Cleat Geeks

Royally Yours: AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals Season Recap

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the AA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. They play in the Texas League against the AA affiliates of the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers. In 2018 the Naturals finished in third place in the Texas League North division with a record of 70-70. The Naturals had an average season but had some great performances by prospects.

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The Royals second rated prospect Khalil Lee finished the season in AA with the Arkansas Naturals. Lee is an outfielder that primarily plays in centerfield. He hit for a .245 average and two home runs in 29 games with the Naturals last season. Lee was a third round draft pick by the Royals in the 2016 MLB Draft. He is still raw and will likely need more time in the majors. They are deep in the outfield and there is no need to rush him to the Royals roster. If he keeps progressing well through the minors he could be an elite player for the Royals in a few seasons.

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Scott Blewett is the top ranked pitcher on the Northwest Arkansas roster. He played the entire 2018 season in AA with the Naturals. He had a record of 8-6 with a 4.79 ERA. Blewett’s numbers were not great but he has a good mix of pitches. He could make an impact with the Royals in the next couple of seasons. Blewett could be an option for the back end of the rotation or in the bullpen if the Royals lose pitching depth.

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Jecksson Flores is not considered one of the Royals top prospects but had a good year with the Naturals. He hit for a .314 batting average and seven home runs in 122 games. He also had 27 stolen bases. Flores is a utility player that played five different positions in 2018. He could see time in the majors because of his utility ability despite not being a top prospect. Flores likely will not see time in the majors with the Royals next season but he is still a valuable part of their minor league system.

Next season the Royals should see a lot of top prospects progress through the Naturals. Six of the Royals top 10 prospects finished the season with the single-A Lexington Legends and could start the season with Northwest Arkansas. AA will be a big step in the progression of the Royals top prospects.

Royally Yours: AAA Omaha Storm Chasers Season Recap

The AAA affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers finished the 2018 season with a record of 66-74. They finished in third place in the Pacific Coast League Northern Division. It is their second straight third place finish. The Oklahoma City Dodgers won the division nine games ahead of the Storm Chasers. The Storm Chasers had an average year but had some top prospects by the end of the season.

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Photo by; Omaha-World Herald

Nicky Lopez was called up to the Storm Chasers in June after starting the season with the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals. In AAA Lopez had a .278 batting average and seven home runs in 57 games. Lopez is considered one of the Royals top ten prospects. He could be an opening day starter for the Royals in 2019 if they make big trades in the off-season. Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi should be the starting middle infielders but they could be on the trading block if the Royals opt to rebuild their farm system. Lopez is a talented player that will likely see playing time at some point next season.

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Photo by; Minor League Baseball

Reliever Richard Lovelady had a great season with the Storm Chasers in 2018. The left-handed pitcher had a 2.47 ERA in 73 innings pitched and nine saves. Lovelady spent the entire season in AAA. He led the team in saves for the season. Lovelady has progressed quickly in the Royals system. He was a 10th round pick by the Royals in the 2016 MLB Draft. The Royals bullpen struggled last season and he should be an option to be on the opening day roster. The Royals do not have a solid closing pitcher entering the 2018 season and Lovelady could be an option.

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Photo by; MiLB.com

Frank Schwindel is not a top prospect for the Royals but he had a very good season with the Storm Chasers in 2018. He spent the entire season in AAA and finished with a .286 batting average and 24 home runs. He hit 12 more home runs than his closest teammate. Schwindel is a first basemen that will probably not start the season on the Royals roster. Ryan O’Hearn and Hunter Dozier appear to be their top two options at first base. The Royals decided not to call him up in September because of limited playing time. Schwindel had a great season but is in a tough spot on the Royals roster.

Next season the Storm Chasers should see some top prospects play with the team. Seven of the Royals top ten prospects finished the season with the Single-A Lexington Legends or AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The Royals have a lot of young players that are moving quickly through the system and Omaha will be the last stop before they hit the majors.

Royally Yours: Season Recap

The Kansas City Royals had a disappointing season in 2018. They finished with a record of 58-104, last in the American League Central. It was their first 100-loss season since 2006 and their first last place finish in the division since 2007. The Royals finished with the second worst record in baseball and will have the second pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. Their last second overall pick was Mike Moustakas in 2007. It was a tough sImage result for brad keller royalseason for the Royals but they will have a top pick in the draft that will help in the rebuilding process.Image result for Mike Moustakas 2007 mlb draft

The Royals finished with a record of 36-40 against division opponents. It was their best record against an American League division. They played the worst against the American League West with a record of 7-26. The Royals struggled against National League teams with a record of 6-14. The Royals played average against division opponents but their struggles against other teams was the reason for their disappointing season.

Whit Merrifield was one of the best offensive players in baseball this season. He led all of the MLB in hits and stolen bases. Merrifield finished the season with a slash line of .304/.367/.804. He could be a centerpiece of the Royals future or be a trade target this offseason. Many teams were rumored to be interested in Merrifield last offseason and at the trade deadline. The decision on what to do about Merrifield will have a big impact on the Royals future.

Rule 5 draft pick Brad Keller had a good rookie season. He finished the year with a 3.08 ERA and a record of 9-6. It was the most wins by a Royals pitcher this season. Keller was brought up in the Arizona Diamondbacks minor league system before being selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the Rule 5 draft but was immediately traded to the Royals. Keller was a great acquisition by the Royals last off-season.

The Royals are entering a few rebuilding seasons that they hope will allow them to get back in the playoff hunt. They do not have a roster that can contend now but their high draft picks should help improve their farm system and eventually improve the Royals roster. The Royals have some elite players on the roster but should improve in the next few season to get back in the playoff hunt.

Royally Yours: Week in Review

The Kansas City Royals wrapped up their 2018 season this week. They started the week on the road in an interleague matchup with the Cincinnati Reds. The Royals swept the two game series. The weekend series was in Cleveland against the Indians. The Royals spilt the series 2-2 with the Indians. The Royals final record for the season is 58-104.

The Royals finished the season in last place in the American League Central. The Cleveland Indians won the division for the third year in a row. They will face the Houston Astros in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox finished second through fourth. The Royals were in last place, four games behind the White Sox. It is their first last place finish since 2010. The Royals had the second worst record in baseball and will have the second pick in the draft next June.

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Photo by, 12UP

Ned Yost received a one-year contract extension this week. Next year will be his 10th season with the team. Yost has a 697-736 all time record with the team. He was a big part of the Royals rebuilding phase and playoff runs. He reached the World Series twice and won once. He has a .710 winning percentage in the playoffs, which is the highest for managers with 17 or more games. Yost has been a big part of the Royals success in recent seasons and could be influential in their rebuilding process.

Whit Merrifield had a great offensive season. He led Major League Baseball in hits and steals. He finished with 192 hits and 45 steals. Merrifield was a big part of the Royals offense this season. He led the team in games played, at bats, runs, hits, doubles, total bases, walks, stolen bases, batting average, OBP, OPS and offensive WAR. Merrifield was one of the best all-around players in baseball this season.

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The MLB playoffs start this week and the Royals have some former players from this season on playoff teams. Drew Butera is a bench catcher for the Colorado Rockies. He probably will not see a lot of playing time but could be valuable in a pinch-hitting and fielding role in the National League format. Former Royals closer Wade Davis is also on the Rockies. Davis threw the final out to Butera in the 2015 World Series. Mike Moustakas is the Milwaukee Brewers third baseman. Moustakas should bring valuable playoff experience to the team. Former Royals Lorenzo Cain and Joakim Soria are also on the Brewers. The Royals missed the playoffs but they will have a lot of former players on playoff rosters.

Royally Yours: Week in Review

The Kansas City Royals struggled last week only winning two of their seven games. They started the week on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Royals were swept by the Pirates in the three game series. The weekend series was in Detroit against the Tigers. The Royals won the series 2-1. The Royals reached the 100-loss mark this week. It is their first 100-loss season since 2006. The Royals were the second MLB team to hit the 100-loss mark this season. Their record is currently 54-102.

Pitching for the Royals has improved this season. Before the All-Star break Royals pitchers had a combined 5.40 ERA, last in the American League. This month the Royals have a team ERA of 3.98, sixth best in the American League. The pitching staff has improved through trades and September call-ups. Starters Brad Keller, Ian Kennedy and Eric Skoglund all have ERA’s this month under three. Pitching was an area of concern early in the season but the Royals have improved as the season has progressed.

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Photo by; KingsOfKauffman

Whit Merrifield leads the American League in stolen bases entering the final week of the season. He has 38 stolen bases this season. Last season he led the league with 34 stolen bases. Amos Otis, Freddie Patek, Willie Wilson and Johnny Damon are the only other Royals to finish the season with the most stolen bases in the American League. Merrifield had another elite performance on the base paths this year.

Adalberto Mondesi has been one of the hottest players in the second half of the season. He has a .299 batting average, eight home runs and 21 stolen bases since the All-Star break. Mondesi should be an opening day starting infielder for the Royals next season. The former top prospect is starting to show his ability with the team.

The Royals will wrap up the 2018 season this week. They will start on the road against the Cincinnati Reds. The Royals are 0-2 against the Reds this season. Whit Merrifield will be a player to watch in the series. He has a .571 batting average in seven at bats against the Reds this season. The final series of the year will be at home against the Cleveland Indians. The Royals are 5-10 against the Indians this season. Ryan O’Hearn will be a player to watch in the series. He has a .421 batting average and three home runs in 19 at bats against the Indians this season. The Royals will finish their final two series of the season this week.

Royally Yours: Week in Review

The Kansas City Royals had a strong performance last week winning five of their seven games. They started the week at home against the Chicago White Sox. The Royals won the series 2-1. The weekend series was also at home against the Minnesota Twins. The Royals won the series 3-1. The Royals avoided reaching the 100-loss mark this week. They currently have a record of 52-97.

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Photo by; Zimbio

Adalberto Mondesi had another good performance last week. He had a .419 batting average, two home runs and five stolen bases. Mondesi has been one of the Royals best offensive performers in the second half. He has 19 stolen bases since the All-Star break, which is tied with teammate Whit Merrifield for the most in the American League. Mondesi has developed into one of the Royals top young players and will be an important part of the rebuilding process.

Ryan O’Hearn has had a strong start to his major league career. He has a .270 batting average and 10 home runs in 115 at bats. O’Hearn could compete for the Royals starting first base job next season. He was an eight round pick by the Royals in the 2014 MLB draft. O’Hearn provides the Royals with power and consistency at the first base position.

Image result for the lexington legendsThe Lexington Legends won the South Atlantic League Championship this week. The Legends are the class A affiliate of the Royals. It was their first league championship since 2001. The Legends have a lot of the Royals top prospects on their roster. Four of the Royals top ten prospects are currently with the Legends. A lot of the players are still a few years from making the Royals roster but the championship will be a big part of their development.

The Royals will start their final road trip of season this week. They will start against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are 74-74 this season. Brad Keller is scheduled to pitch on Monday and is the player to watch in the series. The Royals rookie has a 1.29 ERA in the month of September. The weekend series will be against the Tigers in Detroit. Salvador Perez will be a player to watch in the series. He has a .333 batting average and two home runs in eight games against the Tigers this season. The Royals only have two more weeks in the 2018 season and these final games will be important in the progression of young players.

Royally Yours: Week in Review

The Kansas City Royals struggled last week winning two of their six games. The week started on the road against the Cleveland Indians. The Royals won the first game in the series but lost the last two. The weekend series was against the Twins in Minnesota. The Royals only won one game of the three game series. The Royals are 47-95 this season. They could reach 100 losses this week. It would be their first 100-loss season since 2006.

Rookie pitcher Jorge Lopez had a perfect game through eight innings before losing it in the ninth inning on Saturday night against the Minnesota Twins. He ended the game with four strikeouts and one earned run in eight innings pitched. The Royals acquired Lopez in the Mike Moustakas trade earlier this season. Lopez has a 4.40 ERA and a record of 2-3 with the Royals this season. Jorge Lopez showed his potential on Saturday and could be a big part of the Royals rebuilding process.

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Photo by; The Sporting News

The Royals shut down pitcher Danny Duffy for the season after he re-injured his shoulder in the start on Tuesday. Duffy was placed on the disabled list in August because of the shoulder injury. He had a down season with a 4.88 ERA and a record of 8-12. Danny Duffy should return healthy next season and be a big part of the starting rotation.

Whit Merrifield is tied for the most steals in the American League with 31. Merrifield led the American League in steals last season with 34. If he repeats this season he would be the first back-to-back stolen base leader in the American League since Jose Altuve in 2014-2015. Whit Merrifield continues to be one of the best base runners in the American League.

The Royals will start a seven game home stand on Monday. The first series of the week will be against the Chicago White Sox. The Royals are 6-10 against the White Sox this season. Alex Gordon will be a player to watch in the series. He has a .263 batting average and three home runs in 16 games against the White Sox this season. The weekend series will be against the Minnesota Twins. The Royals are 7-7 against the Twins this season. Adalberto Mondesi will be a player to watch in the series. He has a batting average of .292 and five stolen bases in seven games against the Twins this season. The Royals will face two division opponents in their home stand this week.

Royally Yours: Week in Review

The Kansas City Royals had their best week of the season winning all of their five games this week. The first series of the week was at home against the Detroit Tigers. The Royals swept the two game series. The weekend series was also at home against the Baltimore Orioles. The Royals swept the three game series. The offense was outstanding averaging more than seven runs per game. The Royals have a record of 45-91, the second worst in baseball.

There were some big roster changes at the waiver trade deadline this year. Backup catcher Drew Butera and first baseman Lucas Duda were both traded to teams in the playoff hunt. Butera was traded to the Colorado Rockies for minor league left handed pitcher Jerry Vasto and cash. Vasto played with the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes this season. He had a 3.16 ERA and a record of 2-1 with the Isotopes. Vasto was sent to the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers. Duda was traded to the Atlanta Braves for cash. Both of the trades were used to make room on the 40-man roster and get a return on veteran players in the last year of their contract.

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Two minor league catchers were called up to the Royals this week. Cam Gallagher was called up from AAA Omaha after the Butera trade and Meibrys Viloria was called up from the Single-A Wilmington Blue Rocks after Salvador Perez suffered an injured thumb. The Royals were able to call up Viloria without losing a player because of the rosters expanding to 40 this week. The Royals could have more minor league players on the roster after the minor league season ends on Monday.

Next week the Royals will face two opponents on the road. They start the week against the Cleveland Indians. The Royals are 4-8 against the Indians this season. Indians pitcher Corey Kluber will be a player to watch in the series. The Royals had five runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings against Kluber in their last matchup. Kluber has an ERA of 2.80 and a record of 17-7 this season. He was the American League Cy Young winner last season and is one of the favorites to win the award again this season. The Royals will face Kluber on Wednesday. The weekend series will be against the Minnesota Twins. The Royals are 6-6 against the Twins this season. Outfielder Max Kepler will be a player to watch on the Twins. Kepler has a .293 batting average and two home runs against the Royals in 41 at bats this season. The Royals will have two matchups against division opponents this week.

Royally Yours: Week in Review

The Kansas City Royals struggled to start the week but finished it strong. The first series of the week was on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Royals were swept by the Rays in the four game series. The weekend series was at home against the Cleveland Indians. The Royals won the first two games in the series but lost the final game. It was their first series win since July. The Royals are the second worst team in baseball with a record of 40-91.

Danny Duffy returned from the disabled list last week. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the month with a shoulder injury. He was activated on Thursday before his start. Glenn Sparkman was sent down to AAA Omaha to make room on the roster. Duffy did not get the decision in his first game back. He gave up two runs in five innings and had seven strikeouts. In his first start after the injury Danny Duffy showed some positive signs.

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Whit Merrifield had a 12-game hit streak end against the Cleveland Indians on Friday night. It was his third 12-game hitting streak this season, which is the most in the American League. He currently has a batting average of .306. Merrifield has also been good on the base paths this season. He has 28 stolen bases, second most in the American League. Whit Merrifield has been the most consistent offensive player for the Royals this season.

The Royals roster will expand on Saturday for September call-ups. It will be a chance to give minor league players on the 40-man roster more opportunities. The Royals top prospects are not on the 40-man roster and are not expected to be a part of September call-ups. The Royals rebuilding process is progressing but their top players still need time to develop in the minor leagues.

Next week will be a five game home stand for the Royals. They start the week against the Detroit Tigers. The Royals are 7-6 against the Tigers this season. Nick Castellanos will be a Tigers player to watch in the series. He leads the Tigers in batting average, home runs, hits, RBI’s, OBP, slugging and OPS this season. The weekend series will be against the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles have the worst record in baseball. The Royals are 1-2 against the Orioles this season. Orioles outfielder Adam Jones will be a player to watch in the series. He has a batting average of .280, which is the best among qualified Orioles hitters. The Royals will have two winnable matchups this week.

MIchael Kopech’s MLB Debut

The day has finally arrived. On Tuesday night, White Sox’s top pitching prospect, Michael Kopech, finally made his MLB debut against the Minnesota Twins.

Kopech, who spent the past two years in the White Sox minor league system, was only able to go two innings due to the 50 minute rain delay that occurred during the bottom half of the 2nd inning. Although he only pitched two innings, he left many White Sox fans, who were in attendance, speechless with his performance.

Here’s Michael Kopech’s final stat line for his MLB debut: 2 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 4 Ks. (Kopech did hit a batter in the 2nd inning)

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Photo by; Post Sumo

I think it’s safe to say that many White Sox fans, including myself, were waiting on this day for so long. Now I’ve watched Kopech pitch on TV many times and I also had an opportunity to watch him live during a minor league game in Indiana. However, this was different. This was Michael Kopech’s MLB debut and it definitely did not disappoint.

Kopech threw 52 pitches (35 for strikes) throughout the two innings which may sound alarming to some, however, did you see his stuff? Do me a favor and go watch his highlights. Kopech’s fastball was an average of 98 mph with flashes of great off-speed pitches. The best part of his performance? The moment didn’t seem big for the 22 year old.

Let’s be honest here. Being the 2nd ranked prospect in your organization, 13th overall in MLB, and having high expectations from media and many fans, isn’t the easiest thing to handle. Yet, Kopech seemed relaxed and hungry. I could see it in his eyes, he is a competitor. He wants to be the best. Kopech is a firm believer that he will be a hall of fame player. Now, I know it’s a bit early to be talking “hall of fame” for Kopech but the sky is the limit for this young pitcher. Only time will tell what kind of player he will be. All I know, he is going to be special.

Just imagine if the rain delay never occurred, how far could Kopech have gone? We can only speculate at this point.

Kopech is scheduled to make his next start in Detroit on Sunday against the Tigers. After watching his two innings tonight, I just can’t wait to see him get back on the mound.

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