So with the addition of Bruce Chen and the obviousness that Aaron Crow is expected to be given every opportunity to transition into the rotation, here is where we stand:
Here is a scenario that I could envision playing out. The first four guys on this list make the club out of Spring Training. The last three on the list compete all Spring for the final rotation spot and when it comes time to break camp are all assigned to Omaha.
There are several reasons for this..
1. A fifth starter spot will not be needed until early to mid May. I saw the exact date a couple of weeks ago, but I remember being a bit surprised how far into the season it actually was. I don't think you really can bring them allow as a swing man for a month before they start, so this would be a factor in only having the 5th starter go to Omaha. If they do elect to have a swing man look for either Duffy, Crow, or Monty to be in the rotation from the start and Paulino to be the guy
2. Also, by sending the last three guys on the above list to Omaha, the Royals will gain an extra month to evaluate which belongs in the rotation. Each of the three are young, and each have options. Not to mention that all three of the young arms still need to prove themselves at that level before a shot. Monty struggled in Omaha last year, and the Royals need all the evaluation for Crow that they can get.
Obviously, whether or not Crow can get out Pacific Coast League hitters will not show us definitively if he can start in the Majors, it will give us more information. Better to go off of that than Crow's results in Spring Training, at least the games in Omaha would be competitive.
3. Finally, the Royals could use the extra month and a half as a way to manipulate the service time of the three pitchers. Duffy is going to be right around the Super Two cutoff now. Crow could gain a year under team control if he spends about a month and a half in Omaha.
If all three pitchers perform well in Omaha, the Royals will have a great problem on their hands. One can join the rotation when the fifth starter is needed, and the other two can await an open spot due to injury or poor performance as they continue to hone their craft at the minor league level.
It is very possible that Duffy, Crow or Monty could emerge as one of the top starters on the team in Spring. I want to be clear that I'm not advocating for the Royals to not put the best team on the field. In fact I'm not really lobbying for this plan at all, I am just presenting it as a scenario in which I believe things could play out this Spring.
PS. I know that didn't mention Everett Teaford here. I think Teaford should be given every opportunity to win a rotation spot as well. But I think he could best serve this team as a swing man.