Salvy on power surge; Lopez DH on ballot?

Benintendi, Barlow named Royals' Player, Pitcher of Month for May; Minors awards

June 4th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- offered a very simple explanation for the power he’s displaying this season.

He flexed his arms, flashed a grin and said, “The weight room. Getting strong.”

The veteran Royals catcher has displayed the highest exit velocity of his career this season, averaging 92.9 mph. His career average is 89.4 mph. His 87 hard-hit balls (95 mph or greater exit velocity) leads the Majors, ahead of Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 86.

Perez is one of the hottest hitters in the league right now, and he showed why on Thursday night in the Royals' 6-5 win over the Twins. He homered twice -- his second consecutive two-homer game -- for a team-leading 14 home runs this season. The first homer, in the first inning off Twins starter J.A. Happ, was crushed: It went 456 feet over the left-center-field wall.

The second one, in the fifth off Happ, went into the Royals' bullpen in right field. Both were on fastballs away, and both were on the first pitches of the at-bats. Perez now has four homers in his last six at-bats spanning two games.

“I don’t know why we’re surprised at anything he does right now,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s in such a good place with his swing. Even watching his work, it just looks different. He’s worked really hard at using his lower half, and I believe that started in Spring Training and it’s carrying through right now.

“He’s big and strong through his core, but he’s using his legs maybe better than I’ve ever seen him. Haven’t been around here forever, but there’s a big difference in the way the ball’s carrying for him.”

Perez dove a bit deeper into why he thinks he’s off to a good start this season, now hitting .284/.312/.536 after Thursday.

“The main thing is try to know the pitcher, who we’re facing that night,” Perez said. “Try to know how they like to pitch. Looking at a guy and how they look at me, the way they pitch guys. Try to learn a little bit about that.”

What’s also been impressive is that Perez has played every day this season. His days off from catching, like Thursday, are when he starts as the designated hitter. The Royals are only 54 games into the season, but Perez, 31, does have 162 on his mind after missing all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery and seeing the ’20 season cut short because of the pandemic.

“I want to say 100 percent that’s one of my goals,” Perez said. “I’m going to keep that in mind of one of the things I want to do this year. Every day, talk to God to keep me healthy, be in the lineup every day. It is one of my goals, something I want to do before my career’s over. And the way that I prepare myself in the offseason, Spring Training, during the season, I’m like, ‘Why not?’ You know? I feel like I’m ready. I don’t feel tired, my body feels great. And I think I show that. I run hard to first base, I play hard. So yeah, it’s something I have in mind. Hopefully I can keep it that way.”

May awards

Left fielder Andrew Benintendi and reliever Scott Barlow were named Royals Player and Pitcher of the Month for May. Benintendi led the team in hits (33) and batting average (.340) last month, and he matched a career high 11-game hitting streak that began on April 25 and carried into the first week of May.

Barlow has been the Royals' most valuable reliever. He pitched in 13 of the team's 28 games last month (46.4 percent) and posted a team-high five holds with a 1.50 ERA (two earned runs in 12 innings) while holding opponents to a .159 average. With 23 strikeouts over 12 innings, Barlow had the best strikeout-per-nine ratio (17.3) in the Majors in May.

In the Minor Leagues, the Royals' player development team handed out its own player and pitcher of the month awards at each affiliate:

Triple-A Omaha: RHP Jackson Kowar and OF Edward Olivares

Double-A Northwest Arkansas: RHP Jonathan Bowlan and co-players C MJ Melendez and 1B Nick Pratto

High-A Quad Cities: LHP Drew Parrish and INF Nathan Eaton

Low-A Columbia: LHP A.J. Block and SS Maikel Garcia

Extended spring training: RHP Heribert Garcia and SS Omar Florentino

Designated hitter All-Star… Nicky Lopez?

All-Star voting launched on Thursday, and fans can vote for their favorite players from now until June 24. Perez, a six-time All-Star, will likely make another run, as well as second baseman Whit Merrifield. All of the Royals starters appear at their typical positions -- except for one quirk.

Nicky Lopez, who is primarily a second baseman and filled in for Adalberto Mondesi at shortstop for 47 games, is among the American League designated hitters on this year's ballot. Jorge Soler appears in right field, perhaps to maximize Merrifield’s chances at second base rather than in a stacked outfield group. Either way, Royals Twitter has been pushing a #VoteNicky campaign already.

Fans can cast their votes exclusively online at, all 30 club websites, the MLB At Bat and MLB Ballpark mobile apps and on Google Search in the U.S. and Canada until the voting period for Phase 1 concludes at 3 p.m. CT on June 24.

On June 27, the top three vote-getters at each position (and top nine outfielders) in each league will be revealed at 11 a.m. CT on the 2021 Google MLB All-Star Ballot Finalists Show on MLB Network, advancing to the second phase of voting.

Phase 2 will conclude on July 1 at 1 p.m. CT. Later that night, the starting teams will be announced at 8 p.m. CT on the 2021 Google MLB All-Star Starters Reveal on ESPN.