

    Bullpen – Sheller, Gavin, Terrero, Pinto, Castillo (LH), Speier and Brickhouse. Some of the org. fillers like Perrin, Vines, Greene, could end up here if anyone gets hurt. Some of them will be minor trades or released.

    I don’t see KC holding back Cancel or Rivera in Wilmington. 2019 Blue Rocks would be loaded without them but if those two did play in Wilmington again – wow. Cancel will play all of 2019 as a 22 year so he is not old for the Carolina League. He did have 455 ABs there last year with good production. Rivera would fill a need at 3B for 2019 Blue Rocks as the 2018 Lexington team was thin at 3B. Like Cancel, he is still 22 until end of June so he is not super old.

    Outfield will be amazing to cover the ground – Heath, Perkins and Lee can track them down. They are all CF types. Fits KC’s mold of speed and defense.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Dave. I appreciate it.

        With the Royals signing Diekman yesterday, we could end up with another arm we weren’t expecting at NWA. I’m not sure who that is. At least that makes the pitching better in theory at NWA.

        When I talked with Picollo he never mentioned Cancel coming to NWA. He did mention Rivera but his tone was more we have to see what happens with Cuthbert before we make a decision for anyone else at third.

        Mejia or Jecksson is pretty much anyone’s guess. We went with Jecksson.


  2. It is nice to see the system finally filling up with true prospects rather than organization filler guys. Development is such a tough thing. We’d like to see them all take a step forward, but we know some won’t get past this level.

    Looking forward to hearing this bunch make some noise in their league.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So much of NWA’s roster depends on what happens in KC and Omaha and how many players are “demoted” to make room for Dayton’s DDDs he wants to carry as inventory in Omaha.
    Catcher is pretty well set.
    Infield is a dogs breakfast depending on what Royals do about Duenez, Cuthbert, Gutierrez, etc. I think there is as much chance Flores moves to AAA as Mejia especially after way the two finished last year.
    Outfield totally depends on what Royals do with Phillips, Goodwin, Gore and Bonifacio.
    Pitching is anyone’s guess right now as I still think Dayton is not done signing free agents to fill out the staff and add “inventory.”
    All I know is good luck to the A ball guys because not a lot of hope for promotions unless a lot of injuries occur.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: 2019 Royals Opening Day roster predictions: Wilmington (A+) | Royals Farm Report

  5. Pingback: 2019 Royals Opening Day roster predictions: Lexington (A) | Royals Farm Report

  6. Pingback: System-wide signs this “Process” is working | Royals Farm Report

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s