The Royals have named their Minor League Pitchers and Players of the Year for their respective affiliates.
All of the players will be at Kauffman Stadium on Friday, September 19 for Futures Night, where they will take part in an autograph session at Gate A from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m., as well as be honored in an on-field presentation prior to the Royals game with the Detroit Tigers.
Aaron Brooks has been named the Omaha Pitcher of the Year. The 25-year-old right-hander went 12-3 with a 3.88 ERA in 25 games (23 starts) during the regular season for the Storm Chasers. His 12 victories were tied for second-most in the Pacific Coast League this year, while he also ranked seventh in ERA and sixth in WHIP (1.27). Brooks tossed eight scoreless innings last night, allowing just five hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts as Omaha won their playoff opener, 7-0 over Memphis. He also earned Northwest Arkansas Pitcher of the Year honors in 2013. The Royals’ ninth-round selection in the 2011 First Year Player Draft, Brooks made his Major League debut on May 3 vs. Detroit.
Outfielder Whit Merrifield was named the Omaha Player of the Year. The 25-year-old opened the year with Northwest Arkansas (AA), before emerging with the Storm Chasers. He hit .340 (109-for-321) in 76 games with the Chasers, collecting 28 doubles, three triples and three homers with 57 runs scored and 29 RBI. His 41 doubles combined between the two levels tied for sixth-most among all minor leaguers. He went 1-for-3 with a run scored in last night’s playoff opener. Merrifield was selected to participate in the Texas League All-Star Game this season, but did not play due to his promotion to Omaha. The 2012 Wilmington Player of the Year, Merrifield was KC’s ninth-round selection in the 2010 Draft.
NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (AA)
Andy Ferguson, 26, has been named the Northwest Arkansas Pitcher of the Year. The 6-foot right-hander went 11-10 with a 2.93 ERA in 25 appearances (23 starts) for the Naturals this season, recording 118 strikeouts to rank sixth in the Texas League. His ERA also was the fifth-best in the league among qualifying pitchers. Ferguson closed the season with two starts for Omaha, helping them clinch a playoff berth. He was the Royals 18th-round pick in the 2011 June Free Agent Draft out of Arkansas State University.
Outfielder Lane Adams, 24, was named the Northwest Arkansas Player of the Year. He hit .269 with 25 doubles, three triples and 11 homers in 105 games for the Naturals. Adams ranked third in the Texas League with 38 stolen bases, while his 65 runs scored tied for sixth in the league. He was tabbed a mid-season and postseason All-Star in the Texas League this season and earned the league’s Player of the Month honors for June. Adams was named the George Brett Hitter of the Year and Wilmington Player of the Year in 2013. He was selected by KC in the 13th round of the 2009 Draft, and made his Major League debut September 1 vs. Texas.
Glenn Sparkman, 22, was named Wilmington Pitcher of the Year. He went 8-3 with the top ERA (1.56) in the Carolina League, allowing just 21 earned runs in 121.0 innings, which spanned 29 outings (18 starts). He recorded an 0.98 WHIP, which ranked second in the league, while he was seventh with 117 strikeouts. Sparkman was named Carolina League Player of the Year on August 28. The right-hander was selected in the 20th round of the 2013 June Free Agent Draft.
Third baseman Hunter Dozier, 23, has been tabbed Wilmington Player of the Year. Dozier, KC’s first-round pick in 2013, split the season between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas. He hit .295 (66-for-224) with 18 doubles, four homers and 39 RBI in 66 games for the Blue Rocks, before finishing the year in Double-A. He was selected as the Carolina League Player of the Week on May 26, hitting .550 (11-for-20) with four doubles, four RBI and eight runs scored over the previous week. He hit .209 with 12 doubles, four home runs and 21 RBI in 64 games for the Naturals. Dozier previously won Idaho Falls Player of the Year honors in 2013.
Jake Junis, 21, was selected as the Lexington Pitcher of the Year. He posted a 9-8 mark with a 4.30 ERA in his first season with the Legends, making a career-high 22 starts and 26 appearances. He collected 109 strikeouts in 136.0 innings to rank 13th in the South Atlantic League, while his 1.28 WHIP was the 10th-lowest in the league. He was selected by the Royals in the 29th round of the 2011 June Free Agent Draft.
Catcher/first baseman Frank Schwindel, 22, has earned Lexington Player of the Year honors. The right-handed hitter finished the year with Wilmington, but hit .286 with 29 doubles, two triples and 20 homers for the Legends. His 20 homers ranked fourth in the South Atlantic League, while his .515 slugging percentage was third-highest among qualifying hitters. He was named a mid-season All-Star in the SAL and was tabbed the league’s Player of the Week on June 2. Schwindel was selected by Kansas City in the 18th round of the 2013 June First Year Player Draft.
IDAHO FALLS (Rookie-Advanced)
Torey Deshazier, 20, earned Idaho Falls Pitcher of the Year honors. He went 5-3 this year with a 3.17 ERA, making six starts for the Chukars and 13 appearances through September 3. The young right-hander fanned 66 in 65.1 innings this year, tying him for fifth in the Pioneer League. He was signed by the Royals as a non-drafted free agent on June 8, 2012 after pitching collegiately at Arkansas Baptist College.
First baseman Ryan O’Hearn, 21, was tabbed the Idaho Falls Player of the Year. The left-handed hitter batted .361 with 16 doubles, a triple, 13 homers and 54 RBI, to go along with a league-best 61 runs scored through September 3. The Pioneer League All-Star first baseman homered in his first at-bat and went 5-for-5 in his professional debut on June 22. He is leading the league with a .590 slugging percentage and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player on August 30. O’Hearn was KC’s eighth-round selection this season out of Sam Houston State University.
Nik Stephenson was named Burlington Pitcher of the Year. The 20-year-old pitched at both Burlington and Lexington this season, going 3-3 with a 2.14 ERA and a .205 opponents’ batting average in 32 appearances (eight starts) for the Rookie Burlington Royals. His ERA and WHIP totals ranked second among qualifying hurlers in the Appalachian League, while he was 1-0 with a 4.00 ERA in two starts for the Legends. Stephenson was signed by Kansas City as a non-drafted free agent on July 6, 2012.
Outfielder Logan Moon has been tabbed Burlington Player of the Year in his first season of professional baseball. Moon, who was drafted by KC in the sixth round of this year’s draft, collected 10 doubles, five triples, two homers and 24 RBI in 59 games. He won the Appalachian League batting crown, hitting .332, including .361 (39-for-108) in July and .333 in August (30-for-90). The Blue Springs, Mo., native also swiped 16 bases in 18 attempts this season.
DOMINICAN ROYALS (DSL)
Yimaury Pena, 20, was named the Dominican Royals Pitcher of the Year. Pena went 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 14 outings (12 starts) to go with a 1.11 WHIP. He allowed just 10 walks and struck out 55 batters in 67.1 innings.
Catcher Meibrys Viloria earned Dominican Royals Player of the Year honors. The 17-year-old hit .306 (34-for-111) with eight doubles, a triple and two homers in 33 games in the Dominican. He collected 20 RBI and recorded a .383 on-base percentage, drawing 14 walks.
With the regular season drawing to a close, the Royals, like all teams in the playoff chase, are charged with the trying task of resisting the urge to look ahead. Manager Ned Yost said that staying locked into each game is key to his team’s success.
“We look at it day-to-day,” he said. “It’s important that we try to go out and win every single day from here out. We’ve got 25 games left, I think, and every game is going to be big and every game is going to be important. The day is more important than anything else. We’ve put ourselves in a position to sweep the series and that’s exactly what we intend to do.”
Yost said that players will press regardless, but, overall, the job of each member of the club is to refrain from getting ahead of the present.
“There’s always going to be pressing,” he said. “These guys want to do good. They want to win a championship. There’s going to be periods when they try too hard. That’s just natural. But if you can stay focused on your task at hand today, because, if you don’t, it kind of runs away from you.”
Despite periodical struggles at the plate, Yost has stayed true to a positive, largely unfazed approach – a disposition that he feels has served the team well to this point.
“I think my approach has been pretty good all year,” he said. “You just stay calm, you just stay steady. You try not to jump around too much and just continue to lead and guide them. Just do the best you can do. I don’t think the approach changes. You stay real positive with them. We’ve struggled offensively but you just stay positive with them a little bit and keep telling them that they’re going to do fine.”
September roster expansion has had an undeniably different feel to it this season as compared to years past, as recent additions are not simply auditioning for next season, but are being relied upon to help the team win in the heat of a pennant race.
“Lane Adams wouldn’t have been here in years past,” said Yost. “Terrance Gore hasn’t been here in years past to fill a need, to run the bases. Johnny Giavotella, Jayson Nix, they’re here for depth, and we saw last night how important that can be. [Carlos] Peguero, we brought him up to provide some power from the left side. All of the pitchers we brought in for depth down there. It’s important that we have all of these guys. All of these guys have a specific function. In years past, I’d bring these guys up and give them a look, they’d be in the field. Most of these guys are going to stay in their role pretty much.”
Of those players who fielded promotions to the big club, Peguero may carry the most responsibility as it pertains to his presence in the lineup. The 27-year old Dominican started his first game in a Royals uniform, and will be looked upon to provide offensive contributions on a consistent basis.
“He’s been in the big leagues before, so he understands what it’s like,” said Yost. “He was real comfortable, there. We’ve liked him since the first day we saw him in spring training and, really, I think our biggest concern all spring long, and it was a major concern, was how are we going to get this guy through waivers so that we don’t lose him. We sure did not want that to happen. Luckily we did, and we’re glad he’s up here now.”
Rookie Christian Colon was also expected to play a big role for Kansas City into the fall, but a broken middle finger on his throwing hand in last night’s affair has left him unable to throw a baseball. Still, Yost envisions a myriad of opportunities for Colon to contribute offensively.
“There’s still ways he can contribute,” he said. “If we get into a bunt situation, we can use him for that. If we need a base runner we can use him for that. The only thing he can’t do right now is throw because that puts pressure on the tip of that finger, but there’s other things he can do to contribute for us.”
The Kansas City Royals announce that left fielder Alex Gordon is the Royals Majestic Player of the Month for August, while right-handed reliever Wade Davis is the club’s Pitcher of the Month. The player award is determined by a combined fan and media vote, with the pitcher award voted on by local media.
Gordon batted .292 with nine home runs, 16 RBI and 21 runs. He finished second in the Majors in home runs, in a tie for sixth in runs and hit his second career walk-off home run on August 26 vs. Minnesota. This is his second award of the year and 12th of his career.
Davis held opponents scoreless over 14.0 innings, striking out 19 while allowing just one walk. He entered Tuesday with a 27.2 inning scoreless streak, the longest in team history by a reliever. He also won the award in May and July.
Fans have the opportunity to vote for the final Royals Majestic Player of the Month for 2014 by visiting area Kansas Sampler and Rally House locations or the Royals Majestic Team Store at Kauffman Stadium. Participating fans will automatically be entered to win a VIP Experience package which includes an apparel prize pack, tickets to a Royals game and the opportunity to present the Player of the Month award.
If the Royals are to clinch the season series with the Texas Rangers tonight, they’ll likely be charged with the challenge of doing so without the fearsome threesome at the back end of the bullpen.
Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland each pitched again last night, inheriting a one-run lead when Herrera entered in the seventh inning, and subsequently slamming the door on the Rangers to preserve the 4-3 victory. It was the third consecutive night, however, that each of the three was forced into action. As a result, manager Ned Yost asserted that he is reluctant to use any one of them this evening.
“They’re all three tremendous competitors,” said Yost. “They know their importance on this team. All three of them showed up and, really, before we could ask them said, ‘Hey, we’re good to go tonight. It’s one of those where (after) you go three days in a row, you stay away from them. You don’t ask them, you don’t even look at them. Because they’re a tremendous asset to have. You run into problems if you overuse them.”
Yost said that he believes that Kansas City will have enough fresh arms elsewhere in its bullpen to compensate for the absence of the trio.
“We’ve got confidence in the other guys,” he said. “We’ve got a full pen now. We’ve got Aaron Crow back. [Liam] Hendriks is back. So we feel like we’ve got enough to get through it tonight.”
The Royals will look to veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who was extremely effective in his previous outing vs. Texas, tossing 8.0 innings and allowing just one run.
“He was commanding the baseball,” Yost said of Guthrie’s previous meeting with the Rangers. “He was changing speeds, he was hitting his spots. He was sharp, and days when he’s sharp and commanding the ball he’s going to do that.”
Guthrie will be opposed by Derek Holland, who was just activated from the 60-day disabled list on Saturday following a seven-month recovery from left knee surgery. Yost said the Royals have been following Holland’s recovery intently in preparation for their inevitable meeting with the 27-year-old left-hander.
“He’s thrown six rehab starts and we’ve had scouts watching him,” said Yost. “I talked to Mike Maddux about him and he’s excited to see him pitch because he’s been throwing extremely well. We expect him to be Derek Holland.”
Should Holland or any other Texas pitcher allow Royal to reach base late in the contest, Kansas City fans could be treated to recent call-up Terrance Gore in a pinch-running capacity. The 23-year-old, Macon, Ga., native was afforded a spot with the big club for the sole purpose of wreaking havoc on the basepaths.
“I’ve had people tell me that he could quite possibly be the fastest in baseball,” said Yost. “It’s a weapon we needed. With Dyson, now, defending the seventh, eighth inning, that takes away that speed guy.”
As for what it will take for Gore to earn his manager’s trust on the bases, Yost said the Royals will proceed without caution.
“He’s already got it. If we get in a situation tonight, I’m throwing him out there. We’ll see what we’ve got. When these kids come up, all I can do is give them an opportunity. And it’s up to them to take advantage of the opportunities.”
Yost said Gore has been on the club’s radar all season long, as made evident by his August promotion from Single-A Wilmington to Triple-A Omaha.
“We’ve been thinking about it, really, all year long. He has something that’s hard to find, and that’s raw, blazing speed.”
With rosters expanding to 40 players as teams enter the stretch run of the 2014 season, the Kansas City Royals made a slew of roster moves on Monday in attempt to bolster depth with specialists from the organizations’ minor league ranks.
Perhaps the most noteworthy of the September call-ups was the team’s most recent first round selection, left-handed pitcher Brandon Finnegan. The TCU product made 13 appearances between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas, logging 27.0 innings of work and allowing just just four earned runs (1.33 ERA), while striking out 26 batters and walking four. With regard to Finnegan’s role with the Royals, manager Ned Yost said he’s simply taking things one day at a time.
“We’re going to ease him in his first time or two and see how he does,” said Yost. “All the reports that we got are that this kid can help us. Do I have a plan for how I’m going to use him? No. I’m just going to kind of just do it as we go.”
Yost said that after evaluating pitchers within the organization, Finnegan emerged as a player that could have an impact in the pennant race.
“He’s got good stuff. He’s real competitive and he throws strikes. You know, you go into the last month and, at least from my stand point, you’re always looking to go with the hot hand… We’re looking at all available options up here. When we break it down and look at it, he was one of the best options we had. We’re looking for good arms. We’re looking for guys that we feel can compete up here. He filled all of the prerequisites.”
As for the rest of the teams’ additions, Yost said that each player fits a specific role.
“They all kind of fit a role,” he said. “Lane Adams, we brought him up primarily to pinch run. We’ve got guys in the middle of our order that aren’t real fleet of foot. Lane’s (Lane Adams) a real good defender in the outfield. [Francisco] Pena gives us the option, if we pinch run with Sal, we’re not stuck if something happens to Kratz. It’s just depth. Johnny Giavotella gives us the ability to mix and match. [Carlos] Peguero gives us power. He hit 30 home runs in the minor leagues and he was hot right there at the end and we’re in need of offense. We’re looking at it day to day, and, actually, pitch to pitch.”
Yost will get Peguero involved immediately, plugging the left-handed hitting 27-year-old into the starting lineup this evening.
“You look at Colby Lewis’ numbers and there’s like a 70 point difference between right and left-handed hitters, so we wanted to try to get as many left handed hitters as we could in there,” said Yost. “We sorely need some offense. We’re just looking for a way to score some runs.”
By Kolby Paxton
One day after a 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position night for the Royals, manager Ned Yost said “It wasn’t a fun night.” The team left a season-high 16 runners in scoring position and fell into a tie with the Detroit Tigers atop the AL Central standings. Yost said last night had a lot to do with the approach by Kansas City hitters.
“When you break down last night’s game it was really two games that you look at,” Yost said. “We took nine walks to create 18 run-scoring possibilities but we couldn’t create any runs because our approach changed from the time nobody was on base to when we had runners in scoring position. It’s getting them to understand everyone needs a plan. If James Shields went out to the mound yesterday and said ‘hey, I’m just going to throw the ball and see what happens’ that ain’t going to work. Same thing goes for the offense.”
After 35,000+ filled Kauffman Stadium Saturday night, a sell-out will greet the Royals as they take the field for their first home ESPN Sunday Night Baseball appearance in over a decade. Yost said the large crowds has hit hitters trying to do too much.
“The crowds that have been here have been dynamic, just dying to get into the game. I think our guys are dying to get them in the game. When that happens sometimes you push a little bit and we just need to make sure that we stay focused and we’ll get them in the game.”
First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. on ESPN2.
By Nate Rowan
In case you missed it…we had a special guest on Retro Night. Barry Williams, known worldwide for playing Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch, was on hand.
A contestant was participating in a promotion called “Miller Lite Six Pack of Facts” where she received six clues about a person, then had to name the person. She said “Barry Williams” and to her surprise, Barry Williams was standing next to her!
Williams went on to lead the crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. If you missed him at “The K”, you can catch his show in nearby Branson, Mo.
Eric Hosmer began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha this afternoon and he finished the day with two RBI, including the game-winning single in the ninth.
Manager Ned Yost expects Hosmer to get 15 to 20 at-bats before being activated from the disabled list.
“Just get his eye back a little bit,” Yost said. “We just want to get some game-type at-bats under his belt so that when he gets back up here he’s ready to go.”
In other injury-related news, Omar Infante tested his sore right shoulder this afternoon before the game and will start at second base while batting second. Omar has not played since Monday and has missed four games.
Standing room seats still remain for the Kansas City Royals’ game against the Cleveland Indians tomorrow night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPN2 as part of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Remaining standing-room seats are available for $15.00 at http://www.royals.com/tickets. Royals Fans are encouraged to “Bring Your Blue” and fill Kauffman Stadium with a sea of Royal blue to show team pride to the national viewing audience. Fans are also urged to arrive early in order to reduce traffic congestion at Kauffman Stadium.
In light of the excitement surrounding the team’s recent success, the Royals are also offering special ticket deals for fans to come out to the ballpark on Monday, September 1 and Tuesday, September 2 as the Royals take on the Texas Rangers. Hy-Vee Infield seats for Monday and Tuesday, both 7:10 p.m. starts, are priced at just $5. In addition, the Royals are selling Field Plaza tickets for Tuesday’s game for just $10. Fans may take advantage of these deals by visiting http://www.royals.com/dynamicdeals. The Royals will finish the current 10-game homestand with a 7:10 p.m. game against the Rangers on Wednesday, September 3.
Royals lefty Danny Duffy (8-11, 2.47 ERA) will get the start for the Royals on tomorrow night against Cleveland left-hander T.J. House (2-3, 4.18 ERA). Sunday’s game is also a Family FunDay Sunday. The pregame festivities include live entertainment by School of Rock, plus face painters, caricature or balloon artists and more. Fans also have the opportunity to get pregame autographs with select players from 5:45-6:05 p.m. and can meet select former players in the Royals Hall of Fame from 5:15 p.m. until game time.
Nebraska born, Nebraska raised and educated at the University of Nebraska…Lincoln native Alex Gordon has a popularity rating that is off the charts among Royals fans in The Cornhusker State. And as of Thursday night, he has the most home runs of any Major League player born in the state. Yes, the odd stat of 2014…Gordon leads all Nebraskans with 119 home runs, topping Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, who was born in Omaha and raised in Florida. Congrats to Alex!