KC Royals Prospects: 2 farm clubs begin postseason
The KC Royals, who haven’t played postseason baseball since winning their second World Series title in 2015, teased everyone early this season by leading the American League Central for 19 days in April and five more to begin May.
But Kansas City, living up to realistic expectations, dropped out of first May 5 and haven’t been there since. Their playoff hopes disappeared long ago, so the Royals are simply playing out the season and thinking about 2022.
Things are different in the minor leagues, though. Double-A Northwest Arkansas and High-A Quad Cities both made the playoffs and began play in best-of-five formats Tuesday night. Omaha begins play in the 10-game “Triple-A Final Stretch,” a series of games scheduled to make up for contests lost to this season’s delayed start and featuring its own playoff flavor, tonight.
Northwest Arkansas won. Quad Cities didn’t.
Hicklen and Fermin fuel opening win for the KC Royals’ Double-A affiliate.
Vinnie Pasquantino’s 24 homers, 84 RBIs, .300 average, and .394 OBP over stints with Quad Cities and Northwest Arkansas this season make him an odds-on favorite to figure prominently in the playoffs, but he went hitless Tuesday.
Fortunately for the Naturals, however, two other KC prospects picked him up in the first game of the Double-A Central playoffs.
Brewer Hicklen was rated among MLB Pipeline’s‘ best Kansas City prospect before last year’s ultimately canceled minor league season, but after hitting only .243 this year, is nowhere to be found on Pipeline’s current Top 30 list. But his 16 homers, .346 OBP, 40 stolen bases, .329/.446/.697 August line suggested he might be a playoff force.
And that he was Tuesday night. Hicklen broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh inning of the Naturals’ opening game against former Kansas City affiliate Wichita with a one-out, one-run homer.
Wichita scored its fifth run in the ninth, but Freddy Fermin had provided enough cushion for the Naturals in the eighth. With the bases loaded and one out, Fermin rapped a single to center to score Jeison Guzman and Meibrys Viloria with the club’s final two runs, enough for a 7-5 Northwest Arkansas win.
His single capped a three-RBI, 2-for-5 night for Fermin, who also doubled in a run in the third.
Austin Cox, Pipeline’s No. 13 Kansas City prospect, started for the Naturals but gave up three runs in four innings. Lefthander Josh Dye, who went 4-2 with a 2.52 ERA and nine saves in 38 games during the regular season, pitched 2.1 scoreless innings to get the win.
The Naturals host the Wind Surge in the series’ second game tonight.
The KC Royals’ High-A club dropped its opening playoff game Tuesday.
Reliever Caden Monke is wasting no time moving up in the Kansas City organization. Less than a month after the Royals made him a 14th-round draft choice in July, Monke debuted as a pro in the Arizona Complex League, where he gave up a run in four appearances before the Royals moved him up to Low A-ball at Columbia.
He pitched just twice for the Fireflies, surrendering three unearned runs, before another promotion landed him with Quad Cities. He posted a 1.42 ERA in five games for the River Bandits before the playoffs began.
And when things were tight in the seventh inning against Cedar Rapids Tuesday evening, QC manager Chris Widger, who led his club to a 77-41 record to clinch the High-A Central-West Division’s regular season title, put the game in Monke’s hands.
The Bandits and Kernels were tied 1-1 when Monke went in. And that’s where the game stood after Monke retired Cedar Rapids in order in the seventh, Quad Cities failed to score in the eighth, and Monke put away the first two Kernels’ batters in the bottom of the frame.
Unfortunately, he then gave up his second home run as a professional. Jair Camargo’s blast on a 3-1 count gave Cedar Rapids a 2-1 lead that held up when the River Bandits couldn’t score in the ninth.
Nick Loftin, ranked by Pipeline as the organization’s 10th top prospect, had two hits for Quad Cities, and left fielder Eric Cole drove in the River Bandits’ only run with a second-inning single.
The clubs play again tonight at Cedar Rapids.
The KC Royals aren’t in the major league playoffs, but a pair of Kansas City farm clubs started their postseasons Tuesday night.