Former Chukars inch closer to bigs

While Major League Baseball’s opening day was a full week ago, opening day for the full-season minor league clubs kicks off today around the country. And it kicks off with ex-Chukars dotting the rosters of the Royals’ affiliates.

In Triple-A, eight ex-Chukars are on the 24-man roster. In AA, it’s more than half, as 15 of the 26 players played in Idaho Falls. And in A-ball, it’s 11 of 28 in High-A and 12 of 25 in Low-A.

Triple-A Omaha is just one stop short of the big-league club, and it features a couple of ex-Chukars — relief pitchers Blake Wood (2006 Chukar) and Greg Holland (2007) — who made their debut with the Royals last season but didn’t make the cut this spring.

Some of the prospects who earned the Royals’ minor league organization the recognition of the best in all of baseball are also in Omaha. They include third baseman Mike Moustakas (2007) and first baseman Eric Hosmer (2008), whom Baseball America rated the No. 9 and No. 8, respectively, prospects in the country this winter.

Amid much less fanfare in Omaha are pitchers Danny Duffy (2010), Blaine Hardy (2008), Everett Teaford (2006) and first baseman/designated hitter Clint Robinson, who won the Pioneer League MVP award with the Chukars in 2007.

The big names continue in AA Northwest Arkansas with catcher-turned outfielder Wil Myers (2009). Baseball America rated him the No. 10 prospect in baseball. Northwest Arkansas also starts the season with the No. 18 prospect in left-handed pitcher John Lamb (2009), the No. 83 prospect in left-handed pitcher Chris Dwyer (2009) and the club’s catcher of the future, Salvador Perez (2008-09).

Two members of last summer’s squad, right-handed pitcher Michael Mariot and outfielder Tim Ferguson, skipped a level and start the season with the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks. Meanwhile, six players — right-handed pitchers Greg Billo and Leondy Perez, catcher Travis Jones, second baseman Yowill Espinal, outfielder Geulin Beltre and first baseman Murray Watts, a Pioneer League All-Star — start the year with the Royals’ new Low-A affiliate, the Kane County Cougars in Illinois.

The only Chukar on the major league roster is still first baseman/designated hitter Billy Butler (2004).

The release of full-season club rosters also includes a flurry of player releases. In the past week, the Royals have released outfielders Patrick Norris (2007-08), Hilton Richardson (2009), pitcher James Thompson (2008), catcher-turned-pitcher Matt Morizio (2006, 2010), second baseman Correy Figueroa (2010) and third baseman Tom Zebroski (2010).

The Atlanta Braves have already scooped up Richardson. He has yet to be given an assignment, but he’ll likely stay in A-ball.

Ex-Chukars on minor league opening day rosters

Name Position Current level In I.F.

Danny Duffy LHP AAA 2010
Blaine Hardy LHP AAA 2008
Greg Holland RHP AAA 2007
Everett Teaford LHP AAA 2006
Blake Wood RHP AAA 2006
Eric Hosmer 1B AAA 2008
Mike Moustakas 3B AAA 2007
Clint Robinson 1B/DH AAA 2007

Wil Myers OF AA 2009
Chris Dwyer LHP AA 2009
John Lamb LHP AA 2009
Patrick Keating RHP AA 2009
Mario Santiago RHP AA 2005
Brandon Sisk LHP AA 2008
Eric Basurto RHP AA 2009
Harold Mozingo RHP AA 2006
Salvador Perez C AA 2008-09
Ryan Eigsti C AA 2007
Ben Theriot C AA 2008
Kurt Mertins 3B AA 2006
Mario Lisson 3B AA 2004
Anthony Seratelli Util AA 2007
Nick Van Stratten OF AA 2006-07

Brain Rupp Man A+ 2007
Ryan Dennick LHP A+ 2007
Brendan Lafferty LHP A+ 2009
Michael Mariot RHP A+ 2010
Bryan Paukovits RHP A+ 2009
Juan Graterol C A+ 2008-09
Deivy Batista 2B A+ 2009
Joey Lewis 1B A+ 2009
Tim Ferguson OF A+ 2010
Nick Francis OF A+ 2008
Adrian Ortiz OF A+ 2007
Carlo Testa OF A+ 2008-09

Greg Billo RHP A- 2010
Mitch Hodge RHP A- 2009
Sugar Ray Marimon RHP A- 2009
Leondy Perez RHP A- 2010
Nick Wooley RHP A- 2009
Travis Jones C A- 2010
Yowill Espinal 2B A- 2010
Angel Franco 2B A- 2009
Ryan Stovall 3B A- 2009
Murray Watts 1B A- 2010
Geulin Beltre OF A- 2010
Alex Llanos OF A- 2009

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