On Thursday, the KC Royals announced the honorees for their Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year awards.
Utility fielder Whit Merrifield was named the George Brett Minor League Player of the Year. Merrifield was a ninth round pick back in 2010, when he was the College World Series hero for South Carolina in the championship in the final year at Rosenblatt.
Merrifield began the 2014 season with Double-A NW Arkansas, where he was named a Texas League All-Star. However, he was promoted to Triple-A Omaha in June and took off.
The right-handed hitter predominantly played left field for the Storm Chasers and hit .340 for the Triple-A Champions. In Omaha’s ten postseason games, Merrifield had a hit in all ten, hitting .386 with two doubles, three home runs, and six RBIs. Obviously, he was named the Storm Chasers Player of the Year.
He has also been invited to big league camp this spring, where he could secure a spot on the Royals bench.
Right-hander Christian Binford was named the Paul Splittorf Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Binford was a 30th round pick in 2011.
Just 22 years old, Binford began the 2014 season with High-A Wilmington, where he dominated Carolina League hitters. He struck out 92 compared to 11 walks in 82.2 innings. He pitched in the Futures Game (a scoreless inning). He was also a Carolina League All-Star, though he allowed a home run in his inning of work and took the loss.
At the end of June, Binford was promoted to Double-A, where he made eight starts (3.19 ERA in 48 innings with 38 strikeouts compared to just six walks). The Royals promoted Binford to Triple-A at the end of the season to pitch out of the bullpen (where he struggled to a 5.40 ERA). Binford did start the Triple-A National Championship.
He was also invited to big league spring training and he could help the Royals sometime in 2015 if a starter struggles or gets hurt.
If neither make the big league club out of spring training, both should be key contributors to Omaha for the 2015 season, as the Storm Chasers go for the three-peat.