The KC Royals will be honoring their Player and Pitchers of the Year from all of their minor league affiliates at Kauffman Stadium on September 30th prior to their game against visiting Cleveland. While the players already know who they are (Jake Junis’ fiance announced he is the Double-A Pitcher of the Year), the Royals have yet to announce who will be honored.
So I decided to give you my picks and then we will see if my picks match up with the Royals.
It was a disappointing season at Triple-A Omaha, as they were out of the playoff race early in the summer. The ball seemed to fly out of Werner Park (way more than most ballparks) and that hurt the pitching staff. However, some of the hitters took advantage.
My Player of the Year award goes to essentially two outfielders. Normally a third baseman, Hunter Dozier played the outfield for the first time in the last week of the minor league season with the Storm Chasers before being promoted to the big leagues as an outfielder (he does take some ground balls at third base at the end of batting practice).
Dozier rebounded from a rough year and a half in Double-A by carrying his hot spring into the start of the season back with NW Arkansas. He hit .400 with eight doubles and eight home runs in just 26 games before a much-earned promotion to Omaha.
With the Storm Chasers, Dozier hit .294 (13th in the Pacific Coast League) with 36 doubles (second-best in the PCL) and 15 home runs. He walked 40 times and struck out 100 times in 103 games (down from 151 in 2015). His numbers were actually better on the road, where he hit .345 in 57 road games (23 doubles, 11 homers, and 35 RBIs).
My other nod goes to right fielder Jorge Bonifacio, who I feel should have been a September callup. He hit .277 with 22 doubles, six triples, and 19 homers. His 86 RBIs ranked fifth in the PCL. Bonifacio also walked 51 times in 134 games (most games played on the Storm Chasers). He did strike out a career-high 130 times, which ranked him tenth in the PCL
Bonifacio hit 14 of his 19 homers in Omaha, with a .292 batting average. However, he hit more doubles (14) on the road.
Because of a few stints in the big leagues in 2016 (the most recent still has him with the Royals), right-hander Brooks Pounders did not have enough innings to qualify for the ERA title (he would have ranked fourth with a 3.14 ERA). He is my Omaha Pitcher of the Year.
Pounders fully moved to the bullpen after seven starts (where his ERA was 2.87 on May 15th). He pitched out of the Storm Chasers bullpen 31 times and thrived. He kept the ball in the ballpark (five home runs allowed in 80.1 innings, two allowed out of the bullpen). Overall, he walked 37 and struck out 90.
Take a look at his splits in Omaha:
- As a starter (seven games): 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA in 35.2IP, 30H, 3HR, 15BB, 37K, and a .229 opponents batting average
- As a reliever (24 games): 2-2 with a 3.22 ERA in 44.2IP, 37H, 2HR, 22BB, 53K, and a .223 opponents batting average
With the Royals pitching staff in flux, look for Pounders to build off his brief Major League experience in 2017.
*Tomorrow I will name my Double-A NW Arkansas Player and Pitcher of the Year.