Royals to honor minor leaguers tonight

A day after the KC Royals clinched their first division title since 1985 (the last time they won the World Series), the team will honor their minor league’s best on Futures Night.

Friday started bright and early for the 16 players (pitcher and hitter from all eight of their minor league affiliates), as they began the day visiting the children’s hospital. From there, they visit the Negro League Museum and will be on hand for an autograph signing pregame before being honored prior to tonight’s game against visiting Cleveland.

Let’s take a look at those 16 honorees:

Lefty Scott Alexander during spring training 2015 (Jen Nevius).

Lefty Scott Alexander during spring training 2015 (Jen Nevius).

Triple-A Omaha just missed out on the postseason after claiming back-to-back National Championships. The one minor leaguer who will be in a big league uniform tonight is the Storm Chasers Pitcher of the Year, lefty reliever Scott Alexander.

In 41 appearances with Omaha, Alexander held opponents to a .209 batting average, with lefties hitting just .140. He had a 2.56 ERA with 14 saves.

Alexander was called up to the big leagues on September 1st and made his big league debut the next day against Detroit.

Omaha’s Player of the Year was Pacific Coast League batting champ Jose Martinez. Despite missing about a month due to injury, he hit .384 with 25 doubles, three triples, and ten home runs. He drove in 60 runs and scored 57 runs. He also walked 48 times compared to 55 strikeouts in 341 at-bats.

His 2015 season is coming off a season in which he hit .319 in 66 games for High-A Lynchburg.

While normally an outfielder (four outfield assists), Martinez played both first and second base without committing an error during the season.

Double-A NW Arkansas won the first half North Division title and made it to the Texas League Championship (only to be swept by champion Midland). A big reason for the Naturals first half title was first baseman/DH Balbino Fuenmayor.

Despite a promotion to Triple-A (and then a season-ending knee injury), Fuenmayor was both a midseason and postseason All-Star in the Texas League, while also participating in the Futures Game.

Fuenmayor hit .354 with 22 doubles, a triple, and 15 home runs in 73 games with the Naturals. He drove in 51 runs and scored 50.

His 2015 season was coming off never playing above High-A and only hitting .208 in 2013 (his last season in affiliated baseball).

The Naturals Pitcher of the Year was lefty Jonathan Dziedzic, who came on strong in the second half (though he fell flat in the playoffs). After a mediocre first half when he went 4-4 with a 4.01 ERA, Dziedzic made the postseason TL All-Star team by going 6-2 with a 2.28 ERA in the second half.

Overall, Dziedzic was 10-6 with a 3.12 ERA in 26 appearances (25 starts) with NWA (he made one terrible start with Omaha). Over 138.1 innings, opponents hit .258 against him, he walked 35, and struck out 93.

Blue Rocks pitcher Alec Mills on April 28, 2015 (Jen Nevius).

Blue Rocks pitcher Alec Mills on April 28, 2015 (Jen Nevius).

High-A Wilmington was also first half champs and won the Northern Division title in the Carolina League before being swept in the championship by Myrtle Beach. Blue Rocks Pitcher of the Year Alec Mills was a big reason for the success.

The right-hander was a midseason All-Star and despite missing a month due to injury, his 3.02 ERA was ranked fourth in the CL. Mills went 7-7 in 21 starts. Over 113.1 innings, opponents hit .271 against him, he walked just 14, and struck out 111 (fourth in the CL).

Mills was named the CL Pitcher of the Month for June, when he went 3-0 with a 0.99 ERA in five starts (four walks and 28 strikeouts).

The Game 1 starter in the Division Series against Lynchburg, Mills pitched six scoreless innings in picking up the victory. He allowed two hits and walked three, while striking out six. In the Game 3 loss in the Championship Series against Myrtle Beach, he allowed two runs on five hits and two walks over six innings. He struck out six.

Third baseman Mauricio Ramos was named the Blue Rocks Player of the Year. He was consistently ranked in the top ten in batting and finished the season hitting .265 with 22 doubles, two triples, and eight home runs. He drove in 59 runs and scored 54 in 123 games while mainly batting in the three-hole.

After hitting .302 and .333 in June and July, August and September were a struggle for Ramos. He hit just .179 in August and .120 in the final month of the season with just four combined extra base hits. Ramos did however rebound a bit in the postseason, going 4-for-21 (.190), but had three RBIs and two runs scored.

It was a rough season for Low-A Lexington, but there were a few bright spots. Despite his his poor pitching after his promotion to Wilmington, Pedro Fernandez was named the Legends Pitcher of the Year.

Blue Rocks starter Pedro Fernandez on September 6, 2015 (Jen Nevius).

Blue Rocks starter Pedro Fernandez on September 6, 2015 (Jen Nevius).

The right-hander was a midseason South Atlantic League All-Star and went 6-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 18 appearances (13 starts). Over 78 innings, opponents hit just .191 against him, he walked 27, and struck out 89.

Despite not playing since August 19th, shortstop/second baseman Corey Toups was named the Legends Player of the Year. He hit .291 with 27 doubles, five triples, and seven home runs. He drove in 44 runs and scored 75.

Toups ranked tenth in the SAL in stolen bases (31) and on-base percentage (.369). He was caught stealing just five times and walked 44 times in 388 at-bats.

The 15th round pick in 2014 played 66 games at second base (seven errors) and 36 games at shortstop (11 errors).

Idaho Falls went from worst to first in winning their division title in the Pioneer League, though they came up short in the championship. Pitcher of the Year Derek Gordon was also named the PL’s top pitcher in the postseason. Not bad for a guy signed in the offseason out of independent league baseball.

Gordon went 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 13 starts with the Chukars. Over 70 innings, opponents hit .271 against him, he walked 18, and struck out 65. He was third in the PL in ERA and strikeouts.

In the playoffs, Gordon won both of his starts, allowing four runs on eight hits and two walks over 13.2 innings. He struck out 15, including ten on September 15th in the best-of-three championship.

Outfielder Amalani Fukofuka was named the Chukars Player of the Year, as he was also a midseason and postseason All-Star in the Pioneer League. Today is also his birthday and what a way to spend it!

Fukofuka hit .339 with 18 doubles, nine triples (second in the PL), and three home runs in 280 at-bats. He drove in 38 runs and scored 53 (tied for fourth in the PL). On August 30th, he collected a career-high five hits, falling a homer short of a cycle.

Burlington_RoyalsBurlington’s Player of the Year was catcher Xavier Fernandez, who played his final five games (and the postseason) with Idaho Falls. Prior to his promotion, Fernandez hit .329 with ten doubles, a triple, and four home runs in 42 games. He drove in 27 runs and scored 21.

Fernandez also threw out 15-of-34 base runners (44%).

The Royals Pitcher of the Year was 27th round pick Jacob Bodner. The right-hander also split the season between Burlington and Idaho Falls. He went 2-0 with a 0.77 ERA in 16 appearances with the Royals. Bodner walked just three and struck out 26 in 23.1 innings. Opponents hit just .188 against him.

Rookie level Surprise named Arnaldo Hernandez their Pitcher of the Year. The right-hander began the season in the Dominican Summer League and finished it in Idaho Falls, but went 7-3 with a 2.82 ERA in 14 appearances (ten starts) with Surprise. He walked just five while striking out 68.

Hernandez was a postseason All-Star, as his wins and WHIP (0.97) ranked first in the AZL.

Outfielder Rudy Martin was named Surprise’s Player of the Year. The 25th round pick finished the season with Idaho Falls.

With Surprise, Martin hit .338 with six doubles, nine triples, and one home run in 133 at-bats. His nine triples led the AZL, along with his .477 on-base percentage (35 walks compared to 28 strikeouts). Martin scored a league best 41 runs and was named a postseason All-Star.

Finally to the Dominican Royals, where Cristian Castillo was named the Pitcher of the Year. The lefty went just 0-4, but had a 2.67 ERA in 14 starts. Opponents hit just .213 against him, he walked 15, and struck out 58 in 67.1 innings.

Shortstop Oliver Nunez was named the Player of the Year. He hit .36 with nine doubles, five triples, and one home run in 60 games. He scored 44 runs and drove in 23 in his second season in the Dominican Summer League. Nunez had a .403 on-base percentage (39 walks in 232 at-bats).

 

The Royals have not announced their overall pitcher and player of the year, but you would have to think Martinez would be named the player of the year, with Mills taking the pitching honor.

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About Jen Nevius

I first became a KC Royals fan way back in 1995 when I attended my first Wilmington Blue Rocks game. I fell in love with minor league baseball then and began following the Royals as former Blue Rocks clawed their way to the big leagues. 3+ years ago I started covering the Royals for Aerys Sports, but since the site has been shut down, I am going out on my own.
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