Lexington Legends (58-80 overall in 2015, 6th in both halves of Sally League Southern division)
The Legends were consistently sub-par in 2015, as they finished 8 games below .500 and sixth in the Sally League Southern division first half, then were 14 games below .500 to finish sixth in the division in the second half. The problem was some un-Legendary pitching, as the Legends gave up the most runs and had the highest team ERA and WHIP in the league.
Leading the charge to try to turn that trend around are top prospects Nolan Watson and Foster Griffin. Watson, one of the Royals’ 1st round picks in 2015, had a rough adjustment to pro ball in limited time in Burlington as he posted a 4.91 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in 29 1/3 IP. Meanwhile Griffin, a 2014 1st rounder, had tough results in Lexington with a 5.44 ERA, in 22 starts.
2014 2nd rounder righty Scott Blewett will return to try to right the ship after putting up a 5.20 ERA in 18 starts for the Legends in 2015. Right-hander Yunior Marte had his struggles for the Legends as well in 2015, but returns to the Sally League.
Righty Jacob Bodner had impressive stats out of the bullpen for Burlington in 2015, as he saved 5 games and boasted a 0.77 ERA, with only 3 BB to 26 K’s in 23 1/3 innings of work.
Other Legends pitchers include: righty Torey Deshazier, lefty Kyle Kubat (0.76 ERA in 35 1/3 IP for the AZL Royals in 2015), righty Jake Newberry, lefty Emilio Ogando, righty starter Julio Pinto, righty Corey Ray, righty Niklas Stephenson, and righty Franco Terrero.
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The Legends have a handful of intriguing position players, including a couple making their full season debuts. C Chase Vallot hit for a .758 OPS for Lexington in 80 games, including 13 HR. He is the Royals 11th ranked prospect and, along side O’Hearn, is arguably the Royals best power prospect.
Italian SS Marlen Gasparini moves up from Idaho Falls after posting a .752 OPS with 10 triples and 26 SB in 54 games. One of the Royals most intriguing prospect at #8 on the prospect list, he has the glove and arm to stay at shortstop, but could wind up developing into a heck of a second basemen, along side Mondesi, in the future.
My personal favorite is OF Amalani Fukofuka, who ripped the Pioneer League for a .901 OPS including 9 triples, a .339 BA, and a .401 OBP in 67 games in 2015. He comes in at #20 on the Royals prospect list, who has one of the quickest bats in the system. OF prospect Anderson Miller joins Fukofuka in the outfield, hitting for just a .674 OPS in 43 games with Lexington in 2015.
The rest of the Legends offense includes C Xavier Fernandez (.896 OPS and .329 BA in 42 games for Burlington in 2015), 2B D.J. Burt (.784 OPS and 20 SB, .392 OBP in 65 games with Idaho Falls in 2015), 1B Samir Duenez (.646 OPS in 2015 for Lexington), 1B Brandon Dulin (.875 OPS with 10 HR in Idaho Falls in 2015), SS Jeckson Flores (.788 OPS in Idaho Falls in 2015), 3B Mike Hill (.709 OPS for the Legends in 2015), OF Ben Johnson (.839 OPS in Burlington in 2015), and OF Cody Jones (.703 OPS, 22 SB for Idaho Falls in 2015).
The Legends start a 4-game home set with the Lakewood BlueClaws (A Philadelphia) on Thursday.
(Most notably absent from this preview, other than Zimmer’s pending location, is another of the top prospects, righty Ashe Russell, the 2015 1st rounder who had a solid pro debut with Burlington in 2015. I assume he may make a full season squad appearance at some point this year.)