It’s easy for Kansas City Royals fans to become cynical when the team is playing yet another meaningless September and likely another losing season. But this year, three of the Royals Minor League affiliates are in the playoffs: the short season Rookie Burlington (NC) Royals, the High A Wilmington (DE) Blue Rocks and the AAA Omaha (NE) Storm Chasers.
The Burlington Royals won the Appalachian League East division 41-25 and played a three game series against the Johnson City Cardinals, a Cardinal affiliate. The Royals won the series two games to one, advancing to the three game League Championship Series against the Elizabethton Twins, a Twins affiliate. The Royals and Twins split the first two games, the Royals winning 3-2 in the first contest and the Twins winning the second game 4-3.
The final game was at Elizabethton and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Royals were ahead 6-1 and were one out away from winning the championship.
Then Kansas City Royals luck struck the Burlington Royals. The Twins had a walk, a hit batsman scored a run, a wild pitch scored another run and then a three run homer tied the game 6-6. The Royals would get the final out and extra innings would decide the winner of the contest. But in the bottom of the 12th, the Twins got three walks before first baseman D.J. Hicks hit a grand slam, winning the final Appalachian League Championship game 10-6.
It was a crushing loss to the Burlington Royals, but the good news was only 573 people saw the final game and it will prepare the young Royals for disappointment. Yes, I’m cynical, but that’s what Royals fans do.
Class High A Wilmington won the Carolina League Northern division with a 37-33 second-half record. Yesterday the Blue Rocks started a three game Division Championship series against the Lynchburg Hillcats, a Braves afilliate, who was a first-half Northern division winner. The Blue Rocks lost the opening game of the series 8-0 at Wilmington. The winner of the series will face the winner of the Winston-Salem Dash (CWS) and Myrtle Beach Pelicans (TEX) series for the Carolina League Championship.
The last time the Blue Rocks were in the playoffs was in 2009, when they had players like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Johnny Giavotella, Louis Coleman, Danny Duffy and Everett Teaford on the team. By the way, the 2009 Blue Rocks lost in the first round of the playoffs against the Hillcats.
The third Royals affiliate to make the playoffs are the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers. The Chasers won the Pacific Coast League title last season and this year they won the American Northern division with a 83-61 record. Yesterday, the Chasers opened a best of five game American Conference Championship series against the Dodgers affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes and as of 10pm Wednesday, the Chasers were ahead 8-4.
The Chasers have top prospects Jake Odorizzi and Baseball America and USA Today Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers, along with solid minor leaguers Irving Falu, Clint Robinson, Mitch Maier and Nathan Adcock. And current Royals Johnny Giavotella, Everett Teaford, Will Smith, Vin Mazzaro, Tony Abreu and David Lough contributed to the Chasers successful season.
If the Chasers win the series, they will face the winner of the Reno Aces (ARI) Sacramento River Cats (OAK) for the Pacific Coast League Championship in a best of five game series.
It’s encouraging, but despite some of the current Royals players having Minor League playoff experience, it hasn’t translated to winning in the Major Leagues. The playoff success of the Royals minor league teams shows the strength of the farm system, but that success hasn’t translated to the Major Leagues yet.
Time will tell if the Blue Rocks and Storm Chasers win their league titles or go down like the Burlington Royals. The Blue Rocks and Storm Chasers have one thing on their side. They aren’t named the Royals. Sorry, I’m being cynical again. But that’s what Royals fans do.