The Royals went through all of their minor league affiliates and dished out awards to recognize the player and pitcher of the year at every level.
Some names aren’t mentioned very often. Some are the first you’d think of among Royals farmhands.
The Royals first pick in 2010, Christian Colon, won Player of the Year for Northwest Arkansas following up on a disappointing 2011. He spent some time on the disabled list at Double A, and again after being promoted to Triple A after fouling a pitch off that came back and hit him in the face. He’d hit .301/.376/.413 across all levels.
Michael Mariot, who was recently promoted to Triple A, was named the Pitcher of the Year at for the Naturals. He’s a right-handed pitcher who the Royals took in the 8th round in 2010 and has consistent numbers since joining the organization. He threw 113.2 innings in Double A this year with an ERA of 3.40 with a 1.240 WHIP.
Yordano Ventura is a rising prospect in the system. After striking out 98 batters in 76.1 innings for Wilmington and accumulating a 3.40 ERA, he was promoted to Double A, where he’s been since mid-July. He’s the High A level’s Pitcher of the Year, though a case could be made for Jason Adam (3.61 in 152 IP), though he wasn’t as dominant as Ventura.
Whit Merrifield, who was recently tabbed as one of the Royals Fall League players, is the Blue Rocks Player of the Year.
At Kane County, Angel Baez put up a 3.17 ERA in 96.2 innings. He’s a tall righty from the Dominican Republic who signed in 2008. He’s also the Cougars Pitcher of the Year. You can check out a scouting report here.
One of the prospects expected to break out this year, Jorge Bonifacio followed up winning Player of the Year in the Dominican Summer League in 2010 and last year’s Burlington Player of the Year. He hit .282/.336/.432 as a 19-year-old outfielder. Along with that, he hit ten homers, 20 doubles and six triples in 448 plate appearances. He’s an easy top ten prospect next year.
A couple of 2012 draftees earned the Idaho Falls Chukars distinctions. Ethan Chapman is the Player of the Year after a .313/.384/.409 line in 62 games in the short season league. The Royals second round pick, Sam Selman, ran away with the Pitcher of the Year honor. In all 12 appearances, the lefty has struck out more batters than innings pitched, totalling 84 in 55.1 innings since turning pro. He has a 2.11 ERA and is sure to be put at a more challenging level next season.
Colin Rodgers was the Royals third round pick in 2012. He’s also Burlington’s Pitcher of the Year as an 18-year-old after a 2.05 ERA in 48.1 innings. He didn’t strike out a lot (4.7 K/9) but batters couldn’t make good contact off of him (.226 batting average against).
Bubba Starling was the Player of the Year for Burlington after a promising first pro season. He had 10 homers in 53 games and finished the regular season with a .275/.371/.485 line and a big reason why the B-Town Bomb Squad is playing for the Appalachian League championship.
The Surprise (AZ) Royals named Matt Tenuta the Pitcher of the Year. He’s a 25th round pick from this year’s draft who didn’t have amazing numbers, but he only allowed one homer in 39.1 innings pitched. The AZL Royals also named Alexis Rivera the Player of the Year. He turned 18 in June, then went and hit .341/.413/.477 in his first pro league over 206 plate appearances. He’s 6’2″ and 225 pounds and could be an impact prospect in a couple of seasons.
Finally, the Dominican League’s Pitcher of the Year was Miguel Almonte, who was dominant over 50 innings of work, striking out 46 batters and walking only eight in the DSL. He threw another 27 innings and struck out 28, walking just five. Overall, he had a 1.75 ERA after both levels, with a 74/13 K/BB ratio.
The Player of the Year is Wander Franco, who won’t even be 18 years old until December. In 66 games, he drove in 38 runs, scored 44 of his own and had 21 extra base hits.
Some names are familiar, and some you may just be learning, but there were some impressive performances over the minor league season across all levels of the organization. Most of these players will be moved up a level next season. Some will move higher on prospect rankings, and hopefully, the strong performance continues. Selman could use a challenge, as he outmatched the Pioneer League. Bonifacio was a trendy breakout pick last year and didn’t disappoint. Rodgers jumped right into pro ball out of high school and had no problems at all.