Kansas City Royals: Minor league players of the year, Part II
By Shawn Bauman
This is the second part of the minor league pitchers and players of the year for the Kansas City Royals focusing now on A to AAA players.
South Atlantic League (A):
The Lexington Legends were another Kansas City Royals farm club to claim a championship in 2019. While the Legends’ Jeison Guzman‘s (SS) slash of .253/.296/.373 was not overly impressive, the Sally League was tough on hitters all around in 2019 as batters combined to hit for a .239 average. Guzman signed as an international free agent and hails from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
The $1.5 million dollar contract certainly puts a lot a pressure on the 20-year-old and he has not yet had a dynamite season. However, he did end the season batting .300 and driving 2 home runs with 7 RBI’s in his last 10 games and the Royals hope that success will carry over into 2020.
Oklahoma State player Jon Heasley (RHP) played a full season in Lexington after first being drafted in ’18, then spending the summer in Idaho Falls. For ’19 he pitched to an 8-5 record with 20 starts in 25 total appearances and striking out 120 batters in 112.2 innings which was a nice step forward in ’19. Heasley also has a tremendous mustache that will surely intimidate hitters for years to come.
Carolina League (Adv-A):
Brewer Hicklen (LF) was a 7th round selection out of Alabama-Birmingham in 2017. After a strong 2018 in Lexington, he played a handful of games for the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Returning to the Blue Rocks for all of ’19, Hicklen led the team in home runs (14), hits (110), plate appearances (494), triples (7), stolen bases (39), walks (55), OPS (.790), and runs (70). Even better news is the .943 OPS Hicklen posted in August plus his inclusion in the Arizona Fall League.
If the first several names in this series have not caught your attention, the next player should. Part of the “The Draft” in 2018, Kris Bubic (LHP) out of Stanford did nothing but dominate in 2019. His first nine starts at Lexington were amazing with a 0.88 WHIP and he held hitters to a .164 average. The step up to Advanced-A ball did not slow him down at all.
Starting 17 times, Bubic caused 110 batters in 101.2 innings to whiff and only surrendered 76 hits. Between the two levels, he only allowed 6 dingers in 149 plus frames. It appears he could be toeing the rubber for the big league club sooner than later and is listed as the #6 prospect for the Royals.