Tag Archive | "Southpaw"

Now is the time for Kansas City Royals’ Duffy

After missing much of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery, it appears that Danny Duffy is ready to claim a spot in the Kansas City Royals’ rotation for the rest of this season and possibly next season as well.

DannyDuffy

Duffy, who has replaced the struggling Wade Davis in the starting rotation, shut down the Twins in his latest start. He pitched 6.2 innings, allowing just five hits and no runs, while striking out seven. Perhaps the most important stat from that start, however, was that Duffy did not allow a walk. It was the first start in his career that he didn’t issue a free pass.

The knock on Duffy has always been his lack of control. And pitchers that come back from Tommy John surgery tend to struggle finding a feel for the strike zone initially. In his only other two starts this season, Duffy walked two batters in 3.2 innings and three batters in 6 innings.

In Duffy’s three years pitching in the majors, he has a walk rate of 4.5/9. While the walks tend to pile up for the talented southpaw, he has always shown strike out potential, with a strike out rate of 8.0/9 for his career.

Duffy was drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft and coming into the 2011 season, he was ranked as the 68th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. So the potential has always been there.

The 6-foot-3 lefty spent six years in the minor leagues, earning 30-16 record, with an impressive 2.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. His minor league K/9 is 10.6 and his BB/9 is 3.0, considerably less than his 4.5 mark in the majors.

Duffy debuted in 2011, starting 20 games and finishing with a 4-8 record and a 5.64 ERA. He showed improvement in 2012 before his injury. He started six games and recorded a 3.90 ERA.

While the Tommy John injury delayed his development, Duffy appears to be back on track. He has a chance to show that he is a big part of the Royals’ future. If he can finish this season strong and continue to improve with his control, he should lock up a spot in next year’s starting five and perhaps beyond.

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Triple Play: Matt Garza, Ichiro, Jose Fernandez

In this week’s Triple Play, we look at some brilliant pitching performances, a future Hall of Famer nearing a major milestone, a recently traded pitcher acting like a fool and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Off we go:

IchiroSuzuki

Who’s Hot?

Starting pitchers in both leagues

Have you noticed just how many ridiculously brilliant pitching performances there have been since the All-Star break? Jose Fernandez (more on him below). Francisco Liriano. Clayton Kershaw. David Price. Max Scherzer. Justin Masterson. Yu Darvish. I couldn’t narrow it down to a single “hottest” pitcher over the past week or two, so I’ll spotlight a handful of the best games, in no particular order:

  1. Price. In four starts since the All-Star break, Price has spun 32 1/3 innings in which he allowed 19 hits and seven earned runs, with 22 strikeouts and one (!!) walk. Opponents watched Price throw 73% of his pitches for strikes and they hit a measly .167 off him.
  2. Liriano. Has there been a better return-to-dominance story than Liriano this season? Once half of a devastating 1-2 punch (with Johan Santana) in Minnesota, Liriano has finally rediscovered his swagger after several years of injuries and struggles. In his past three starts, he has shut down the Nationals, Cardinals and Rockies while pitching at least seven innings each time (all won by the Pirates), and allowing a total of eight hits. While he needs to cut down on the walks (10 in those three starts), he has shown a knack for getting critical strikeouts and his changeup has been deadly.
  3. Kershaw. The Dodgers’ 25-year-old southpaw has been even better than he was in 2012, when he finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting. Since the break, he has started three times and allowed a total of three runs, while striking out 22 and walking none in 23 innings. Like with Miguel Cabrera’s hitting, I’m running out of superlatives to describe Kershaw’s pitching.
  4. Scherzer. Baseball writers (including me) and analysts who predicted a falloff from Scherzer are still waiting. He has been just as dominant in his three starts since the break as he was before. In those three, he tossed 21 2/3 innings of 0.83 ERA ball, with 18 punchouts and only three walks. Opponents are slugging an absurd .211 off Scherzer in those three games (all Tiger wins). Although Brian Kenny would be aghast Scherzer’s 16-1 record, fantasy owners certainly aren’t.
  5. Darvish. After getting knocked around by the Astros in his final start before the break, it is safe to say Darvish is back on track. To wit, he has allowed just one run in his past three starts versus the Yankees, Indians and Diamondbacks, while fanning almost 40% of the batters he faced in those three games. His seven-inning, 14-strikeout, no-walk steamrolling of Arizona was nothing short of brilliant.
  6. Masterson. Perhaps the most surprising name on this list, Masterson has transformed into the ace of an unexpectedly tough Indians rotation. He leads the AL with three shutouts, the most recent of which, was a 1-0 masterpiece in which he outpitched Darvish at home on July 27. Since the All-Star break, Masterson has limited his walks (four in three starts) while maintaining the strikeouts (23).

If you are a fan of dominant pitching (as I am), these two weeks since the All-Star break have been a joy to watch. It’s no wonder that teams rarely trade pitchers anymore unless they overpay drastically.

Who’s Not?

Matt Garza, Texas Rangers

Normally, this spot is reserved for a player who is struggling or not playing well. Saturday night, though, Garza displayed behavior so boorish, so idiotic, that he merits this spot for the week. Here’s the scenario: 1) Garza is a poor fielder; 2) normal third baseman Adrian Beltre was serving as the DH, and 3) second baseman Eric Sogard is a good bunter. This led to the A’s bunting four times, including Sogard’s perfectly executed suicide squeeze in the 7th inning that plated Oakland’s fourth run of the game. Solid strategy, right? Take advantage of another team’s weakness, especially when that team is a division rival trying to catch you. Garza barked at Sogard while walking off the field after the inning, but played it off after the game, saying he was asking if there were any good places to eat in Oakland. He added,”They showed me how they were going to play and how they were going to attack me, and that’s fine. Next time, I’ll be ready. That’s it.” It seemed to be done and over.

After the game, though, Garza went over the edge and started tweeting at Sogard and his wife, Kaycee:

GarzaRant

Where do you even start with this? Aside from being a sore loser and displaying repeated ignorance of basic grammar, you’re still left with the complete and utter disrespect of a player’s wife and of women in general. Man’s game? Some people can’t shut there [sic] women up? Seriously? I can understand being hyper-competitive and angry about a game, but how taking it to this level is pure misogynistic stupidity. And the half-hearted apology – “sorry I let my competitive edge out” – is laughable at best.

By the way, here’s what Kaycee Sogard tweeted that got the cement-headed Garza so riled up: “Get em on, get em over, get em in!” Some pretty controversial stuff there. To their credit, Sogard and his wife said they consider the whole matter a joke, which is a perfect response. Garza certainly made a laughingstock of himself Saturday night. He did issue a statement of apology yesterday, but it lacked sincerity and sounded like something his agent’s summer intern wrote for him. But, hey, I guess we should give him credit for not going with the “my Twitter was hacked” excuse. In any case, Garza wins the award for Neanderthal of the Week, and I dearly hope the A’s use the exact same tactics on him if they face off again this season.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .305/.361/.461, 11 HR, 54 RBI, 3 SB, 50 runs, 122 OPS+

Player B: .323/.367/.412, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 3 SB, 28 runs, 112 OPS+

Player A is Jhonny Peralta. Player B is Jose Iglesias, who will likely be replacing Peralta as Detroit’s everyday shortstop this week. If all the Biogenesis reports are true, then Peralta is staring at a 50-game suspension that will take him out of the lineup until late September. Under those circumstances, the Tigers traded outfield prospect Avisail Garcia and others as part of a three-team deal that also saw Jake Peavy go from the White Sox to the Red Sox. Most importantly for Detroit, though, is a quality replacement for Peralta. Iglesias may not have the power Peralta offers, but he is a FAR superior defender and has not been nearly as overmatched at the plate as some feared before the season. With Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez, the Tigers have enough offense to get by without Peralta’s bat. Thanks to the acquisition of Iglesias, their defense should actually improve, which will be to the benefit of their pitchers.

Player A: .440/.452/.700, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 5 runs

Player B: .255/.319/.558, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 4 runs

Player A is the Mariners’ Kendrys Morales since the All-Star break. Player B is Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs during that same time frame. Both players would have been perfect fits for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Morales could have taken over at first base, with Garrett Jones sliding back to right field. Schierholtz would have been a perfect platoon partner in right. Morales’ season totals of 17 homers, 63 RBI and 50 runs scored would rank 2nd for the Pirates, while Schierholtz’s ability to hammer right-handed pitching would have been an ideal fit for a team in need of that particular skill. Instead, though, Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington failed to make any deals by the July 31 deadline. Any chance to acquire either player is likely gone. Although the Pirates took four of five in last week’s huge series against the Cardinals (and seized back first place in the process), fans are right to wonder if Huntington’s failure will come back to haunt the team before the end of the season.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Once Adam Wainwright started the 2013 season by pitching 37 innings before allowing his first walk of the season, we started a weekly tracker to keep track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace hands out this season. He has led the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio all season, and it hasn’t been close. His most recent start, last Wednesday against the Pirates, saw Wainwright do something he hadn’t done all season: walk the first batter of the game. That would be his only walk allowed, as he went seven innings, surrendering four runs and whiffing six. For the season, Wainwright has walked just 19 hitters, versus 151 strikeouts (still an 8-to-1 K/BB ratio).
  • Oakland’s Bartolo Colon and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee are the next closest starters in terms of fewest walks allowed, with 19 and 22, respectively.
  • Ichiro Hit Tracker: the former Mariner and current Yankee outfielder is closing in on 4,000 hits in his brilliant career (including the 1,278 he tallied in Japan). Going into Monday’s games, he sits at 3,986. Only Ty Cobb and Pete Rose have reached the 4,000 summit.
  • At age 39, Ichiro doesn’t get on base as often as he once did, nor does he dazzle us with his speed or cannon arm, but at no point should it be lost on us that we have been witness to one of the greatest hitters of this generation. After a slow first two months to the season, he has hit a respectable .296/.333/.403, while ranking second on the team in stolen bases, third in runs scored and fourth in OPS+ and total bases.
  • Every once in a while, Ichiro can still turn back the clock to the pinnacle of his greatness in Seattle. On July 31, in a rare trip Yankees-Dodgers matchup in Los Angeles, he uncorked a laser from right field to nail Hanley Ramirez at home and keep it a one-run game (which New York would go on to lose 3-2). The day before that, he went 4-for-4 with an RBI in a 6-5 win over Tampa Bay.
  • At his current pace, Ichiro should notch hit #4,000 between Aug. 12-18. The Yanks host the Angels between the 12th-15th, then travel to Boston for a three-game set on Aug. 16. With the Yankees’ luck this year, it will happen in their archrival’s home field.
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to see as much coverage devoted to Ichiro reaching this milestone as has been wasted on Alex Rodriguez? I’m sure the Yankees would welcome it.
  • Jose Fernandez is Really Good, Vol. III: the Marlins’ phenom, who just turned 21 last week, became the first 20-year-old to have an ERA+ (which adjusts for park factors) of at least 150 since Dwight Gooden did it in 1985.
  • Incidentally, Gooden’s ERA+ in 1985 was an other-worldly, mind-blowing 229.
  • Jose Fernandez is Really Good, Vol. IV: Last week, Fernandez became the first hurler to fan at least 13 batters in consecutive starts since Randy Johnson in 2004, and the first rookie since Kerry Wood in 1998.
  • Jose Fernandez is Really Good, Vol. V: The last rookie to notch at least 10 strikeouts four times in his freshman season was Cole Hamels in 2006. Since his electric appearance in the All-Star Game, Fernandez has fanned 35 hitters in 23 innings, while allowing just 13 hits and three walks.
  • A few weeks ago, I predicted in this column that the Rookie of the Year Award was Yasiel Puig’s to lose. Fernandez is making me re-think that prediction, even with a possible innings shutdown looming in the next month.
  • The Dodgers have won 14 straight road games, the longest such streak since the 1984 Detroit Tigers. The NL record for consecutive road wins is 17, set by the 1916 New York Giants. Breaking that streak will be tough, though: Los Angeles next takes on the Cardinals in St. Louis.
  • If Hanley Ramirez and Puig are out with injuries, the task becomes even tougher.
  • News: Ron Washington became the all-time winningest manager in Rangers history Sunday. Views: The fact that Washington did that in just his 7th season on the job tells how just how bad the Rangers have been in their history until he took over.
  • All those who thought the Royals would have a better record than the Yankees on August 5, raise your hand.
  • Finally, it was 20 years ago yesterday that Robin Ventura decided to charge Nolan Ryan after taking a heater in the back. The still image of Ventura in a headlock as Ryan prepared to punch him in the face is legendary, but many people forget that Ventura managed to wiggle out of the headlock and appeared to be in the process of tackling Ryan as the swarm of players enveloped them. Still, the overriding lesson, to this day, is that you just don’t mess with Nolan Ryan.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Naturals Announce Preliminary 2012 Roster

Naturals Announce Preliminary 2012 Roster
14 players return from last year’s playoff team

SURPRISE, AZ – As the Northwest Arkansas Naturals prepare to break camp in Arizona in the coming days, the Naturals announce a preliminary roster as spring training draws to a close.

The roster includes 14 players who contributed to the Naturals’ playoff run in 2011. Joining those Double-A veterans are a group of talented players who finished 2011 with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the Royals’ affiliate in the Advanced-A Carolina League, a catcher who spent last season with Class-A Kane County in the Midwest League, and two players who were in the San Francisco Giants organization this past season.

The roster will include six of the Royals’ top 20 prospects as ranked by Baseball America.  This includes top outfield prospect Wil Myers, who is ranked as the third best prospect in the Royals system and starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who is ranked fourth overall in the Royals system.

The other prospects ranking in the top 20 that are headed to Northwest Arkansas include starting pitchers Chris Dwyer (9th), Noel Arguelles (17th), Tim Melville (19th)and infielder Christian Colon (11th)

Dwyer and Odorizzi are the only two starters with experience at the Double-A level last season with the Naturals.  Odorizzi was a key starter for the Naturals in their late season playoff run, going 5-3 with a 4.72 ERA in 12 starts last season.  The rest of the rotation will likely feature southpaw Justin Marksalong with Melville, and Arguelles.  Marks ranked second in the Royals organization in strikeouts last season with 140, while in Class-A Advanced Wilmington.  Both Arguelles and Mellville were in last year’s Blue Rocks’ rotation as well.

The bullpen will feature a lot of players with experience in Northwest Arkansas, and three newcomers.  The newcomers include Bryan Paukovits, Elisaul Pimenteland Michael Mariot all of whom pitched for the Wilmington Blue Rocks last season.  Patrick Keating, the Naturals’ franchise leader in saves highlights a group of returners that includes Buddy Baumann, Andrew Dobies, Blaine Hardy, Brendan Laffertyand Kendal Volz.

A large portion of the Naturals’ catching duties will be split between Julio Rodriguez and Ben Theriot.  Rodriguez comes as a highly touted defensive catcher, who the Royals acquired from the Tigers last season in the Wilson Betemit trade with the Tigers. Theriot hit .303 for the Naturals last season and will provide some left-handed power when in the lineup.  The Naturals third catcher will be Ryan Jenkins.  Jenkins was selected by the Royals in the 17th round of the 2010 draft out of Auburn and split last season between Rookie Level Surprise and Idaho Falls, before finishing the season with Class-A Kane County. 

Colon will begin his second full season as the Naturals shortstop, although he did see some time at second base as well during the Arizona Fall League.  Colon hit .299 in the Arizona Fall League following the regular season, and remains the top-rated infield prospect in the Royals organization.

Joining Colon in the infield is a group of veterans that includes a newcomer to the Texas League. Sharlon Schoop comes to the Texas League after being signed as a minor league free agent this past off season.  Schoop played five different positions last season while with Double-A Richmond.  Mario Lisson, Kurt Mertins, Rey Navarroand John Whittleman will round out the infield for the Naturals.  Whittleman is the only one of the group not to appear for the Naturals last season, but has spent time in the Texas League with Frisco from 2008-10.

Myers is going to be returning to the Naturals after putting up huge numbers in the Arizona Fall League following last season.  He hit .360 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 23 games.  Myers hit .254 while with the Naturals, while dealing with a knee injury.

Myers will be joined in the outfield by Yem Prades, Carlo Testaand Terry Evans.  Prades finished his first full season in the minor leagues last year while with Class-A Wilmington where he hit .289.  Testa was also in Wilmington last season put up similar numbers, hitting .290 in 100 games and cranking five of his seven homers in the month of August.  Evans was signed by the Royals on March 6th to add depth to the outfield.  He split last season between Double-A Reading (Philadelphia Phillies) and Triple-A Fresno (San Francisco Giants).  He also appeared in the major leagues with the Los Angeles Angels in 2007, 2009-10, and was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals.  Like Whittleman, he has Texas League experience with both the Springfield Cardinals and the Arkansas Travelers, both during the 2006 season.

Several former Naturals are also remaining in Arizona to rehab from injuries.  The list includes Edgar Garcia, Edgar Osuna, Paulo Orlando, Nick Van Strattenand John Lamb.  These players could potentially see action with the Naturals in 2012.

This preliminary roster is subject to change, possibly more than once, before the Naturals’ season opening game in Corpus Christi on Thursday April 5th.  The Naturals home opener is Thursday April 12th at Arvest Ballpark against the San Antonio Missions.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state of the art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. You can purchase season tickets and group outings with the Naturals by calling (479) 927-4900.

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Bruce Chen Is Saying All The Right Things

The Kansas City Royals awarded Bruce Chen with the Bruce Rice Pitcher Of The Year Award for 2011.

Bruce Chen was a floundering pitcher who seemed to have lost his way. The Royals felt that he had something left to offer and brought him to the organization in 2009. Now, with a youth movement brewing in Kansas City, Chen finds himself as a defacto leader of the pitching staff, and he is saying all the right things.

From the Royals Awards information: Chen, 34, was 12-8 with a career best 3.77 ERA in 25 starts, leading the club in victories for the second straight season. Last year’s Joe Burke Special Achievement Award winner was 8-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 14 starts against AL Central opponents. He closed the season by posting a 6-3 mark in hi final 10 starts with a 2.93 ERA and recorded a career long five-game winning streak from August 7-28. Chen became the first Royals southpaw to win 12 or more games in back-to-back season since Charlie Leibrandt (1985-88).

It is no secret that the Royals are young, in fact, they are the youngest team in Major League Baseball currently. That makes players like Chen, Jeff Francoeur and Joakim Soria all that more important to the franchise. But it is not a role that Chen takes lightly or feels he needs to actively pursue. During a conversation with i70 at the awards luncheon, Chen stated a desire to lead by example for the younger players and not force himself on them as a “leader” by title.

I like it (being the veteran)…these guys are young, full of energy, fun to be around…I feel like I’m a 27 or 25 year old pitcher. I don’t consider myself the leader, but I try to lead by example. It is an honor and a priveledge to be in the big leagues.

One of the keys to the Royals are the young players coming through the system. Chen stated that he is excited to play with guys like Wil Meyers, who he is not sure will arrive in Kansas City in 2012, and pitchers like Mike Montgomery. His true excitement lies with catcher Salvador Perez, however.

Perez is an exciting young catching prospect and Chen is excited to get to Arizona for Spring Training and start working with Perez. Developing that chemistry with his catcher is important to him as he knows he is not the easiest guy to catch.

It’s hard (working with a new catcher), you roll with the punches, you want to see who the guy is so you can develop chemistry. I’m not an easy guy to catch. I have like seven different pitches and I’m picky as to where I want them. Salvador is a very good catcher, defensively, throws guys out and blocks balls in the dirt.

With a variety of different pitches, Chen took some time to poke fun at his reputation as a breaking ball pitcher when he unveiled his work on a new pitch this off season.

I have my secret weapon, a new pitch for this year, it’s called a fastball. I plan to throw two or three a game. I still don’t have the hang of it.

Chen, who recently resigned with the Royals, thinks that returning to the organization was important to him personally. Not only does he believe that this organization took a chance on him when no one else would, making him feel some loyalty to the team, he also feels that there is “unfinished business” in Kansas City. “This town and fans want a championship”, and Chen feels that he is a vital part to this team being able to bring one home.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Hot Stove: International Representation May Bolster ’12 Nats

Hot Stove: International representation may bolster ’12 Nats
Current, former Naturals wrap up winter ball stints

SPRINGDALE, AR – In the first four years of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals’ existence, their roster has been dotted with Latin American players representing Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and even Brazil. While that is no doubt a diverse group, the 2012 Naturals may have to hang a few extra flags.

Cuba, Panama, and Curacao could all find themselves represented on this season’s Naturals’ roster as Northwest Arkansas attempts to cover all of its international bases with respect to baseball-playing nations. The quartet of potential Naturals is led by a pair of intriguing Cubans – left-handed pitcher Noel Arguelles and outfielder Yem Prades — who spent their first full seasons in professional baseball together last season at Advanced Class-A Wilmington, and also includes Panamanian reliever Yeliar Castro and Curacao-born utility player Sharlon Schoop.

Royals fans may remember Arguelles, who Kansas City GM Dayton Moore signed to a $7 million contract prior to the 2010 season. Perhaps due to fatigue related to helping the Cuban National team, Arguelles didn’t make it out of Arizona that season but finally got on the field last year with Wilmington. The southpaw got off to a fast start, allowing just two runs over 17 2/3 innings (the Royals limited his innings) in his first four starts, good for a 1.02 ERA. Though he was shut down for the season after reaching 104 innings in early August, he finished his first professional season with a 4-5 record and a 3.20 ERA. Perhaps more importantly, he allowed just 93 hits and issued only 24 walks in those 104 innings and held opposing hitters to a .245 average.

Arguelles doesn’t possess the raw stuff or radar-gun lighting abilities of a higher-profile Cuban defector that came to the United States around the same time (Cincinnati Reds’ Aroldis Chapman), but at well over $20 million less of an price tag, he represented a younger investment and perhaps a better play. The 6’3”, 215 pound lefty will be just 22 on Opening Day, when he should take his low 90’s fastball and complementary breaking pitches into the Naturals’ rotation.

Prades was even less hyped than Arguelles coming from Cuba. He defected to the Dominican Republic in 2008 and was signed in April by Rene Francisco, the Royals’ Special Assistant to the GM/International Operations. The 23-year old outfielder was assigned to Wilmington in May and was fairly consistent at the plate, batting .289 with four homers, 11 steals, and 24 RBI’s in 80 games, holding his own in the pitching-oriented environment the Blue Rocks play in. Francisco was quoted on a blog site that Prades, who’ll turn 24 during spring training, has “above-average tools.” Between that and serving as a companion for Arguelles as they continue their assimilation to professional baseball in the US, expect those tools to be on display in Double-A this year.

Castro may not be familiar to Naturals fans but would be familiar with Moore and Francisco, who both worked for the Atlanta Braves when the right-hander signed out of Panama on July 2nd, 2004. Fast forward to 2011 – Castro became a minor league free agent, and the Royals, with several ex-Braves front office staff members still familiar with names they signed out of the international market, gave him a contract. A countryman of Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera, Castro strikes out a batter or more per inning – 44 in 39 innings across three levels in 2011.

Lastly, Schoop is a versatile player who can play all four infield positions and the corner OF positions. Should he end up on the Naturals, he’ll be the first player of Dutch heritage to play for Northwest Arkansas. Schoop spent the first part of his career in the San Francisco Giants’ organization and batted .243 in portions of three seasons in the Eastern League, but has the potential to offer Naturals’ skipper Brian Poldberg tremendous versatility – last season he played 34 games at shortstop, 25 at first base, 11 at third base, and three games at second. Like big league outfielder Andruw Jones, Schoop is a resident of Willemstad, Curacao, a baseball-appreciating nation that sits in the middle of the South Caribbean – typically soccer-loving countries.

Naturals/Texas League Notes

Managerial Notes: Between the announcement Monday that Brian Poldberg and his entire staff will be returning to Northwest Arkansas and last week’s announcement by the Corpus Christi Hooks that they’ll have a new skipper (Keith Bodie) again in 2012, the Arkansas Travelers and Frisco RoughRiders are the lone two teams yet to name their field staffs for the upcoming season. The Naturals will open the season on a six-game road swing that starts against Bodie’s Hooks on April 5th in Corpus Christi.

Winter League Report

The Winter Leagues have wrapped up across Mexico and the Caribbean…

Puerto Rico: Rey Navarro (Crillos de Caguas) wrapped up his season in the league with hits in four of his last five games to finish at .187 (14-for-75). He did have a homer and 11 RBI’s… Irving Falu (Indios de Mayaguez) had a solid campaign in Puerto Rico, batting .284 with 13 RBI’s in 41 games… Angel Sanchez, teammates with Falu, had a stellar winter league season, batting .293 with a homer and ten RBI’s as he preps to compete for playing time with the Houston Astros this year…Mario Santiago, having completed a stint in the Dominican Republic that saw him go 2-0 with a 2.62 ERA in nine appearances for Tigres del Licey, now has re-located back to his native Puerto Rico and joined his usual club, the Gigantes de Carolina. He made four starts for that club and finished allowing just two runs in 23 innings, holding batters to a .222 average.

Venezuela: Mario Lisson (Navegantes de Magallanes) got more playing time than ever before in winter ball and carried his solid average and power production from the Naturals’ regular season with him, batting .279 with 11 homers and 29 RBI’s. He’ll hope that translates into a push for a spot with Triple-A Omaha this spring…Former Natural Ernesto Mejia (Aguilas del Zulia) cooled off late in the season to finish at .262 with ten homers and 49 RBI’s, which led his team…Manny Pina (Bravos de Margarita) sees mainly defensive duty only for the Bravos, and he finished with a .128 average in 18 games.

Dominican Republic: Manauris Baez (Estrellas de Oriente) finished out a stellar winter league season, making ten starts among 11 appearances and going 2-1 with a 1.66 ERA… Willy Lebron made one more appearance late in the year for Licey and finished with a 2-3 record and 3.28 ERA, fanning 22 in 24 2/3 innings… Kelvin Herrera (Leones del Escogido) completed his stint in winter ball after 12 outings, having allowed just one earned run and fanning 15 while walking four in 17 1/3 innings pitched…He was teammates with Everett Teaford, who finished his winter league season with five starts, during which he went 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA, striking out 29 batters and walking only three in 23 2/3 innings. Elisaul Pimentel (Leones del Escogido) made eight appearances out of the bullpen with a 2.70 ERA, striking out 12 in 13 1/3 innings of work…Naturals’ southpaw Andrew Dobies (Toros del Este) really struggled in six appearances as a lefty specialist, allowing five runs in 2 1/3 innings of work. Edgar Garcia (Tigres del Licey) made just two appearances and had a 5.40 ERA.

Mexico: Federico Castaneda (Tomateros de Culiacan) had an up-and-down season in the Mexican League and completed his year with a 1-2 record and 5.75 ERA in 25 outings, although he displayed a great strikeout to walk ratio of 24-8 in 20 1/3 innings…Royals’ minor league Rule 5 acquisition Thomas Melgarejo (Aguilas de Mexicali) finished with a 3.57 ERA in 26 appearances. Marlon Arias, a southpaw signed by the Royals in December, played in both the Dominican and Mexico and pitched to a 2.08 ERA in 13 appearances between the two stops.

These teams and respective leagues will play the round-robin Caribbean Series which takes place in February just before early reports for Major League Spring Training.

Transaction Log: Former Naturals’ pitcher Barry Bowden, who appeared with the club late in the 2010 season, was released by the Royals in late December. Bowden, a right-handed reliever, missed all of 2011 recovering from a shoulder injury…Former Naturals’ slugger Corey Smith, who hit 21 homers and drove in 90 runs during the 2009 season, signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox after two seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization, where he split time between their Double-A and Triple-A levels. It is a homecoming of sorts for Smith, who played for the White Sox’ Double-A Birmingham affiliate in 2006…Third baseman Josh Fields, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy quarterback who spent 11 games with the Naturals on a rehab assignment in 2010, signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers that includes an invite to big league spring training. He is returning to the states after spending the bulk of the 2011 season in the Korean Baseball League…

Check nwanaturals.com twice monthly for the Hot Stove Report, where we’ll continue to follow Royals’ minor leaguers in winter ball as well as cover other off-season baseball information that pertains to the Naturals and the Texas League.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Naturals Provide Hot Stove Report

DALLAS, TX – A few former Northwest Arkansas Naturals have spent the past couple weeks seeing their names bandied about in trade rumors as respect for the job Royals’ GM Dayton Moore and his key front office executives have done building the farm system gets noticed across baseball.

Naturals’ outfielder Wil Myers has been thrown around in more than a few of those rumors. Earlier this fall, several different sources had him being of interest to the Atlanta Braves, who were attempting to interest the Royals in starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens and infielder/outfielder Martin Prado. In Dallas, it was rumored that the Oakland Athletics were placing talented southpaw Gio Gonzalez on the block, with Myers one of a couple of players that might interest the A’s should they hook up with the Royals on a trade.

“I’d like to keep Wil Myers‘ name out of the paper as much as possible,” Moore told Dick Kaegel of MLB.com. “Wil Myers is a young, talented player. He had a tremendous Arizona Fall League. We live with him every day. We love him and he’s a big part of our future. But he’s a Double-A player. He’s going to produce at his own natural rate. We’re not going to put unrealistic expectations on him. What other cliche do you want?”

In the end, nothing took place on either front, as KC would prefer to hold onto Myers, who finished a stellar stint in the Arizona Fall League, batting .360 with a .481 on-base percentage. The Kansas City Star reported that one reason for holding off on exchanging prospects for major league pieces, particularly a young southpaw like Gonzalez, was that the Royals wanted to see how their own young left-handers – all current or former Naturals like Chris Dwyer, Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, and Will Smith, continued to develop. They also have Naturals’ lefty John Lamb, arguably the most talented of them all, recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The Royals are hopeful Lamb will be able to return to action mid-season, and that he and the rest of the quintet of southpaw prospects proves the pitching depth Kansas City appeared to have prior to the 2011 season is very much intact.

Another rumor had the Toronto Blue Jays interested in emerging Royals’ fireman Greg Holland, a former Natural from the 2009 bullpen. Holland has drawn interest from other teams as well, but before the Winter Meetings began, the Blue Jays had been rumored to be dangling former Cardinal outfielder Colby Rasmus for him. There was another rumor that had the Rays discussing Naturals’ infielder Christian Colon possibly in a package for Tampa Bay starter James Shields.

On the lobby floor of the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, it can be very difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially given that with so many baseball people talking to one another and so many media people around, some of the fiction invariably ends up airing on TV and appearing on the internet. But one thing appears clear – most of baseball has respect for the direction the Royals appear to be headed. Those former Naturals are just going to have to get used to the rumor mill.

“A lot of people have a lot of interest in our young guys, and that’s good,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “That’s really good. We like them and think they’re going to be good players and help us win a championship, so we’ve got to be especially smart in the moves we make now.”

The old baseball saying is, sometimes the best trade is the trade you don’t make.

“We’re in really good shape,” Yost said, “because Dayton and our scouting people and player development have worked really hard to build this organization to where it is now. And to dismantle it [by trading] some of these young players really doesn’t make sense at this time.”
Naturals/Texas League Notes

Rule 5 Draft: The Royals took left-handed pitcher Cesar Cabral in the Major League phase and immediately dealt him to the Yankees for cash. In the Triple-A phase, they selected left-hander Thomas Melgarejo from the Dodgers’ organization. Melgarejo could be a candidate to see time with the Naturals in 2012. The Royals lost no players in the Draft, in either phase.

Winter League Report

Several other current and former Naturals are honing their craft this off-season playing in various winter leagues that span the globe.

Puerto Rico: Rey Navarro (Crillos de Caguas) had a three-hit game on Saturday but still has underwhelming overall numbers, sitting at .167 with a homer and eight RBI’s… Irving Falu (Indios de Mayaguez) has an eight-game hit streak intact through Thursday, with two multi-hit efforts. He’s now batting a cool .308 this winter…Angel Sanchez, teammates with Falu in Mayaguez, has six hits in his last two games to lift his average to .279…Mario Santiago, having completed a stint in the Dominican Republic that saw him go 2-0 with a 2.62 ERA in nine appearances for Tigres del Licey, now has re-located back to his native Puerto Rico and joined his usual club, the Gigantes de Carolina. He made his first start for them on Tuesday night, going seven innings and allowing just one run.

Venezuela: Mario Lisson (Navegantes de Magallanes) has been getting increasingly more playing time, and both he and his team have been to the benefit, as he’s lifted his average to .270 with five homers and 16 runs batted in. He’s even seen spot duty in right field… Ernesto Mejia (Aguilas del Zulia) homered on Thursday for his seventh home run of the winter league season, part of a 2-for-4 effort that included three RBI’s. He’s now hitting .275 with 34 RBI’s which leads the team…Manny Pina (Bravos de Margarita) sees mainly defensive duty only for the Bravos, and he has just one hit in his last seven games.

Dominican Republic: Manauris Baez (Estrellas de Oriente) allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings with five strikeouts in his most recent start on Sunday… Willy Lebronwas sidelined after leaving a game with an arm injury on November 6th but returned on November 23rd, pitching a third of an inning, where he allowed two runs. He’s been sidelined since… Kelvin Herrera (Leones del Escogido) completed his stint in winter ball after 12 outings, having allowed just one earned run and fanning 15 while walking four in 17 1/3 innings pitched…He was teammates with Everett Teaford, who finished his winter league season with five starts, during which he went 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA, striking out 29 batters and walking only three in 23 2/3 innings. Elisaul Pimentel (Leones del Escogido) has gotten more work of late, with four appearances since Thanksgiving, giving him six on the year all in relief. Pimentel has fanned 11 in ten innings and has a 2.70 ERA…Naturals’ southpaw Andrew Dobies (Toros del Este) has allowed four runs in four appearances thus far…

Mexico: Federico Castaneda (Tomateros de Culiacan) allowed a pair of runs in his most recent outing which came on Tuesday. He has a 6.23 ERA and a 1-2 record over 20 outings…new acquisition Thomas Melgarejo (Aguilas de Mexicali) has been dominating, striking out 12 and allowing just five hits in 10 2/3 innings over 18 appearances.

These teams and respective leagues will play the round-robin Caribbean Series which takes place in February just before early reports for Major League Spring Training.

Transaction log: Several other Texas League teams saw talent plucked in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft– the Travelers lost first baseman Gabe Jacobo (selected by Toronto), reliever Barrett Browning (selected by St. Louis), and two infielders on their roster, Michael Wing and Ricky Alvarez who played with lower level clubs in 2011 but were likely members of their 2012 club. San Antonio had a lefty reliever, Aaron Poreda, snared by the Pirates and Midland lost left-hander Fabian Williamson to the Rangers. Springfield lost both infielder Domnit Bolivar (Milwaukee), catcher Charlie Cutler (Pittsburgh), and pitcher Javier Arenado (Toronto) but picked up Browning from the Angels and right-hander Shooter Hunt out of the Minnesota organization. In the minor league version of the Rule 5 Draft, there is no provision that states that the selecting team must return the player to their original organization or keep him at any pre-determined level of the organization, so many of these players will be in Double-A in 2012.

Check nwanaturals.com twice monthly for the Hot Stove Report, where we’ll continue to follow Royals’ minor leaguers in winter ball as well as cover other off-season baseball information that pertains to the Naturals and the Texas League.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Royals sign Arias, Hottovy

KANSAS CITY, MO – Baseball America reported this weekend that the Kansas City Royals have signed two left-handed pitchers, Marlon Arias andTommy Hottovy, to minor league contracts for the 2012 season.

Arias, a 27-year old from Bani, Dominican Republic, hasn’t appeared professionally in the United States since becoming a free agent after the 2009 season. He played his first five professional seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization but has made just five appearances above the Double-A level. Signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Dodgers in 2003, his career minor league record stands at 31-19 with a 5.19 ERA in 100 career appearances, including 75 starts. This off-season, Arias is pitching for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League, allowing one run in three innings over five appearances. Arias pitched a nine-inning no-hitter in 2007 with the Advanced Class-A Inland Empire 66ers.

Hottovy is a 30-year old southpaw from the Kansas City area that, up until last season was primarily a Double-A veteran. A former starter coverted to a relief role, the sidewinding lefty posted a 1.93 ERA in eight Double-A relief outings with Portland (ME), then was called up to the Boston Red Sox after posting a 2.75 ERA in 24 outings with Triple-A Pawtucket. He made his big league debut on June 3rd and appeared eight times out of the Red Sox bullpen. The former Wichita State product was the Red Sox’ fourth-round selection in the 2004 draft. He has been a teammate of current Naturals’ lefty Andrew Dobies during their time in the Red Sox’ system. Like Arias, Hottovy has been pitching winter ball, posting a 3.52 ERA in 12 outings for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League.

Hottovy will be among the Royals’ invites to spring training and will have the opportunity to compete for a spot in the Royals’ bullpen, while Arias could be a candidate to see time in the Texas League next season.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Chen Named Royals Pitcher Of The Year

STARTER BRUCE CHEN NAMED

2011 BRUCE RICE ROYALS PITCHER OF THE YEAR

Kansas City, MO (November 3, 2011) – The Kansas City Royals have announced that left-hander Bruce Chen has been named the 2011 Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year. The award was voted on by the Kansas City Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).

Chen, 34, was 12-8 with a career-best 3.77 ERA in 25 starts for the Royals, leading the club in victories for the second straight season. Last year’s Joe Burke Special Achievement Award winner went 6-3 at Kauffman Stadium in 2011 and 8-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 14 starts against A.L. Central opponents. He closed the season posting a 6-3 mark in his final 10 starts with a 2.93 ERA, including recording a career-long five-game winning streak from August 7-28. Chen became the first Royals southpaw to win 12 or more games in back-to-back seasons since Charlie Leibrandt did so in four straight campaigns from 1985-1988.

Earlier this week, the Royals announced that first baseman Eric Hosmer won the 2011 Joe Burke Special Achievement award and that outfielderAlex Gordon was named the 2011 Les Milgram Player of the Year.

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Royals Farm Report: September 8th

Royals Farm Report: September 8th
Taking a season-long perspective as playoffs begin

Triple-A

Omaha

In the postseason for the first time in 12 years, the Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) won Wednesday’s first game of their opening-round playoff series against the Round Rock Express. The Storm Chasers are now just five wins away from capturing a PCL championship and a berth in the Triple-A National Championship Game.

Stock Rising

Outfielder Lorenzo Cain showed that he has nothing left to prove at the Triple-A level. After exhausting his big-league rookie eligibility with Milwaukee in 2010, Cain spent all of 2011 with the Storm Chasers and hit .312 with a .380 on-base percentage, and cracked 28 doubles and 16 home runs. Right there with Cain is Clint Robinson, who hit .326 and led the club with 26 homers and 100 RBI. On the mound, right-hander Luis Mendoza posted a 2.18 ERA, a phenomenal figure in the hitter-friendly environs of the PCL as he seeks another shot in the major leagues. Finally, reliever Kelvin Herrera began the season without any experience above Class-A but excelled at three levels, striking out 18 in 17 innings with the Storm Chasers. He appears nearly ready to uncork his blazing arsenal against big league hitters and should get every opportunity to do just that in 2012.

Stock Falling

Kila Ka’aihue put together another solid performance with Omaha, hitting .272 with a .379 on-base percentage in 95 games. But after struggling with Kansas City in the first month of the season, he may have fallen behind Robinson on the organizaton’s depth chart. After beginning spring training on the Royals’ 40-man roster, Lance Zawadzki spent significant time at both second base and shortstop but struggled at the plate, hitting just .233.

Incomplete

Mike Montgomery had an inconsistent campaign with the Storm Chasers, his first taste of the Triple-A level. Though his basic numbers (5-11, 5.32 ERA) do not impress, the southpaw did strike out a team-high 129 batters this season and showed glimpses of why he is considered one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball.

NWArkansas

Double-A

A late-season charge put the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) into the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The team opened the first round by losing to the in-state rival Arkansas Travelers, 2-1, in 11 innings on Wednesday.

Stock Rising

In his first season in the Royals’ organization, right-hander Jake Odorizzi took a big step forward in his development, spending just a half-season at Advanced-A Wilmington before joining the Naturals. Though Odorizzi struggled with the home run ball in the Texas League, he fired seven one-hit innings in his final start of the regular season and posted a 54/22 strikeout/walk rate with the Naturals. Left-hander Will Smith was a solid presence in the rotation who improved as the season progressed. Smith led the Texas League with 13 wins and 161 1/3 innings pitched, earning Naturals Pitcher of the Year honors.

Stock Falling

Challenged with an aggressive assignment to Double-A, Christian Colon was a steady presence near the top of the Naturals’ lineup, but hit a middling .257 with just 24 extra-base hits in 127 games. Toward the end of the season, Colon spent a bit more time at second base, where some think his future could reside. Reliever Patrick Keating was crucial to the Naturals’ bullpen during the 2010 championship run but battled injuries and ineffectiveness this season, allowing nine home runs in just 38 innings.

Incomplete

Wil Myers battled through a pair of freak knee injuries in the early part of the season and did not have a chance to truly establish himself until the second half. Still, at just 20 years old, Myers displayed an impressive eye at the plate (a .353 on-base percentage despite a .254 batting average) and hit for more power in the season’s final month. In some ways, it was a tale of two seasons for Chris Dwyer. The 23-year-old southpaw struggled to harness his stuff in the first half of the season but went 6-1 in his final nine starts. Most importantly, Dwyer stayed healthy all season after his 2010 was cut short due to a back injury. John Lamb appeared on his way to a solid season before going down with Tommy John surgery in early June. After rehab and recovery, Lamb probably won’t be ready for action until mid-season next year at the earliest, but with his arsenal and pitchability, there’s no reason to believe the southpaw won’t succeed upon his return.

Class-A Advanced

Blue Rocks

The lone full-season Royals affiliate to miss the postseason, the Wilmington Blue Rocks finished the 2011 season at 66-72. The club did finish the year on a high note, entertaining the Frawley Stadium crowd with a sweep of the Frederick Keys on the final three days of the season.

Stock Rising

Many of the team’s top early-season performers – Odorizzi, infielder Rey Navarro and southpaw reliever Kevin Chapman in particular – ended the season with Northwest Arkansas. Among those to spend the second half with the Blue Rocks, Yem Prades hit .289 in his first taste of baseball in the United States. The 23-year-old Cuban defector still needs to work on his plate discipline (10 walks against 66 strikeouts). On the mound, Elisaul Pimentel’s brief stint at Double-A didn’t go as planned, but that should not take away from a strong season that saw him walk only 31 batters in 133 innings of work. He’s likely to get a full-season taste of the Double-A level next season.

Stock Falling

Nick Van Stratten began the season at Double-A before being dropped a level right around the midway point. Though his .271 average is respectable, at 26, Van Stratten’s odds of establishing himself as a future big-leaguer have grown slim. Wilmington’s home ballpark is a noted pitcher-friendly environment, but Tyler Sample posed a 5.25 ERA in his first season in the Carolina League.

Incomplete

Taken at face value, Tim Melville’s statistics (11-10, 4.32 ERA, 108 K/53 BB) are those of a player who put together a solidly-average season. But since this was the right-hander’s second full season at Wilmington, they don’t reveal much about his growth as a player. A shot at Double-A in what will be his age 22 season should give the Royals a better sense of what the former fourth-round pick’s future may hold.

Class-A

Kane County

In a twist of fate, the Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) played themselves into a first-round playoff matchup with the Burlington Bees, the club which had been the Royals’ affiliate prior to this season. Kane County shut out Burlington in the first game of their series and needs just one win to advance to the next round.

Stock Rising

Perhaps no player in the Midwest League burst onto the scene in quite the same way as third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert did. In his first taste of full-season ball, the 18-year-old native of Nicaragua hit .328 from his first game with the club until the end of July. Though fatigue led him into a prolonged slump at the end of the season, Cuthbert’s full-season debut fully established him as a prospect to watch going forward. Though his velocity only reaches the mid-80s, right-hander Greg Billo befuddled Midwest League batters all season long, as the 20-year-old posted a 1.93 ERA in the regular season and fired seven innings of shutout ball in the opening game of the playoffs.

Stock Falling

A player with prodigious power, Murray Watts hit just .211 with five extra-base hits in 35 games with Kane County before going on the disabled list. Though Watts returned to action and led the lower-level Burlington Royals in home runs, the season was certainly a disappointment for the Arkansas native.

Incomplete

Former Arkansas Razorback Brett Eibner epitomizes the “incomplete category.” A two-way player in college, Eibner opened the 2011 season with the opportunity to get a full season’s worth of at bats under his belt. But in the second game of the year, Eibner injured his thumb when diving for a ball in the outfield. After missing two months, he returned to belt 12 home runs and draw 48 walks in 76 games – but also hit just .215 and whiffed 90 times. An injury-free 2012, likely to be spent at Wilimington, should allow Eibner to harness his impressive talent and make serious strides in his development as a prospect.

Short Season/Rookie

AZL Burlington IdahoFalls

Both the Burlington Royals and AZL Royals wrapped up their seasons before the calendar flipped to September, so the Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League) remain the only of Kansas City’s short-season clubs still in action. At 33-42 overall, the Chukars have fallen short of postseason play and will wrap up their season on Sep. 8 against the Orem Owlz.

Stock Rising

Though technically no longer a Chukar, Edwin Carl had the most statistically-impressive season of any Royals farmhand. Advanced for the level at the age of 22, Carl faced 122 Pioneer League hitters – and fanned 71 of them. He only issued only three walks and held the opposition to a miniscule .145 batting average. At the plate, 2011 draftee Richard Espy made a strong impression with a .391 on-base percentage, while Daniel Mateo led the club with a .341 average. Infielder Nick DelGuidice was passed over by all 50 teams in this year’s draft, signing as a non-drafted free agent. But he batted .396 with a 1.037 OPS between Surprise and Idaho Falls and seems on track to start next year with Kane County.

Stock Falling

Like Carl, Jonathan Dooley competed in the Pioneer League as a 22-year old, where he was the Chukars opening day starter, but did not have the same success. The Arkansas native began the season in the rotation before being moved to the ‘pen, posting a 6.79 ERA in the process. Overall, the Chukars recorded a 5.38 staff ERA, with Jose Sanchez (8.17), Robert Penny (8.54) and Willian Avinazar (8.89) posting particularly high figures.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Royals Announce Minor League Awards

ROYALS NAME PITCHERS, PLAYERS OF THE YEAR FOR EIGHT MINOR LEAGUE AFFILIATES

KANSAS CITY, MO (August 30, 2011) – The Kansas City Royals have named their Minor League Pitchers and Players of the Year for their respective affiliates. The Paul Splittorff Pitcher of the Year and George Brett Hitter of the Year will be named this Friday, September 2.

A majority of the players are expected to be at Kauffman Stadium for Futures Night on Friday, September 16, where they will take part in an autograph session at Gate A from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., as well as be honored in an on-field presentation prior to the Royals game against the White Sox.

JohnnyGiavotella

OMAHA (AAA)

Right-handed pitcher Luis Mendoza has been named the Omaha Pitcher of the Year. The 27-year-old has dominated Pacific Coast League hitters all season, posting an 11-5 record with a league-leading 2.15 ERA in 32 games (17 starts). Named to the 12-member All-PCL Team yesterday, Mendoza originally recorded his second career no-hitter on July 18 at Memphis, before a reviewed ruling overturned a ninth-inning error to a double. Mendoza was acquired from the Texas Rangers on April 2, 2010.

Johnny Giavotella was named the Omaha Player of the Year. The 24-year-old was batting .338 with a minor league-leading 153 hits for Triple-A Omaha at the time of his call-up to the Royals on August 5. The second baseman had 34 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, 72 RBI and 67 runs scored in 110 games for the Storm Chasers. Giavotella was a starter on the Pacific Coast League All-Star team as well as a member of the 12-member All-PCL Team. The University of New Orleans alum was the Royals’ second-round selection in the 2008 Draft.

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (AA)

Left-handed pitcher Will Smith, 22, has been named the Northwest Arkansas Pitcher of the Year. The six-foot-five southpaw is 12-9 with a 4.02 ERA in 26 starts for the Naturals. Smith is 8-3 with a 3.44 ERA in the second half and has helped lead the Naturals to the brink of the second-half division title.

28-year-old Anthony Seratelli is the Northwest Arkansas Player of the Year. The versatile performer and Texas League All-Star selection is hitting .283 with 12 doubles, six triples, nine home runs, 61 RBI and 89 runs scored in 123 games. Signed by the Royals from the Independent Frontier League on February 27, 2007, Seratelli has appeared at first base, second base, shortstop, left field and right field this season with the Naturals.

WILMINGTON (A-ADVANCED)

Right-handed starter Jake Odorizzi was named Wilmington Pitcher of the Year. The 21-year-old, acquired as part of the six-player trade with the Milwaukee Brewers on December 19, 2010, went 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 15 starts for the Blue Rocks before a midseason promotion to Northwest Arkansas. The 6-foot-2 righty has combined for 151 strikeouts in 140.0 innings this season.

Rey Navarro, who will turn 22 on December 22, is the Wilmington Player of the Year. The right-handed hitting infielder batted .285 with 17 doubles, seven triples, eight home runs, 41 RBI and 34 runs scored in 72 games for Wilmington before a promotion to Double-A. Born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Navarro, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 1, 2010.

KANE COUNTY (A)

21-year-old Greg Billo was named the Kane County Pitcher of the Year. The six-foot-four right-hander is 9-5 with a Midwest League-leading 1.94 ERA in 26 games, 17 starts, for the Cougars. In 130.0 innings, the Royals’ 28th round pick from the 2008 Draft out of Orland Park, Ill., has allowed 111 hits while striking out 118 against just 25 walks.

22-year-old outfielder Brian Fletcher was named the Kane County Player of the Year. The former Auburn University slugger is batting .336 (107-for-318) with 30 doubles, three triples, 13 home runs, 57 RBI and 50 runs scored in 85 games for Kane County. The right-handed hitter and son of former big leaguer Scott Fletcher was the Royals’ 18th-round selection in 2010.

IDAHO FALLS (ROOKIE-ADVANCED)

Right-handed pitcher Edwin Carl, signed by the Royals as a non-drafted free agent on July 20, 2010 out of the University of New Mexico, is the Idaho Falls Pitcher of the Year. Carl, 22, has been nearly untouchable in the Pioneer League, posting an astounding 71 strikeouts and just three walks in 33.0 innings for the Chukars. He is 3-1 with five saves and a 1.36 ERA in 21 relief appearances. He was recently promoted to Kane County.

Outfielder Runey Davis, 22, has been named the Idaho Falls Player of the Year. Signed as a minor league free agent on March 9, 2011, the 2009 Chicago Cubs 12th-round selection is hitting .325 with 14 doubles, three triples, six home runs, 36 RBI and 37 runs scored in 50 games for Idaho Falls.

BURLINGTON-NC (ROOKIE)

23-year-old right-handed pitcher Nick Graffeo has been named the Burlington Pitcher of the Year. Selected out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Raytown (Mo.) High in the 38th round in 2010, the six-foot hurler is 4-2 with a 2.04 ERA in 17 games, including six starts. The stepson of current Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer has struck out 53 and walked 16 in 53.0 innings of work while holding opponents to a .192 average.

Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, the 2010 Dominican Royals Player of the Year, is the Burlington Royals Player of the Year in 2011. Bonifacio, 18, is hitting .284 with 20 doubles, four triples, seven home runs, 30 RBI and 26 runs in 62 games. A resident of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Bonifacio was signed as a non-drafted free agent on December 9, 2009.

SURPRISE (ROOKIE)

Andrew Stueve, a 21-year-old right-hander, has been named the Surprise Royals Pitcher of the Year. The six-foot-one hurler was 1-3 with a 2.14 ERA in 21 appearances, including one start, before a promotion to Wilmington. Stueve signed with the Royals as an undrafted free agent on June 11 out of Stanislaus State University.

Shortstop Nick DelGuidice has been named the Surprise Royals Player of the Year. The 21-year-old right-handed hitter batted .408 (51-for-125) with 16 doubles, two triples, four home runs, 24 RBI and 32 runs in 34 games for Surprise before he was promoted to Idaho Falls. DelGuidice was signed by the Royals as an undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic University on June 12.

DOMINICAN ROYALS (ROOKIE)

Right-handed pitcher Yender Caramo is the Dominican Royals Pitcher of the Year. The just-turned 20-year-old (his birthday was August 25) is 10-3 with a 1.26 ERA in 13 games, including 12 starts. His 10 wins were tied for the league-lead while his ERA was second in the 33-team league. Signed by the Royals as a non-drafted free agent on November 22, 2010, Caramo is from San Felix, Bolivar, Venezuela.

Infielder Ramon Torres, signed by Kansas City as a non-drafted free agent on July 13, 2009, is the Dominican Royals Player of the Year. The 18-year-old hit .260 with 16 doubles, three triples, two home runs, 24 RBI, 35 runs and 14 stolen bases in 60 games. Torres, a switch hitter, resides in Santiago Rodriguez, Dominican Republic.

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