The minor league regular season has come to an end (for the most part). It’s been another semi-successful season for the Royals system. They added a ton of pitching in the draft. They added some toolsy prospects via trade during the season. MJ Melendez, Seuly Matias, among others exploded onto the prospect scene with big seasons. With that being said, only one player can be the Royals Minor League Player of the Year. Let’s go through our end of the year awards from the writers here at Royals Farm Report.
Pitcher of the Year: Trevor Oaks
Player of the Year: Frank Schwindel
At one point this season, Trevor Oaks had the best ERA in the PCL at 1.84. He didn’t finish the season so hot, but his final ERA of 3.23 at AAA was mighty impressive to say the least. Oaks doesn’t strike many batters out, at all, but he did run up a GB% over 50% again which he has done in every season for his minor league career. Oaks didn’t fare as well in his time with Kansas City, but you figure that he’ll probably get more of an opportunity in 2019.
Frank Schwindel’s numbers speak for themselves. Schwindel finished the season batting .283/.334/.503 with 24 HR and a team record 37 doubles in 133 games. All this kid does is hit, and it will be extremely disappointing if he at least doesn’t get a look at the major leagues this season.
AA Northwest Arkansas
Pitcher of the Year: Yunior Marte
Player of the Year: Nicky Lopez
The NWA Naturals didn’t have much in the way of good pitching this season. Yunior Marte had the Naturals best combination of IP + results, so he gets the nod here. Marte finished 2018 with a 2.91 ERA and 8.69 K/9 in 80.1 IP in relief this season at AA. He’ll more than likely spend the first half of 2019 in AAA, but you could very well see him in KC sometime next season.
Nicky Lopez did that thing he does all year, batting .331 in AA with a K% under 10%, while posting a BB% of 10.2%. He plays a solid SS defensively, and with that bat, should absolutely find time in the big leagues in 2019.
A+ Wilmington Blue Rocks
Pitcher of the Year: Gerson Garabito
Player of the Year: Khalil Lee
Garabito finished the season with a 3.16 ERA and 7.33 K/9 while firing a career high 142.1 IP. The 23-year old finally had an entire season free of injury, and looks like he will be worth watching in AA in 2019.
Khalil Lee flashed potential of being a top 50 prospect in all of baseball this season. Lee slashed .270/.402/.406 with 4 HR and 14 SB in 71 games with High-A Wilmington, and made it very clear who the top prospect in the Royals system is. Lee ended the season on the DL with the Naturals, where he should start the season in 2019, but he was a ton of fun to watch this year.
A Lexington Legends
Pitcher of the Year: Daniel Lynch
Player(s) of the Year: Seuly Matias and Brewer Hicklen
Daniel Lynch was freaking incredible after being drafted by the Royals in the first round of June’s draft. Lynch was said to be throwing anywhere from 93-97 and posted an ERA of 1.58 with 10.58 K/9 in Lexington, after dominating rookie ball in a similar fashion to start his professional career. Lynch may very well be the best pitching prospect in the organization, depending on who you ask, and the idea of him pitching in Wilmington with Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar next season is mouth watering, to say the least.
Deciding between Seuly Matias’ 31 home runs and Brewer Hicklen’s .940 OPS was not easy. Hicklen probably had the better all around season, but Matias’ record chasing season and HR during the Future’s Game was hard to ignore. Nonetheless, both players had fantastic seasons and should lead the way for another playoff chase in Wilmington in 2019.
Rookie Idaho Falls
Pitcher of the Year: Kris Bubic
Player of the Year: Nathan Eaton
Bubic may be the “forgotten” man in the 2018 draft, but he certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. Bubic posted a 3.58 FIP with 12.55 K/9 in 33 IP for Idaho Falls this season.
Nathan Eaton may have been the easiest choice of the entire system. Eaton has an OPS of 1.027 with 5 HR and 18 SB in 62 games. The Royals 21st round pick in 2018 has been as impressive as anyone in the organization, and ought to start the 2019 season with Low-A Lexington.
Pitcher of the Year: Marcelo Martinez
Player of the Year: Jose Marquez
Marcelo Martinez burst onto the scene with a 2.68 ERA and 11.21 K/9 in 57 IP with Burlington this season. He’s since made his way to Lexington to join their playoff push, but he was quite easily the Royals best pitcher for most of the season. The 22-year old figures to start 2019 with Lexington or Wilmington.
Jose Marquez may have been the most impressive under-the-radar prospect in the system this year. The 20-year old posted an OPS of .852 with 7 HR and 9 SB in 59 games in the Appalachian League in 2018. He too figures to start 2019 in Lexington.
Pitcher of the Year: Yohanse Morel
Player of the Year: Rubendy Jaquez
Yohanse Morel, the wild card in the Kelvin Herrera trade, put up an ERA of 3.71 with 9.69 K/9 in 43.2 IP in the AZL. The kid is still 17 and there’s not much intel on him, but you’ll need to be watching when he makes his debut in Lexington as an 18-year old in 2019, much like Yefri Del Rosario did in 2018.
Rubendy Jaquez slashed .303/.389/.448 with 4 HR and 16 SB as a 19-year old in 2018. The switch hitting 2nd baseman figures to find his way to Lexington in 2019, where he will be interesting to watch in full-season ball.
Royals Pitcher of the Year:
Richard Lovelady had another fantastic season in relief. Had it not been for a 40-man roster crunch, he would probably be pitching in Kansas City right now. Lovelady finished 2018 with a 2.50 ERA and 8.63 K/9 to only 2.63 BB/9. He is almost certainly the Royals best chance at having an impact rookie pitcher in 2019, and needs to be on the Opening Day roster. He has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues and should continue to develop as an elite reliever in Kansas City next season.
Royals Player of the Year:
MJ Melendez hit more home runs in the South Atlantic League this season (19) than any other teenage catcher had hit before. His 19 home runs was 2nd on the Legends roster behind Seuly Matias, and 5th overall in the SALLY. Melendez posted the 10th best wRC+ in the SAL, and was third in triples, which is something to say for a catcher.
Speaking of being a catcher, MJ Melendez was drafted as a glove first backstop. He threw out 41.9% of would be base stealers in 2018 and appeared to improve his pitch framing ability as the year went on. Melendez has the potential to be a Gold Glove catcher one day, and is now hitting for an absurd amount of power as well. He figures to start the 2019 campaign in Wilmington, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he was in AA Northwest Arkansas to end the season, much like Khalil Lee did this year.
Pitcher/Player of the Year candidates to watch in 2019:
- MJ Melendez
- Seuly Matias
- Khalil Lee
- Brewer Hicklen
- Nick Pratto
- Gabriel Cancel
- Kelvin Gutierrez
- Emmanuel Rivera
- Daniel Lynch
- Brady Singer
- Jackson Kowar
- Kris Bubic
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Most underrated farm system in baseball.