The Kansas City Royals have named their Minor League Players and Pitchers of the Year for their respective affiliates. The George Brett Hitter of the Year and Paul Splittorff Pitcher of the Year will be announced during the offseason.
All of the players will be at Kauffman Stadium on Friday, September 28 for Futures Night, where they will take part in a pregame autograph session at 5:30 p.m. inside Gate A, and will be honored in an on-field presentation prior to the Royals game with the Cleveland Indians. On Friday morning, the players will visit patients at The University of Kansas Health System, 4000 Cambridge Street in Kansas City, Kan., from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. On Saturday morning, the players will tour the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum starting at 8:30 a.m. before leading a clinic for preselected youth from 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. at the Urban Youth Academy, in conjunction with the Royals Charities Gloves for Kids program.
Infielder Frank Schwindel, 26, was named the Omaha Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. He hit .286/.336/.506 (146-for-510) with a career-high 24 home runs and 93 RBI, which led all Royals farmhands. His 38 doubles set a new single-season franchise record for Omaha, and ranked one behind the Pacific Coast League lead. He also ranked among the league leaders in total bases (258, 2nd), extra-base hits (63, 2nd) and hits (3rd). Schwindel, last year's George Brett Minor League Player of the Year winner, had a team-high 20-game hit streak from July 22-August 13. He was selected in the 18th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
Left-handed pitcher Richard Lovelady, 23, was named the Omaha Pitcher of the Year after winning the honors with Advanced-A Wilmington in 2017. He went 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA (20 ER in 73 IP) and 71 strikeouts (8.8 K/9) in 46 relief appearances. Among Pacific Coast League relievers, he ranked second with a .204 opponents' average (53-for-260) and 2.22 walks per nine innings (18 BB in 73 IP). He surrendered just three home runs in the hitter-friendly PCL, and finished the season with a 41-inning homerless streak over 24 appearances. Lovelady was selected in the 10th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.
NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (AA)
Infielder Jecksson Flores, 24, was named Northwest Arkansas Player of the Year. He set career highs across the board en route to winning the Texas League batting title with a .314 average (144-for-459), becoming the second Natural in franchise history to win the league batting title, joining Clint Robinson in 2010. He also led the team in doubles (31), total bases (202) and on-base percentage (.363) and hit seven home runs, matching the total from his previous seven seasons combined (2011-17). He had a 34-game on-base streak from May 29-July 7 and four double-digit-game hit streaks, including a season-high 17-game hit streak from June 15-July 6. His efforts earned him league midseason All-Star honors for the first time in his career. Flores signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2010.
Right-handed pitcher Jake Newberry, 23, was named Northwest Arkansas Pitcher of the Year. He made his first 25 appearances with the Naturals, in which he went 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA (7 ER in 29.2 IP), 37 strikeouts (11.2 K/9) and 12 saves. A 37th-round pick in 2012, Newberry made his Major League debut on August 20, becoming the Royals' lowest-round pick to debut with the club since Jarrod Dyson (50th round in 2006) debuted in 2010. Across three levels, including Triple-A Omaha (16 outings) and Kansas City (12), Newberry is 7-0 in 53 appearances with 15 saves and a 1.75 ERA (12 ER in 61.2 IP).
Infielder D.J. Burt, 22, was named Wilmington Player of the Year. He hit .280 (115-for-410) with a .367 on-base percentage and led the Carolina League with 32 stolen bases. He also ranked among the league leaders in sacrifice hits (12, 1st), runs (72, 4th), triples (7, tied for 4th), on-base percentage (5th) and batting average (8th). He made starts at third base (38), second base (32), shortstop (11) and left field (11), and earned league midseason All-Star honors for the first time in his career. Burt was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.
Right-handed pitcher Gerson Garabito, 23, was named Wilmington Pitcher of the Year. He went 8-6 with a Carolina League-leading 3.16 ERA (50 ER in 142.1 IP), which also led all qualified Royals farmhands. His .226 opponents' average (117-for-517) ranked second in the league and his 116 strikeouts were third most among Royals minor leaguers. He allowed no more than two earned runs in 20 of his 26 starts, including each of his last 10 starts, a stretch in which he went 5-0 with a 1.70 ERA (11 ER in 58.1 IP). Garabito signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2012.
Outfielder Seuly Matias, 20, was named Lexington Co-Player of the Year. He hit 31 home runs, sixth most in the minor leagues, despite playing in just 94 games. His season ended prematurely due to injury on August 13, at which point he was tied for the minor league lead in homers. He homered in each of his first three games, including two on Opening Day, his first of four multi-homer efforts. He earned midseason and postseason All-Star honors and was named to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Washington, D.C., where he went 2-for-3 including a home run. Matias was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.
Catcher MJ Melendez, 19, was named Lexington Co-Player of the Year. He slugged .492 with 19 home runs (5th most in the South Atlantic League and 4th among Royals farmhands) and 73 RBI (4th in the league and tied for 2nd among Royals minor leaguers). He also ranked among the league leaders in extra-base hits (54, 2nd), triples (9, 3rd), total bases (206, 5th) and slugging percentage (5th), and was named a South Atlantic League midseason All-Star. His 19 home runs are most by a teenage catcher in the South Atlantic League since at least 2006. Behind the plate, he threw out 26 of 62 attempted base stealers (41.9%), which tied for the league lead among qualified catchers. He went 4-for-14 (.286) with a home run and three RBI in the league championship series, leading the Legends to their first league title since 2001. Melendez was a second-round pick in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft.
Right-handed pitcher Carlos Hernandez, 21, was named Lexington Pitcher of the Year. He went 6-5 with a 3.29 ERA (29 ER in 79.1 IP), 82 strikeouts (9.3 K/9) and just 23 walks (2.6 BB/9). He allowed just one unearned run over a three-start stretch (21 IP) from June 29-July 9, in which he allowed just nine hits. In the last start of the streak on July 9, he recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts in a 2-1 win vs. Greensboro. Hernandez was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2017.
IDAHO FALLS (R)
Infielder/outfielder Nathan Eaton, 21, was named Idaho Falls Player of the Year. He hit .354/.427/.581 (92-for-260) with 37 extra-base hits, 53 RBI and 19 stolen bases in 66 games during his professional debut. His .354 average led all Royals farmhands and ranked third in the Pioneer League. He also ranked among the league leaders in hits (1st), extra-base hits (1st), total bases (151, 1st), triples (12, 1st), runs (59, tied for 1st), stolen bases (2nd) and on-base percentage (.427, 3rd). He had a team-high 21-game on-base streak from August 4-31 and recorded at least three hits in 13 games, including four four-hit efforts. He was the starting third baseman in the Pioneer League All-Star Game and went 5-for-5 with four runs, a double, a triple and two RBI. Eaton was a 21st-round pick in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.
Left-handed pitcher J.C. Cloney, 24, was named Idaho Falls Pitcher of the Year. He won all nine of his starts with the Chukars and posted a 1.93 ERA (12 ER in 56 IP) with 50 strikeouts (8.0 K/9) and 10 walks (1.6 BB/9). His nine wins were three more than any other pitcher in the league. He was named the Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year, joining Sam Selman (2012) as Royals prospects to receive the award since Idaho Falls became a Kansas City affiliate in 2004. He was promoted to Lexington in August and went 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA (9 ER in 29.2 IP) in five starts, not including 5.0 scoreless innings in the championship-clinching Game 4 win over Lakewood. In 14 regular season starts between two levels, he went 12-1 - tied for the most wins among Royals farmhands - with a 2.21 ERA (21 ER in 85.2 IP). Cloney was a ninth-round pick in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft.
Infielder Jose Marquez, 20, was named Burlington Player of the Year. He hit .301/.355/.498 (69-for-229) with 35 RBI in 59 games, and ranked among the Appalachian League leaders in extra-base hits (26, 4th), runs (47, tied for 4th), and total bases (114, 5th). He had a team-high 18-game on-base streak from July 2-22, and was named Burlington's Player of the Month for July. Marquez was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2014.
Left-handed pitcher Marcelo Martinez, 22, was named Burlington Pitcher of the Year. In his first season in the organization, he went 5-3 in 10 starts with the B-Royals, and led the Appalachian League with a 2.68 ERA (17 ER in 57 IP), 71 strikeouts, an 11.2 K/9, .216 opponents' average (46-for-213) and 1.00 WHIP. In back-to-back starts on August 1 and August 7, he recorded 6.0 scoreless innings on one hit and 12 strikeouts, followed by 6.0 no-hit scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts. The first start earned him Appalachian League Pitcher of the Week honors, and he was later named Burlington's Pitcher of the Month for August. Martinez was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Mexico in March.
Infielder Rubendy Jaquez, 18, was named Surprise Player of the Year, after winning the honors with the Dominican Royals last season. He hit .303/.389/.448 (50-for-165) with 27 RBI in 46 games for the Royals, including 16 stolen bases, third most in the Arizona League. He was named Surprise's Player of the Month in both June and July. Jaquez was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.
Right-handed pitcher Yohanse Morel, 18, was named Surprise Pitcher of the Year. He went 1-2 with a 3.71 ERA (18 ER in 43.2 IP) and 47 strikeouts (9.7 K/9) in 12 appearances (7 starts) with Surprise. Morel was acquired from Washington withKelvin Gutierrez and Blake Perkins on June 18 for Kelvin Herrera. He was originally signed by the Nationals as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2017.
DOMINICAN 1 (R)
Infielder Enrique Valdez, 18, was named the Dominican Royals 1 Player of the Year. He hit .264 (24-for-91) in 27 games for the Dominican Royals 1 team, including 24 starts at shortstop. He also hit .307 (31-for-101) in 36 games with the Dominican Royals 2 team, and was named a Dominican League midseason All-Star. He was named the Dominican Royals' Player of the Month in June and July. Valdez was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2017.
Right-handed pitcher Heribert Garcia, 18, was named the Dominican Royals 1 Pitcher of the Year. He went 4-2 with a 0.94 ERA (5 ER in 47.2 IP) in 11 appearances (10 starts), which would've ranked third in the Dominican League, but he fell just shy of qualifying. He had 44 strikeouts (8.3 K/9), seven walks (1.3 BB/9) and allowed just one home run in 47.2 innings, including a 30-inning homerless streak to end the season. Garcia was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in March.
DOMINICAN 2 (R)
Outfielder Neyfi Marinez, 18, was named the Dominican Royals 2 Player of the Year. He hit .269 (57-for-212) with 29 runs and 23 RBI in 59 games, including 48 starts in left field. He led the club with six triples. Marinez was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2017.
Right-handed pitcher Daury Cabrera, 17, was named the Dominican Royals 2 Pitcher of the Year. He went 5-2 with a 1.16 ERA (7 ER in 54.1 IP) in 13 appearances (9 starts) between the two Dominican League teams, including 2-2 with a 1.23 ERA (6 ER in 44 IP) in nine starts with Royals 2. Five of his nine starts were scoreless, including three straight from July 11-23, in which he held opponents to a .180 average (9-for-50) in 15 scoreless innings. The stretch earned him Royals 2 Pitcher of the Month honors for July. Cabrera was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in April.