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Royals present organizational awards for 2018

@FlannyMLB
March 13, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz.-- Nothing brings a smile to Royals manager Ned Yost’s face more quickly than talking about organizational championships. And such was the case on Wednesday when the Royals presented their organizational awards for the 2018 season, an event that also included the honoring of the Class A Lexington Legends,

SURPRISE, Ariz.-- Nothing brings a smile to Royals manager Ned Yost’s face more quickly than talking about organizational championships.

And such was the case on Wednesday when the Royals presented their organizational awards for the 2018 season, an event that also included the honoring of the Class A Lexington Legends, champions of the South Atlantic League last season.

“Winning a championship at any level is special,” Yost said. “What Lexington accomplished made everyone in the organization proud. Their championship run was something we followed as a coaching staff every day. It was exciting.”

The Royals also handed out the following awards:

• Left-hander Richard Lovelady was the recipient of the Paul Splittorff Award, recognizing the top Minor League pitcher. Lovelady had a 2.47 ERA in 46 appearances at Triple-A Omaha.

• Infielder Nicky Lopez received the George Brett Hitter of the Year Award, recognizing the top position player. Lopez led all Royals farmhands with 155 hits, splitting time between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Omaha.

• Catcher MJ Melendez was the recipient of the Mike Sweeney Award, recognizing the player who best represents the organization off the field. Melendez participated in several youth clinics in the offseason.

• Catcher Sebastian Rivero was the recipient of the Carlos Fortuna Award that recognizes a player who is dedicated to improving his English, work ethic and conduct.

• First baseman Nick Pratto won the Frank White Defensive Player of the Year Award. He posted a .987 fielding percentage in 1,050 chances at Lexington.

• Outfielder Nick Heath was the Willie Wilson Baserunner of the Year. Heath played in 90 games between Class A Advanced Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas and led Royals farmhands with a career-high 39 stolen bases.

• Scott Thorman, current manager of Wilmington, received the Dick Howser Award recognizing the organization’s most outstanding player-development person. Thorman led Lexington to its first championship.

• Dan Moushon, vice president of Rookie Burlington, was recipient of the Matt Minker Award recognizing an outstanding Minor League-affiliate employee.

• Jim Buckley, area scout, was the recipient of the Art Stewart Award recognizing the organization’s most outstanding scout. His most recent notable signings included Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar – Kansas City’s top two picks from the 2018 Draft -- and 2017 Paul Splittorff Award winner Foster Griffin.

Keller settles down
Right-hander Brad Keller, who will be the Opening Day starter, went four innings in the Royals’ 17-7 win over the Indians on Wednesday. Keller allowed four hits and three runs. He walked one and struck out three.

“I was all over the place early, then settled down the last two innings,” Keller said. “I’ll try to focus on the last two innings and move on to the next one.”

Up next
Kansas City will face former Royal Edinson Volquez when it takes on the Rangers on Thursday at 3:05 p.m. CT at Surprise Stadium. Right-hander Jakob Junis is scheduled to start for the Royals, likely followed by Jake Diekman, Wily Peralta, Brad Boxberger, Lovelady and Kyle Zimmer.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.