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Pipeline names Royals' Prospects of the Year

Matias powers 31 homers for Player of the Year honor, Lovelady's stellar ERA earns Pitcher of the Year title
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- When Royals power-hitting prospect Seuly Matias was in Kansas City near the end of the season to be recognized alongside other organizational Minor League award winners, he scanned the spacious dimensions of Kauffman Stadium.

As Matias did so, he was asked if he would have any problem hitting home runs in such a huge ballpark.

KANSAS CITY -- When Royals power-hitting prospect Seuly Matias was in Kansas City near the end of the season to be recognized alongside other organizational Minor League award winners, he scanned the spacious dimensions of Kauffman Stadium.

As Matias did so, he was asked if he would have any problem hitting home runs in such a huge ballpark.

"Nah, I don't think so," Matias said, smiling.:: Complete prospect coverage ::

It would be hard to doubt him. Matias, 20, belted 31 home runs in just 338 at-bats at Class A Lexington this season. Clearly, no ballpark can contain him.

And that's why Matias, the Royals' No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has been named MLB Pipeline's Royals Minor League Player of the Year. Left-hander Richard Lovelady, the club's No. 13 prospect, was named MLB Pipeline's Pitcher of the Year in the organization.

"He's just a kid with tremendous talent," Royals assistant general manager of player personnel J.J. Picollo said by phone. "Very toolsy. Obviously, tremendous power, and he can run and he may have the best outfield arm in the system."

Video: WLD@USA: Matias puts the World on the board with a HR

Matias' season was cut short by a freak accident in August, when he suffered a deep gash on his right thumb after it got caught on exposed metal while he was loading his luggage into the team bus' storage compartment. The injury has healed 100 percent, and Matias is now in the Royals' instructional league in Arizona.

"He's one of those players who really is eager to learn," Picollo said. "It's interesting that when he takes batting practice, he'll always instruct the thrower to throw as many breaking balls as possible just because he wants to identify the spin.

"There obviously is a very high ceiling with him. There are things he can work on. We'd like for him to cut down his strikeouts (131 this season) -- not in half, or anything, but just cut them down. Like a lot of young hitters, he needs to know the situation, like man on third and less than two out, he's got to get the ball in play and drive in runs. He's a run producer. That's his job."

Matias, who had an .853 OPS, is also a player that Picollo believes can run well enough to steal 20 bases a year. It is a skill set similar to and perhaps a cross between Jermaine Dye and Jorge Soler.

"Just a really good athlete," Picollo said.

Lovelady, 23, had another dominant Minor League season, posting a 2.47 ERA in a career-high 46 games. He struck out 71 in 73 innings and walked just 21 in his full season spent at Triple-A Omaha. The lefty was also named the Storm Chasers' Pitcher of the Year this season.

Video: CLE@KC: Schwindel and Lovelady on Triple-A season

Lovelady, who could project as a closer at the big league level, has a fastball that can touch 96-97 mph, but usually sits around 93-94. He complements it with a slider that Picollo said hitters cannot ignore.

"He hasn't needed a changeup at the Minor League level," Picollo said. "But that's a pitch he is working on. Right now, he would project as a late-inning guy. We've been trying to use him at the Minor League level on back-to-back days, much like you would at the Major League level. He just continues to improve."

Lovelady does not have to go on the 40-man roster this fall to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, but one could assume that Lovelady will get a long look in Spring Training and have a taste of the big leagues next season.

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

Kansas City Royals

Singer, Pratto, Matias among Royals at instructs

MLB.com

The Royals were delighted to grab Florida right-hander Brady Singer, MLB Pipeline's No. 2-rated 2018 Draft prospect, with the 18th overall pick in June. But while the other five college arms they landed in the first five rounds all saw extensive action in their pro debuts, Singer didn't take the mound after signing for $4,247,500, a franchise-record for a pitcher.

The Royals were delighted to grab Florida right-hander Brady Singer, MLB Pipeline's No. 2-rated 2018 Draft prospect, with the 18th overall pick in June. But while the other five college arms they landed in the first five rounds all saw extensive action in their pro debuts, Singer didn't take the mound after signing for $4,247,500, a franchise-record for a pitcher.

Instructional league rosters

Singer dealt with a minor left hamstring injury at the end of his career with the Gators, so Kansas City shut him down for about a month after he signed in July. Rather than ramp him back up quickly to get him into some Minor League games, they decided instead to wait until instructional league.

The Royals opened their instructional league program Sept. 17 at their training base in Surprise, Ariz., and Singer has pitched two innings every Monday since they began playing games a week later. He'll make one final appearance next Monday before the camp ends on Oct. 19.

"He's been outstanding," Kansas City vice president and assistant GM for player personnel J.J. Picollo said. "He's been really good with his fastball, with his command maybe off a tick, and his slider has been very good. He's trying to bring his changeup along, and last Monday he threw three changeups in one sequence that all were above average.

"All three of his pitches are good and there's a lot of deception in what he does. Once he locates his pitches, he's going to be very, very good."

Rather than having Singer hang around their facility and watch Rookie-level Arizona League action in August, the Royals sent him to low Class A Lexington for a week to work with Legends pitching coach Mitch Stetter and pitching coordinator Larry Carter. He also spent a week at Rookie-level Idaho Falls to learn from Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan. He'll likely make his pro debut in Lexington next April, though opening 2018 at high Class A Wilmington also is a possibility.

Kansas City's top pick from the 2017 Draft, first baseman Nick Pratto, also is in instructional league. A pure hitter who earned some Joey Votto comparisons before the Royals selected him 14th overall, Pratto started slowly in his first full pro season before hitting .357/.436/.630 in the final month and a half at Lexington to finish at .280/.343/.443. His main emphasis in Surprise is refining his approach at the plate.

"He's so selective at the plate that sometimes it works to his disadvantage," Picollo said. "We want him to focus on how many times he gets to a two-strike count because he struck out more than he should based on his swing and pitch selection. We want him to be selective but not overly selective.

"If you see a ball up in the zone early in the count, we want you on that. He did that more in the second half. And defensively, he's just outstanding."

Pratto also stood out in the postseason, batting .333/.481/.667 with two homers in six games as the Legends won the South Atlantic League title. Several other members of Lexington's championship clubs are in Surprise, including two more of the system's top prospects in outfielder Seuly Matias and catcher M.J. Melendez.

Signed for $2.25 million in 2015, Matias led the Minors in home run rate (one per 12.1 plate appearances) and ranked sixth with 31 homers in just 94 games before missing the end of the season when he cut his right thumb on the cargo door of the team bus while loading his luggage in mid-August. Healthy again, he left camp Saturday along with shortstop Jeison Guzman to play for a 23-and-under Dominican team in an international tournament in Colombia. Before departing, Matias focused on making more contact after striking out in 35 percent of his plate appearances this season.

Video: Top Prospects: Seuly Matias, OF, Royals

"He's learning how to use the right side of the field better," Picollo said. "He has a tendency to chase breaking balls but he's showing signals that he's figuring it out. He's able to self-evaluate, knows what he's able do to well and what he's not able to do well and what he needs to do to fix it.

"He's working constantly on the breaking ball. He's the only hitter in the system who during batting practice asks for breaking balls. He doesn't try to hit home runs, he just stays back and hits balls to right field. He wants to be a better hitter."

A 2018 second-rounder, Melendez smashed 19 homers, led SAL catchers by throwing out 42 percent of basestealers and improved as a receiver during his first full season. He's working on polishing his offense and defense during instructional league.

Video: Top Prospects: M.J. Melendez, C, Royals

"His arm strength is excellent but he likes to throw from his knees and we're trying to gradually wean him off of that and sync up his exchange," Picollo said. "We thought coming into the year he was more of an offensive catcher, but he came a long way with his receiving, his pitcher/catcher relationships and his game-calling too.

"He has the highest hard-hit-ball rate in our system, but his strikeouts need to come down a little bit. He can get rotational a bit and deep with his hands, so he can get beat with fastballs in on his hands sometimes. He just needs to control his load and be a little more directional. We're really happy with him."

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Every club's best individual playoff performance

From MadBum to Mr. October, these runs went down in franchise lore
MLB.com

One of the many joys of baseball's postseason is how one player can make such an outsized difference. There's no better time for a player to go on a hot streak than in the playoffs, when he's able to carry his team for a whole series -- maybe even to a championship. Baseball is a game of ebbs and flows, of zeniths and nadirs, and everyone wants to break out and have a heater in October.

With that in mind, we look at the greatest postseason runs by a player on each of baseball's 30 teams. These are the sort of streaks that make legends in their hometowns ... the sort of runs we'll talk about forever.

One of the many joys of baseball's postseason is how one player can make such an outsized difference. There's no better time for a player to go on a hot streak than in the playoffs, when he's able to carry his team for a whole series -- maybe even to a championship. Baseball is a game of ebbs and flows, of zeniths and nadirs, and everyone wants to break out and have a heater in October.

With that in mind, we look at the greatest postseason runs by a player on each of baseball's 30 teams. These are the sort of streaks that make legends in their hometowns ... the sort of runs we'll talk about forever.

Note: We're sticking to the divisional era here, which goes back to 1969, and is the dawn of the modern postseason.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Paul Molitor, 1993
.447/.527/.851, World Series MVP
Everyone remembers the Joe Carter homer, but Molitor was a monster that whole postseason for the Blue Jays at the age of 37. He was terrific back in 1982 for the Brewers, too.

Orioles: Brooks Robinson, 1970
.485/.471/.788, World Series MVP
This was, of course, the same World Series in which he made the ridiculous play at third base … though with Robinson, it's always a question of which ridiculous play.

Video: #WeKnowPostseason: Robinson's Play

Rays: James Shields, 2008
2-2, 25 IP, 2.88 ERA
This is where the "Big Game James" nickname came from, even if it maybe lasted a year or two longer than it should have.

Red Sox: David Ortiz, 2004
.400/.515/.764, ALCS MVP
It's rather difficult, all told, to figure out which Ortiz postseason to pick: He had an OPS over 1.204 in October for all three of the Red Sox championship teams he played for.

Video: 2004 ALCS Gm7: Ortiz's homer gives Red Sox early lead

Yankees: Reggie Jackson, 1978
.417/.511/.806
The highest qualified OPS by Yankees are, in fact, 2018 Aaron Judge and 2006 Derek Jeter ... but how do you not pick Mr. October?

AL CENTRAL

Indians: Orel Hershiser, 1995
4-1, 35 1/3 IP, 1.53 ERA, ALCS MVP
The season with the other Indians' World Series loss -- no, the other one -- featured vintage Hershiser ... and he split a couple of duels with Greg Maddux in the World Series, too.

Royals: Danny Jackson, 1985
2-1, 26 IP, 1.04 ERA
Bret Saberhagen is remembered as the hero of this Royals team -- along with Don Denkinger, of course -- but Jackson was actually the best pitcher for the Royals that postseason.

Tigers: Alan Trammell, 1984
.419/.500/.806, World Series MVP
Trammell put the perfect capper on the Tigers' dream season. This was a quiet argument for Trammell's Hall of Fame candidacy.

Twins: Jack Morris, 1991
4-0, 36 1/3 IP, 2.23 ERA, World Series MVP
Speaking of the Hall of Fame ... this postseason is almost certainly why Morris currently has a plaque in Cooperstown.

Video: 1991 WS Gm7: Morris' 10-inning shutout

White Sox: Jermaine Dye, 2005
.311/.415/.444, World Series MVP
Several White Sox players had a higher OPS than Dye that postseason -- including Joe Crede, Scott Podsednik and Paul Konerko -- but you've got to go with the World Series MVP.

AL WEST

Angels: Francisco Rodriguez, 2002
5-1, 18 2/3 IP, 1.93 ERA
Back when there were more rigid bullpen roles, K-Rod was deployed liberally and devastatingly in 2002, back when he was 20 years old.

Astros: Carlos Beltran, 2004
.435/.536/1.022
Cardinals fans will be having nightmares about 2004 Carlos Beltran for decades to come ... and they won that series.

Video: 2004 NLCS Gm4: Beltran hits eighth homer of playoffs

Athletics: Dave Stewart, 1989
4-0, 32 IP, 2.25 ERA, World Series MVP
Stewart had a career 2.77 postseason ERA in 133 innings ... he would actually win the ALCS MVP the very next season, too.

Mariners: Ken Griffey Jr., 1995
.364/.442/.818
Jay Buhner was just as good as The Kid in 1995 ... but Griffey is Griffey.

Rangers: Juan Gonzalez, 1996
.438/.526/1.375
The Rangers actually lost this Division Series in four games, but good heavens, was Juan Gone ever a monster, hitting five homers in four games.

Video: 1996 ALDS Gm4: Juan Gonzalez's fifth home run of ALDS

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: John Smoltz, 1996
4-1, 38 IP, 0.95 ERA
You could also go with Greg Maddux's 1995 run -- since the Braves won the World Series that year, after all -- and you wouldn't be wrong.

Marlins: Josh Beckett, 2003
2-2, 42 2/3 IP, 2.11 ERA, World Series MVP
After the Yankees and Red Sox had their first of two epic postseason battles, Beckett was happy to pick up the pieces in the World Series.

Video: WS Gm6: Beckett shuts out Yanks as Marlins win series

Mets: Bobby Ojeda, 1986
2-0, 27 IP, 2.33 ERA
Of all the great Mets starters on that team, it was Ojeda who had the best postseason.

Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, 2017
1-1, 14 IP, 0.00 ERA
Since we're excluding the Expos -- if we weren't, Steve Rogers in 1981 would be the obvious answer here -- we must dig into the gruesome land of the Nationals' postseason failures. Strasburg has the ultimate Nationals playoff line: 0 earned runs, 1 loss.

Video: WSH@CHC Gm4: Strasburg K's 12 over seven scoreless

Phillies: Cliff Lee, 2009
4-0, 40 1/3 IP, 1.56 ERA
Cole Hamels had the World Series MVP in '08, but Lee was actually better, in five more innings.

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: Ryan Braun, 2011
.405/.468/.714
This postseason performance feels like a lifetime ago, but it's one the Brewers sure would appreciate a repeat of.

Cardinals: David Freese, 2011
.397/.465/.794, NLCS MVP, World Series MVP
Freese actually struggled in the NLDS this season ... though he ended up making up for it.

Video: Must C Comeback: Freese's triple ties it up in ninth

Cubs: Jon Lester, 2016
3-1, 35 2/3 IP, 2.02 ERA, NLCS co-MVP
Lester still feels like the postseason starter Cubs fans trust most, and probably always will.

Pirates: Willie Stargell, 1979
.415/.435/.927, NLCS MVP, World Series MVP
He also shared the regular-season MVP Award this year, pulling off the rare trifecta.

Reds: Johnny Bench, 1976
.444/.464/.926, World Series MVP
Bench was as dominant as the Reds were in this matter-of-fact World Series sweep.

NL WEST

D-backs: Curt Schilling, 2001
4-0, 48 1/3 IP, 1.12 ERA, World Series co-MVP
Randy Johnson's line this exact 2001 postseason: 5-1, 41 1/3 IP, 1.52 ERA. That is ... difficult to beat.

Video: WS2001 Gm4: Schilling comes up clutch on short rest

Dodgers: Hershiser, 1988
3-0, 1 SV, 42 2/3 IP, 1.05 ERA, NLCS MVP, World Series MVP
Hershiser is the only pitcher to be on this list twice ... and how could he not be?

Giants: Madison Bumgarner, 2014
4-1, 1 SV, 52 2/3 IP, 1.03 ERA, NLCS MVP, World Series MVP
This is an obvious pick, but at this point I'd like to remind you that Barry Bonds put up a .356/.581/.978 in 2002.

Video: WS2014 Gm7: Bumgarner sets postseason innings record

Padres: Sterling Hitchcock, 1998
3-0, 22 IP, 1.23 ERA, NLCS MVP
He gave up only one earned run in six innings in his lone World Series start ... not that it did the Padres much good.

Rockies: Kaz Matsui, 2007
.304/.347/.500
It was a strange postseason for the Rockies in 2007, but if you forget the World Series happened altogether, it was a glorious one.

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

Here's what happened in Thursday's AFL action

MLB.com

Here's a team-by-team breakdown of how all 30 teams' prospects fared in Arizona Fall League action on Thursday:

Gameday: Surprise 10, Glendale 9 | Salt River 7, Scottsdale 6 | Mesa 10, Peoria 9

Here's a team-by-team breakdown of how all 30 teams' prospects fared in Arizona Fall League action on Thursday:

Gameday: Surprise 10, Glendale 9 | Salt River 7, Scottsdale 6 | Mesa 10, Peoria 9

AL East

Blue Jays
Blue Jays No. 9 prospect Cavan Biggio went 0-for-2, but walked four times and drove in a run. Right-hander Zach Jackson recorded four strikeouts while allowing one hit in 1 1/3 innings of relief for Surprise.

2018 Arizona Fall League rosters

Orioles
Orioles No. 12 prospect Ryan McKenna went 2-for-4 with two runs and a walk out of the leadoff spot for Glendale. One of the hits was a double, McKenna's second extra-base hit in as many games after he tripled on Wednesday. Starter Chris Lee gave up one hit over two scoreless innings, while righty Jay Flaa worked 1 1/3 scoreless frames despite issuing four walks. Tyler Erwin also struggled with his control as he allowed one earned run on three walks and two hit batsmen.

Rays
Shortstop Lucius Fox, the Rays' No. 9 prospect, connected on a three-run home run in the eighth inning en route to his second straight two-hit game for Peoria. He scored two runs, walked once and stole a base, finishing 2-for-4. Joe McCarthy (No. 17) also reached base twice, going 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. On the mound, right-hander Phoenix Sanders allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits, two walks and two balks in 1 1/3 innings, while Brandon Lawson took the loss after giving up a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning.

Red Sox
Esteban Quiroz put Mesa on the board with a third-inning solo homer and reached base five times, going 2-for-3 with three runs scored, three walks and an RBI. Mike Shawaryn, Boston's No. 9 prospect, tossed 1 1/3 hitless innings in relief.

Yankees
Steven Sensley plated a pair of runs with a double and finished 2-for-5 for Glendale. Hobie Harris posted 2 1/3 innings of one-run ball in relief, while Matt Wivinis recorded an out late in the game.

AL Central

Indians
Indians No. 6 prospect Yu Chang went 1-for-5 and logged his second start at third base for Glendale. Hard-throwing righty Dalbert Siri scuffled in relief, allowing three earned runs on three hits and a walk in one inning.

Royals
Royals No. 2 prospect Khalil Lee went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, two walks and a stolen base from the bottom of Surprise's lineup. Catcher Meibrys Viloria also made an impact with a 1-for-4 performance that included a two-run double and two walks. Grant Gavin recorded the save despite allowing an unearned run on one hit.

Tigers
Daniel Pinero and Daniel Woodrow each collected two hits, an RBI and a steal for Mesa. Eduardo Jimenez was sharp in relief, striking out a pair of hitters over two perfect frames, though Tigers No. 26 prospect Sandy Baez was hammered for five earned runs on five hits in two-thirds of an inning.

Twins
Twins No. 19 prospect Luke Raley went 0-for-4, but walked twice and scored a run for Salt River. Hector Lujan gave up three runs and retired only two hitters. Jaylin Davis went 2-for-5. Adam Bray picked up the win for Salt River with two hitless innings.

White Sox
White Sox No. 4 prospect Luis Robert (No. 44 overall) went 2-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored. He's hit safely in all three games so far for Glendale. Outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe (No. 9) and shortstop Laz Rivera (No. 28) each drew a walk, but collectively finished 0-for-7. More »

AL West

A's
Outfielder Luis Barrera scored the walk-off run in the 10th for Mesa to cap a 1-for-4 game in which he scored two runs, walked twice and stole a base. Right-hander Calvin Coker retired all four batters he faced in relief, striking out one.

Angels
Brett Hanewich pitched around a pair of walks as he struck out the side in the 10th to earn his second win in as many outings for Mesa.

Astros
Astros No. 8 prospect J.B. Bukauskas threw 3 1/3 innings in a start for Scottsdale. The right-hander yielded one unearned run that scored on a passed ball, but was lights-out otherwise. He gave up three hits, struck out five and walked one. Abraham Toro-Hernandez (No. 21) went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Trent Thornton (No. 24) followed Bukauskas and gave up two runs on two hits. Ronnie Dawson went 0-for-3, but walked three times. Erasmo Pinales gave up two hits but also struck out two in a scoreless frame.

Mariners
Mariners No. 2 prospect Evan White has five RBIs through two games after his 1-for-3, three-RBI game for Peoria. Chris Mariscal also had a solid game, going 2-for-4 with two runs, while Matt Walker worked an inning in relief.

Rangers
Third baseman Charles Leblanc tallied two hits and two walks out of the No. 3 spot in Surprise's lineup. Starter Tai Tiedemann and reliever Joe Barlow both struggled as they allowed a combined eight earned runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings. Rangers No. 15 prospect C.D. Pelham tossed a scoreless inning to earn the win.

NL East

Braves
Braves No. 6 prospect Christian Pache (No. 66 overall) went 1-for-5, but also grounded into a pair of double plays, while outfielder Izzy Wilson scored a run from the No. 2 spot in Peoria's lineup. Jeremy Walker was effective as he completed three innings of one-run ball in his first AFL start. He was relieved by Braves No. 12 prospect Kyle Muller, who struck out a pair but allowed one run on two hits and two walks in one inning.

Marlins
Marlins No. 16 prospect Jordan Yamamoto was impressive in his start for Salt River. The right-hander racked up five strikeouts, including each of the final two batters he faced, over three scoreless innings. Kyle Keller followed Yamamoto and gave up two runs -- via a two-run homer -- in 1 1/3 innings. Chad Smith was the third Marlins farmhand to toe the rubber, and he cruised through 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He issued one walk and didn't give up a hit. Tommy Eveld put together a scoreless outing as he threw 1 1/3 innings. Brian Miller (No. 11) was inserted as a pinch-runner. Bryson Brigman (No. 26) went 1-for-4.

Mets
Mets No. 2 prospect Peter Alonso turned in a multi-hit effort for the third straight day for Scottsdale. After his 2-for-4 night, Alonso is 7-for-12 through three games. Joe Zanghi cruised through his one inning on the mound, yielding one hit in a scoreless frame. Andres Gimenez (No. 1) entered the game as a pinch-runner and drew a walk in his only plate appearance. Ali Sanchez (No. 25) went 0-for-1. Gerson Bautista gave up one hit over two scoreless innings, and Matt Blackham took the loss after he gave up an unearned run in the bottom of the 11th.

Nationals
Nationals No. 2 prospect Carter Kieboom picked up a pair of hits, including a triple, and scored a run as part of his 2-for-6 night for Salt River. Daniel Johnson (No. 10) went 1-for-5.

Phillies
For Scottsdale, Darick Hall went 2-for-5, including a two-run homer, his first long ball of the Fall League.

NL Central

Brewers
Catcher Mario Feliciano, Milwaukee's No. 23 prospect, went 1-for-3 with an RBI, two runs scored and two walks in his first AFL game. Weston Wilson went 1-for-5 with an RBI double, but also committed two errors at third base.

Cardinals
Tommy Edman was a catalyst out of the leadoff spot for Surprise with his 2-for-4, three-walk performance. He also drove in a run, scored once and swiped a pair of bases. Jeremy Martinez also tallied a hit, while Lane Thomas reached base on a pair of walks.

Cubs
Cubs No. 29 prospect Trent Giambrone paced Mesa's offense as he went 4-for-6 with two RBIs and one run scored. 2018 first-rounder Nico Hoerner (No. 6) went 0-for-5, but picked up an RBI in his second Fall League contest. PJ Higgins didn't collect a hit, but drove in a run and walked twice. Starting pitcher Justin Steele (No. 8) was tagged for four earned runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings, while lefty Manuel Rondon permitted one walk over two hitless frames in relief.

Pirates
Pirates No. 5 prospect Cole Tucker drove in three runs and stole two bases in a 2-for-5 showing for Surprise. Bryan Reynolds (No. 8) also collected two hits, going 2-for-5 with two runs, while Will Craig (No. 16) scored a run after entering as a pinch-hitter.

Reds
Reds No. 3 prospect Taylor Trammell went 1-for-5 for Scottsdale. Shed Long (No. 8) picked up a hit as a pinch-hitter, while Alfredo Rodriguez (No. 23) went 2-for-4.

NL West

D-backs
D-backs No. 4 prospect Pavin Smith came through with an RBI single as part of a 1-for-4 night for Salt River. Daulton Varsho (No. 5) went 1-for-4 with an RBI and Drew Ellis (No. 9) went 1-for-5 with a two-run homer.

Dodgers
Dodgers No. 2 prospect Keibert Ruiz (No. 39 overall) went 1-for-3 with two walks and an RBI for Glendale. Errol Robinson (No. 20) also had a strong game, going 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a stolen base, while designated hitter Cody Thomas contributed by scoring one run. On the mound, relievers Nolan Long and Andre Scrubb allowed a combined five runs (three earned) on three hits and three walks.

Giants
Giants No. 10 prospect Heath Quinn went 0-for-5 for Scottsdale. C.J. Hinojosa (No. 28) went 0-for-6. Chase Johnson gave up three runs on three hits in one inning. Matt Winn went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.

Padres
Padres No. 13 prospect Buddy Reed went 1-for-5 and scored a run for Peoria. Left-hander Travis Radke recorded three strikeouts and three walks as he allowed an unearned run on two hits in 2 2/3 innings of relief.

Rockies
Rockies No. 11 prospect Tyler Nevin reached base four times (3-for-5 with a walk) and drove in a run for Salt River. Justin Lawrence (No. 17) gave up one unearned run in one inning, but he avoided a big inning by inducing a 1-2-3 double play when he was stuck in a bases-loaded, no-outs jam. Josh Fuentes was inserted into the game as a pinch-runner.

Each team's greatest postseason moment

The most memorable October event of the divisional era for every club
MLB.com

There are just four teams remaining in this year's postseason, but every fan, even those of the Mariners (the team with the longest postseason drought, now up to 17 seasons), can relate to what it feels like to be in the playoffs. The late nights, the constant tension, the stakes so high you can barely breathe ... and when something wonderful happens, the release and the pure, unbridled jubilation.

With that in mind, we take a look at the greatest postseason moments of the division era. Even if your team isn't a postseason team, you can remember your great October moments … and if it is, you can dream of maybe having another one this month that's even better.

There are just four teams remaining in this year's postseason, but every fan, even those of the Mariners (the team with the longest postseason drought, now up to 17 seasons), can relate to what it feels like to be in the playoffs. The late nights, the constant tension, the stakes so high you can barely breathe ... and when something wonderful happens, the release and the pure, unbridled jubilation.

With that in mind, we take a look at the greatest postseason moments of the division era. Even if your team isn't a postseason team, you can remember your great October moments … and if it is, you can dream of maybe having another one this month that's even better.

(For the purpose of this exercise, we are going back to 1969, which is the start of divisional play and the birth of the postseason as we know it.)

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Joe Carter's World Series walk-off, Oct. 23, 1993
The Blue Jays might not have that many postseason moments, but the greatness of this one more than makes up for that. Runner-up: Jose Bautista's ALDS Game 5 bat flip, Oct. 14, 2015.

Video: 93 WS, GM 6, PHI@TOR: Joe Carter touches them all

Orioles: Brooks Robinson's incredible play, 1970 World Series, Oct. 10, 1970
The best part about this play, which might be the greatest defensive play in World Series history, is how surprised the umpire looks. Even he can't believe what he just saw. Runner-up: David McNally's grand slam, World Series Game 3, Oct. 13, 1970.

Rays: First and only World Series trip clinched, Oct. 19, 2008
A decade ago, and still pretty jaw-dropping that all this happened. Runner-up: Grant Balfour strikes out Ken Griffey Jr. to clinch the first ALDS victory, Oct. 6, 2008.

Red Sox: First World Series title since 1918, Oct. 27, 2004
You might remember when this happened. (It's when lifelong Red Sox fans Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore got on television.) Runner-up: David Ortiz's ALCS grand slam vs. the Tigers sent a cop joyous in the bullpen and turns the series around on Oct. 13, 2013.

Video: Must C Classic: Red Sox win first WS since 1918

Yankees: Reggie Jackson's three homers in 1977 World Series
There's a reason no one else gets to be called "Mr. October." Runner-up: Mr. November -- Derek Jeter's World Series Game 5 walk-off homer on Nov. 1, 2001.

Video: 1977 WS Gm6: Reggie becomes Mr. October

AL CENTRAL

Indians: Eddie Murray's walk-off, Game 3, 1995 World Series, Oct. 24, 1995
It was Cleveland's first World Series game in 41 years, and ended with a Hall of Famer sending the crowd into euphorics. Runner-up: Rajai Davis' home run off Aroldis Chapman, 2016 World Series, Nov. 2, 2016

Royals: Royals win 2015 World Series, Nov. 1, 2015
It was a magical season and a magical World Series that just seems more improbable each year that goes by. Runner-up: The Don Denkinger play, and aftermath, 1985 World Series, Oct. 26, 1985.

Tigers: Magglio Ordonez sends Tigers to World Series, Oct. 14, 2006
The sounds that crowd makes the minute the bat meets the ball still gives you chills 12 years later. Runner-up: Kirk Gibson's Game 5 homer, 1984 World Series.

Twins: Kirby Puckett's Game 6 walk-off, 1991 World Series, Oct. 26, 1991
The original "We Will See You Tomorrow Night." Runner-up: Twins win 1987 World Series, their first in Minnesota, Oct. 25, 1987.

Video: Must C Classic: Puckett crushes a walk-off homer

White Sox: White Sox win 2005 World Series, Oct. 26, 2015
A game that was razor-tight, in a series that was much closer than anyone remembers. Runner-up: Scott Podsednik's Game 2 walk-off, Oct. 23, 2015.

AL WEST

Angels: Scott Spiezio's homer, Game 6, 2002 World Series, Oct. 26, 2002
The most Rally Monkey of all the Rally Monkey moments, his three-run clout cued the rally from a 5-0 deficit. Runner-up: Troy Percival gets last out to win 2002 World Series, Oct. 27, 2002.

Astros: Charlie Morton finishes the Dodgers off, 2017 World Series, Nov. 1, 2017
This was so long ago you might not remember it, but trust me, it was wonderful. Runner-up: Chris Burke sends everybody home after 18 innings, 2005 NLDS.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Morton induces groundout to close out WS

Athletics: Eck closes out the 1989 World Series, October 28, 1989
When in doubt, go with the Hall of Famer closing out a series for an all-time great team. Runner-up: Joe Rudi's amazing catch, World Series Game 2, Oct. 14, 1973.

Mariners: Ken Griffey Jr. slides home to win the 1995 ALDS, Oct. 8, 1995
Basically, everything wonderful about the history of Mariners baseball, happening in one play. Runner-up: Mariners win most recent postseason series, 2001 ALDS over Cleveland.

Video: Griffey slides home to clinch the ALDS in 1995

Rangers: Neftali Feliz sends Texas to its first World Series, 2010 ALCS, Oct. 22, 2010
Over the hated Yankees, no less. Runner-up: Josh Hamilton's 2011 World Series Game 6 homer, which was this close to being one of the greatest baseball moments of recent memory.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Only World Series win in Atlanta, Oct. 28, 1995
It still seems amazing that this is the only one they ever got. Runner-up: The Sid Bream Slide, Oct. 14, 1992.

Marlins: Edgar Renteria's walk-off to win 1997 World Series, Oct. 26, 1997
Poor Cleveland. Runner-up: The Bartman play, and all that followed, 2003 NLCS.

Video: WS1997 Gm7: Fish win first WS on Renteria's walk-off

Mets: Mookie Wilson reaches base, Ray Knight scores, Mets win on Bill Buckner's error, Game 6, 1986 World Series, Oct. 25, 1986
A Mets comeback for the ages. Runner-up: Miracle Mets win 1969 World Series.

Video: 1986 World Series, Game 6: Red Sox at Mets

Nationals: Jayson Werth's 2012 NLDS walk-off, Oct. 11, 2012
After this, the Nats lost the series. But for the moment, it was great. Runner-up: Strasburg fans 12 to extend last year's NLDS.

Phillies: Brad Lidge gets the last out of a long game, 2008 World Series, Oct. 27, 2008
It took a couple of days for this game to actually finish, but no Phillies fan would ever complain. Runner-up: Roy Halladay's no-hitter, 2010 NLDS against Cincinnati.

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: Paul Molitor's inside-the-park homer, 1982 ALCS, Oct. 6, 1982
Runner-up: Nyjer Morgan's walk-off over Arizona in 2011 NLDS, particularly when called by Bob Uecker.

Cardinals: David Freese's triple to tie 2011 World Series Game 6, Oct. 27, 2011
The walk-off homer in the 11th gets more air time, but this was truly one of the most insane hits in World Series history. Runner-up: Ozzie Smith's 1985 NLCS homer off Tom Niedenfuer, the "Go Crazy, Folks" moment.

Video: WS2011 Gm6: Freese saves the Cards with a huge triple

Cubs: History in 2016
This was … not a tough call. Runner-up: Kyle Schwarber's shot atop the Wrigley scoreboard, Game 4, 2015 NLDS.

Video: Cubs win first World Series title in 108 years

Pirates: Willie Stargell's homer, 1979 World Series, Game 7, Oct. 17, 1979
And to do it in such beautiful threadsRunner-up: Pirates fans scare Johnny Cueto into dropping the ball, 2013 NL Wild Card Game at PNC Park.

Reds: Big Red Machine wins a Fall Classic for the ages, Oct. 22, 1975
It's only East Coast Bias that makes you think of Carlton Fisk when you think of this series. Runner-up: Reds sweep heavily favored A's in 1990 World Series.

NL WEST

D-backs: Luis Gonzalez off Mariano Rivera, 2001 World Series, Nov. 4, 2001
Ah, the perils of playing the infield in … Runner-up: Tony Womack's hit in 2001 NLDS.

Video: Must C Classic: Gonzalez walks off, wins World Series

Dodgers: Kirk Gibson pulls himself around the bases, 1988 World Series
Runner-up: Juan Uribe's 2013 go-ahead homer in Game 4 NLDS against Atlanta.

Video: Must C Classic: Gibson's 1988 WS walk-off home run

Giants: First World Series win in San Francisco, 2010 World Series, Nov. 1, 2010
Edgar Renteria hit .412 with two homers and six RBIs and the city got its first celebration. Runner-up: Madison Bumgarner's dominance in 2014 World Series.

Padres: Tony Gwynn's bad hop double, 1984 NLCS, Game 5, Oct. 7, 1984
The biggest hit of Gwynn's career was a bizarre one, but it got the job done. Runner-up: Padres finish off Braves to win 1998 NLCS.

Rockies: The Holliday slide, Oct. 1, 2007
He touched the plate … well, eventually. Maybe not technically the postseason either, but it came after Game 162. Runner-up: Rockies sweep D-backs to reach 2007 World Series.

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

Inbox: What is the Royals' deepest position?

Beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan answers fans' questions
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- Coming off a strong finish by their young core, the Royals' offseason is upon us.

There are rosters decisions to be made, Rule 5 Draft eligible players to be protected, and work to do to shore up the Royals' bullpen.

KANSAS CITY -- Coming off a strong finish by their young core, the Royals' offseason is upon us.

There are rosters decisions to be made, Rule 5 Draft eligible players to be protected, and work to do to shore up the Royals' bullpen.

With that, let's get to your questions in this week's Royals Inbox:

At what position are the Royals deepest?
-- Michael, Overland, Kansas @MichaelJMally1

I don't recall saying this in many years about a Royals team, but I'd probably say starting pitching. Danny Duffy (if he bounces back), Brad Keller, Jakob Junis, Ian Kennedy, Jorge Lopez, Eric Skoglund, Heath Fillmyer and Glenn Sparkman provide plenty of depth. And you never know if someone like Trevor Oaks or Scott Barlow or Arnaldo Hernandez or Foster Griffin wows the staff in camp.

Ned Yost has agreed to stay for 2019. Who might be his replacement?
-- Jenny, @jennysrc

Well, there's a chance Yost could be back in 2020 as well. He has stated repeatedly he wants to get this group competitive before he steps aside -- he wants his replacement to have a fighting chance at success. And once Yost steps away from the dugout, he likely will remain in a more advisory role. Dale Sveum would seem the logical choice to replace him. The players respect him. And Pedro Grifol merits strong consideration as well. Those would be the internal choices right now.

What are the chances that Frank Schwindel fights for a DH spot?
-- Nathan, @Best4Business15

Video: KC@CLE: Schwindel slugs a long solo homer to tie game

I think Schwindel will absolutely compete for a roster spot next spring. And to answer another question about Frank the Tank that I get asked quite often, I'm guessing the Royals leave him unprotected again before this December's Rule 5 Draft. They survived last year without protecting Schwindel or Ryan O'Hearn, simply because it's hard for teams to stash a backup first baseman on the 25-man roster.

Could you ever see the Royals experimenting with an "opener" or "bullpenning" the way other teams have?
-- Max, @maxrieper

Interesting question. We chatted with Yost about it numerous times this season. At first, he seemed skeptical -- he didn't want to spend his best bullpen arms in the first two innings of a game. And in his defense, it's not like he had his 2013-15 bullpens this year that were deep enough to employ the tactic. But Yost is more open-minded about these matters than he lets on. He simply wants results. I wouldn't be shocked with their rotation depth if they try it in '19.

Is there any talk about turning Duffy back into a reliever? He hasn't been able to stay healthy as a starter. With the late-season emergence of other rotation candidates, Duffy could help bolster a weak bullpen.
-- Jeff, @JeffBachman1

Video: DET@KC: Duffy strikes out 6 in 6 innings of work

Possible, but certainly Duffy will get a long look as a rotation candidate early on. He has vowed to devote this offseason to building strength in his rotator cuff and shoulder area. He's aware he has broken down too much lately and he is aware his fastball velocity has dipped. He believes he can get it back.

Jorge Bonifacio didn't perform well after returning from his PED suspension. Where does Bonifacio fit in the Royals' outfield plans?
-- Joey V., @Yay4Sportsballs

From the coaching staff to the front office, everyone was puzzled by Bonifacio's season -- just four homers once he came back from suspension with a .672 OPS. The general feeling is he's more like the 17-homer, .752 OPS guy he was in 2017. But he needs to impress in spring, not just offensively, but as a defender as well.

Who do you think will be the starting third and first basemen?
-- David, @BaltuskaDavid

The corners should be Hunter Dozier and O'Hearn after the way they performed in the final six weeks. Dozier made huge strides defensively and should keep getting better. O'Hearn needs to take that leap defensively as well. He is aware of it.

The closer on opening day is ... ?
-- Chris, @bballkansas

Video: KC@CIN: Peralta leaves the bases loaded for 14th save

Wily Peralta. Just a $3 million team option for 2019 -- that's cheap. He had to do a lot of dancing out of trouble at times, but he wound up 14-for-14 in save opportunities. Good guy in the clubhouse as well.

Opening Day lineup for next season?
-- BBJ, Gardner, Kansas, @Bbjkc

A very, very early guess:

2B Whit Merrifield

SS Adalberto Mondesi

LF Alex Gordon

DH Jorge Soler

C Salvador Perez

1B O'Hearn

3B Dozier

RF Bonifacio

CF Brett Phillips

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

Kansas City Royals

Former 1st-rounder Zimmer making progress

New training regimen has improved Royals pitching prospect's health, confidence
MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- These days, you can't keep a smile off Kyle Zimmer's face.

"It feels like I've been given a new life," Zimmer told MLB.com as he walked off the field at the Royals' instructional league camp on Wednesday.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- These days, you can't keep a smile off Kyle Zimmer's face.

"It feels like I've been given a new life," Zimmer told MLB.com as he walked off the field at the Royals' instructional league camp on Wednesday.

Royals fans know Zimmer's story well: The right-hander was the team's first-round pick in 2012, but his career has been derailed by a seemingly never-ending series of arm and shoulder injuries. Zimmer last pitched in the Minor Leagues in 2017.

But last spring, Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo suggested Zimmer try the revolutionary Driveline Baseball training program in Seattle that focuses on weighted baseballs to strengthen muscles and improve mechanics.

Zimmer, 27, knew it was likely his last chance. He was all in, and now he reports he is pain-free throwing a baseball, perhaps for the first time since he was drafted.

"J.J. brought it up, and I was on board immediately," Zimmer said. "We just had to break the cycle and try something new. I kept breaking down every year, and that was through no fault of the Royals. It was just me."

As a procedural move, Zimmer was designated for assignment to remove him from the 40-man roster because, by design, he was going to miss the entire season. He then immediately re-signed with the Royals and arrived in Seattle at the Driveline Baseball facility on May 4. He left there Tuesday and came straight to Arizona.

"I couldn't even make it through the first few hours," he said. "I was hurting that bad."

But before long, Zimmer was enduring the grueling daily regimen, and, to his surprise, progressing.

"It was a long stretch before I felt good," Zimmer said. "A lot of hard work. The core of the program is based around weighted baseball training, but it's kind of all-encompassing: strengthening, weight training, agility. ... It's basically starting over from scratch. I needed that."

Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer is generally recognized as the biggest name to champion Driveline's strategy.

"Trevor was one of the first guys to really have success with it, and that's obvious now," Zimmer said. "But a lot of pro guys are going there now. At least one guy from every team.

Video: Bauer on training at Driveline facility in offseason

"It's not for everyone, because as they say, 'If it's not broke, don't fix it'. But for me, I just needed to jumpstart something. It was one-on-one training, five or six hours a day, every day for six months. You leave dripping sweat every day. It's remapping everything mechanically, just rebuilding from the ground up."

The first tangible breakthrough came in late August, when Zimmer fired a baseball over 100 mph.

"That was with some pull-downs and step-behinds and throwing into a net," Zimmer said, grinning. "But yeah, it felt great. It felt great just to get my body moving like that again. To be that athletic again throwing a baseball, that was the most exciting thing."

And over the last month, Zimmer has returned to throwing off the mound.

"I've been throwing three or four times a week off the mound for about three weeks," Zimmer said. "I'm having no issues at all. It's really crazy, because in the past, if I threw one time off the mound, I'd be blown up for days. Now, it's no soreness at all. No pain. None."

And his present velocity?

"I've been at 93-94 [mph] off the mound and still building," he said. "I have a lot of time until Spring Training. Just to be comfortable again while throwing is pretty exciting. I'm throwing all my pitches, too."

The next step is to finish the instructional league in Surprise, Ariz., next week, then he'll resume his normal maintenance training until Spring Training.

Zimmer said he can look back now and think about how close he came to packing it in.

"I would never quit, because I'm too stubborn," he said, "But every single day for five years it was like, 'How do I keep going? Why?' I just spent so much time down here [in Surprise] alone, trying to recover. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't considering [quitting].

"But I just have to thank the Royals. I don't think any team has given someone so many chances. I'm grateful."

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

Kansas City Royals

Here are key FAQs about Royals' offseason

MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- The first year of the Royals' rebuilding project is in the books. There is optimism throughout the organization after the team's young core played solidly over the final six weeks, producing Kansas City's one winning month this season in September (15-13).

That young core -- Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier, Ryan O'Hearn, Brett Phillips, Jorge Bonifacio, Heath Fillmyer, Jorge Lopez, Eric Skoglund, Brad Keller and Jakob Junis, among others -- seemed to revitalize the fan base as well.

KANSAS CITY -- The first year of the Royals' rebuilding project is in the books. There is optimism throughout the organization after the team's young core played solidly over the final six weeks, producing Kansas City's one winning month this season in September (15-13).

That young core -- Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier, Ryan O'Hearn, Brett Phillips, Jorge Bonifacio, Heath Fillmyer, Jorge Lopez, Eric Skoglund, Brad Keller and Jakob Junis, among others -- seemed to revitalize the fan base as well.

So what's the next step? Here are a few frequently-asked questions that the Royals face going into the offseason:

Video: CLE@KC: Dozier bloops RBI double over Ramirez's glove

1. How much comes off the payroll?
The Royals' 2019 payroll will drop considerably simply through attrition and potential non-tenders. The contracts of right-hander Jason Hammel ($9 million) and infielder Alcides Escobar ($2.5 million plus a little over $1.2 million in performance bonuses) come off the books, with Hammel's buyout at $2 million. Already gone were the expiring contracts of Jon Jay, Lucas Duda, Kelvin Herrera, Justin Grimm and Mike Moustakas.

Kansas City will have about $67 million tied up in contracts with Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, Ian Kennedy, Danny Duffy and Jorge Soler. It's possible (and logical) that they bring back closer Wily Peralta for $3 million on a team option. And they have potential arbitration cases with Brandon Maurer, Paulo Orlando and Nate Karns. Still, the payroll is going to dip well below $100 million, probably near $80 million or so. But that's an early guess.

Video: KC@CWS: Hammel K's Garcia to leave 2 runners on base

2. Who might be non-tendered?
Maurer ($2.95 million) will enter his third year of arbitration, and Karns ($1.375 million) will enter his second. Maurer was not able to turn his high-powered arm (a fastball that can reach 100 mph) into success (7.76 ERA). He was the first player to go to arbitration against general manager Dayton Moore last year (though he lost), and one would think he would be non-tendered before that could happen again. (It would mean decent savings.)

Karns looked great in Spring Training, but he missed the entire season with right forearm and elbow issues, and he would be a non-tender candidate as well. Orlando ($568,500) is arbitration-eligible for the first time, but his window of opportunity seems to have closed. The cutoff date for non-tenders is Nov. 30.

Video: KC@TB: Maurer fans Duffy to strand a runner in 8th

3. Who will have to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft?
The most notable names that could be subject to the Rule 5 Draft are pitchers Arnaldo Hernandez, Foster Griffin, Scott Blewett and Josh Staumont and first baseman Frank Schwindel. Left-hander Richard Lovelady, the organization's Triple-A Omaha Pitcher of the Year Award winner, does not have to be protected, nor does infielder Nicky Lopez. Schwindel wasn't protected last year, and he was not drafted -- it is somewhat unusual for teams to take first baseman/designated hitter-types of players in the Rule 5 Draft, because it is impractical to stash them on a 25-man roster.

The Royals will have two 40-man roster spots cleared -- Hammel and Escobar -- plus their non-tenders. But they will need more clearance for any other free agents they might want to sign and for the players they need to add to protect from the Rule 5 Draft. Kansas City may also want to keep a spot or two open to participate in the Rule 5 Draft itself.

Video: CLE@KC: Schwindel and Lovelady on Triple-A season

4. How active will the Royals be at the Winter Meetings?
Payroll is decreasing, but expect Moore and his staff to be diligent in looking for free-agent bargains, especially for the bullpen, which was the biggest weakness this season. The Royals also are always on the prowl for a reclamation project, like Ryan Madson, Joe Blanton or Chris Young.

5. Which other prospects might emerge in 2019?
Certainly, players such as Hernandez, Griffin, Staumont, Schwindel, third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez and right-hander Trevor Oaks, among others, will get long looks come Spring Training. So will Lopez and Lovelady -- though, as mentioned, they don't have to go on the 40-man roster presently, and they would really have to wow the Royals to force such a move. Add to that list those coming back from injury, such as third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, center fielder Bubba Starling and pitchers Jesse Hahn and Kyle Zimmer.

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

Kansas City Royals

Merrifield finishes '18 with hit streak, H, SB titles

MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- Mission accomplished. Well, sort of.

The Royals went into their final game of the season Sunday against the Indians at Kauffman Stadium hoping left-hander Eric Skoglund would finish the season strong, and that Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez would achieve some notable goals.

View Full Game Coverage

KANSAS CITY -- Mission accomplished. Well, sort of.

The Royals went into their final game of the season Sunday against the Indians at Kauffman Stadium hoping left-hander Eric Skoglund would finish the season strong, and that Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez would achieve some notable goals.

View Full Game Coverage

The Royals lost, 2-1, and finished the season at 58-104.

5 questions facing the Royals in the offseason

Skoglund was solid through five innings, giving up just three hits and two runs (one earned) while walking two and striking out three.

"I thought he was flat today," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He wasn't very sharp. But he grinded it out. Even without his best stuff he kept us in it."

Video: CLE@KC: Skoglund whiffs Kipnis in the 4th inning

Merrifield came into Sunday hoping to grab the Major League hits and stolen bases titles. He did just that. With his eighth-inning single, Merrifield beat out Atlanta's Freddie Freeman for the Major League lead with 192. Merrifield also won the Major League stolen base title with 45 after winning last year's American League title with 34.

"It was all on my mind [in the last at-bat]," Merrifield said. "A lot of times when you get a hitting streak going it can take you out of your approach and turns you into swing mode. That's what happened my first three at-bats. The last at-bat I just went back to a batter approach -- see the ball and get the barrel to it. I was fortunate to do that and found a hole. I was pretty excited."

Merrifield became the first Royal ever to lead the Majors in hits and stolen bases. And only two players since 1945 have led the Majors in those two categories -- Ichiro Suzuki (2001) and Dee Gordon (2015).

Video: CLE@KC: Merrifield extends MLB lead with 45th steal

"It's special to get both titles," Merrifield said. "...To say I've done it more than anyone else in the league is really special. This is my last chance at the stolen base one. I don't think [Adalberto Mondesi] is going to let 45 fly next year. He'll have that by the All-Star break."

The last Royal to lead the Major Leagues in hits was Willie Wilson in 1980 with 230.

"It's a monster accomplishment," Yost said. "Leading the Majors in steals is huge. But leading the Majors in hits is monstrous. You look at his journey … he has become a star."

Video: CLE@KC: Merrifield on the future of team, hit streak

Merrifield ended the season on a career-high 20-game hitting streak.

Royals, Yost agree to one-year extension

Perez had an opportunity to make Major League history. He could have become the first player ever to increase his home run total in each of his first eight seasons.

But Perez, who had 27 home runs last year and 27 this year, went 0-for-4.

Video: CLE@KC: Viloria smacks an RBI single up the middle

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Royals infielder Alcides Escobar, in what could be his last game in a Royals uniform (then again, we said that after last season's final game), got a second-inning single.

"I don't know if it is [my last game here]," Escobar said. "But it's been a great career here. Eight years. Two World Series. A championship. A championship MVP. It's been great."

Added Yost, "You never know. We thought last year was his last year with us."

Video: CLE@KC: Escobar ropes a single into left field

PEREZ SURGERY
The Royals announced after the game that Perez will have ligament surgery on his left thumb on Tuesday. Perez injured the thumb about six weeks ago, and it has ailed him since. Perez said the recovery time would not affect his offseason conditioning and that he would be able to resume hitting by late December.

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
It was a quiet day for Royals replay review guru Bill Duplissea, but that was a good thing. Duplissea wound up the best in baseball, going 33-for-42 in his challenges (78.6 percent), easily beating out the second-place Giants (72.7 percent).

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

Kansas City Royals, Whit Merrifield, Eric Skoglund

30 top prospects in the AFL -- 1 from each team

MLB.com

The Arizona Fall League has long been a haven for the best prospects in all of baseball to come together and put the finishing touches on their development on the way to the big leagues. This year is no different, with 15 players from MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects list slated to play starting on Tuesday.

Seven clubs are sending their No. 1 prospect to the AFL, and each team is sending an impressive array of up-and-coming talent. Here is a list of the top prospect from each organization that fans can check out in AFL action next week.

The Arizona Fall League has long been a haven for the best prospects in all of baseball to come together and put the finishing touches on their development on the way to the big leagues. This year is no different, with 15 players from MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects list slated to play starting on Tuesday.

Seven clubs are sending their No. 1 prospect to the AFL, and each team is sending an impressive array of up-and-coming talent. Here is a list of the top prospect from each organization that fans can check out in AFL action next week.

AL East

Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B (TOR No. 1; MLB No. 1)
Guerrero, the top prospect in this year's Fall League, batted .381 with 20 homers, 78 RBIs and more walks (42) than strikeouts (38) at 19 this season while ascending to Triple-A. He'll need to improve his defense at the hot corner to avoid a move down the positional spectrum, but it's a generational-type bat capable of shattering records this fall en route to a 2019 big league debut.

Orioles: Ryan McKenna, CF (BAL No. 12)
McKenna, 21, led all Orioles farmhands in average (.315), OBP (.410), hits (148) and runs scored (95) while splitting his season between Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie. The 2015 fourth-rounder swung the bat particularly well in the Florida State League, hitting .377/.467/.556 with 97 hits over 67 games, and impressed with his center-field defense at both stops.

Rays: Lucius Fox, SS (TB No. 9)
The speedster Fox performed well in the Florida State League but scuffled during the final month of the season in Double-A after celebrating his 21st birthday. He ultimately posted a .692 OPS with 29 stolen bases across the two levels. In 2017, Fox finished with a .691 OPS and 30 steals.

Red Sox: Michael Chavis, 3B/1B (BOS No. 1; MLB No. 69)
After Chavis ranked third in the Minors with 68 extra-base hits and fifth with 31 homers last year, he missed the first 80 games of 2018 with a suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance during the offseason. When he returned, he batted .298/.391/.538 (mostly in Double-A) to continue to establish himself as one of the best power-hitting prospects in the game. His strong arm is an asset at third base.

Yankees: Estevan Florial, OF (NYY No. 2; MLB No. 45)
Florial played in Fall League a year ago, batting .286/.383/.414 for the Scottsdale Scorpions, and returns after losing half of the 2018 season to a right hamate injury. He has one of the highest ceilings in the league as a potential 30-30 player who can handle center field. Florial has well above-average raw power, speed and arm strength, though he'll have to prove he can make consistent contact at the plate.

2018 Arizona Fall League rosters

AL Central

Indians: Yu Chang, SS (CLE No. 6)
Spending his age-22 season with Triple-A Columbus, Chang produced a .256/.330/.411 line with 13 home runs while playing the bulk of his 127 games as a shortstop. He's improved defensively in every season and committed just nine errors in 94 games at short with Columbus. Now 23, Chang is back in Fall League this year after hitting .304 over 15 games with Mesa in 2017.

Royals: Khalil Lee, OF (KC No. 2)
Though Lee intrigued clubs as a high school left-hander with a low-90s fastball and a promising slider, the Royals preferred him as an outfielder and made him a full-time position player after taking him in 2016's third round. He has a chance to have solid or better tools across the board -- his arm strength is his best attribute -- and displays some of the best patience in Kansas City's system as well as the ability to fit anywhere in the outfield.

Tigers: Daz Cameron, OF (DET No. 8)
When the Tigers got Cameron from the Astros as part of the Justin Verlander trade late last season, he had turned in what looked like a breakout season. He kept it going in his first year with Detroit, playing across three levels and reaching Triple-A at age 21. Cameron was particularly strong during his Double-A stint with a .285/.367/.470 line to go along with 12 steals in 53 games.

Twins: Brent Rooker, OF (MIN No. 7)
After a stunning first summer of pro ball that saw Rooker reach the Florida State League and hit 18 homers in 62 games, any encore was bound to seem like a disappointment. Yes, the strikeout rate (26.4 pct) was a bit high, but he spent his first full season in Double-A and led the system in homers (22) and finished third in RBIs (79).

White Sox: Luis Robert, OF (CWS No. 4; MLB No. 44)
Shortly before international signing rules drastically changed, the White Sox spent $52 million ($26 million bonus, matching amount as a penalty for exceeding their bonus pool) in May 2017 to land Robert. Damaged ligaments in his left thumb limited him to 50 games this summer, but Robert's five-tool potential was obvious. He has electric bat speed, well above-average foot speed and the range and arm strength to play anywhere in the outfield.

AL West

A's: Eli White, INF (OAK No. 18)
White is coming off the season of his career as he hit .308/.388/.450 over 130 games with Double-A Midland. The 24-year-old, an 11th-round pick from the 2016 Draft, came up as a shortstop but added second and third base to his resume this season. In addition to the defensive versatility, White also showed some increased power this season as he hit nine homers, more than double his previous career high of four.

Angels: Jahmai Jones, OF (LAA No. 4)
Things didn't exactly go according to plan for Jones in his third full season of pro ball, as he saw his batting average and OPS drop considerably from 2017. On the plus side, his walk rate did go up, and he reached double digits in home runs (10) and steals (24) while reaching Double-A before his 21st birthday. Jones did all that while making the transition from the outfield to second base.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

Astros: Forrest Whitley, RHP (HOU No. 2; MLB No. 8)
MLBPipeline's highest-rated pitching prospect, Whitley worked just 26 1/3 innings this season because of a 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League drug program and oblique and lat injuries. When he did take the mound, Whitley continued to show the ability to miss bats with four pitches: a lively mid-90s fastball, a 12-to-6 curveball, a power slider and a fading changeup.

Mariners: Evan White, 1B (SEA No. 2)
The Mariners' 2017 first-rounder was a force during the second half as he slashed .320/.400/.512 with eight home runs, 16 doubles and 40 RBIs over his final 64 games in the California League. He's yet to hit for much power, but there's a lot to like in White's ability to hit for average and get on base in addition to his near-elite defense at first base.

Rangers: Julio Pablo Martinez, OF (TEX No. 2; MLB No. 56)
When the Rangers failed to sign Shohei Ohtani, they used their surplus international bonus pool money to sign Martinez for $2.8 million in March. He's a well above-average runner who plays a fine center field, and he has more power than a typical 174-pounder thanks to his bat speed and strong hands and wrists. Unlike most Fall League players, Martinez has yet to play in a full-season league after spending most of his pro debut at short-season Spokane.

NL East

Braves: Cristian Pache, OF (ATL No. 6; MLB No. 68)
After taking a big step forward offensively in the Florida State League (.285/.311/.431), Pache earned a promotion to Double-A at age 19 in August. He held his own, especially at the outset, but finished the season 1-for-22. One of the best defensive outfield prospects in the game, a stint in Fall League will help Pache hit the ground running back in Double-A in 2018.

Marlins: Monte Harrison, OF (MIA No. 1)
The tooled-up Harrison improved his stock as much as any player in last year's Fall League, showing a power-speed combo that ultimately led to him being acquired from the Brewers in the offseason Christian Yelich trade. It was on display again in the 22-year-old's first Double-A campaign, as Harrison totaled 19 homers and 28 steals but also struck out in 36.9 percent of his plate appearances.

Mets: Andres Gimenez, SS (NYM No. 1; MLB No. 55)
The Mets don't shy away from pushing their young players aggressively, and Gimenez has responded, reaching Double-A before he turned 20 and putting up his best offensive numbers (.281/.347/.409) stateside. The 2018 Futures Gamer is a tremendous defender at a premium position, and while he likely will never have a ton of pop, he's starting to grow into more extra-base thump at the plate.

Nationals: Carter Kieboom, SS (WAS No. 2; MLB No. 39)
Keiboom was plagued by injuries during his first full season but put it all together this year to reach the Double-A level at age 20. Playing in 123 games across two levels, the 2016 first-round pick hit .280/.357/.444 with 16 home runs and 31 doubles.

Phillies: Arquimedes Gamboa, SS (PHI No. 11; MLB No. 21)
The Phillies have pushed Gamboa aggressively since signing him for $900,000 out of Venezuela in 2014, sending him to high Class A as a 20-year-old this season. Though he batted just .214/.304/.279, he's still a quality defender with good patience and promising power potential for a middle infielder.

NL Central

Brewers: Keston Hiura, 2B (MIL No. 1; MLB No. 30)
The best pure hitter in the 2017 Draft lived up to his reputation in his first full season by hitting .291 with 13 homers and 33 doubles while reaching Double-A in his first full season. The Brewers already have the 22-year-old second baseman on the fast track to the Major Leagues, and the hope is that he'll get a jumpstart on the 2019 season with a productive campaign in Fall League. Hiura also stands to benefit from additional work at second base after lingering issues with his throwing elbow limited him to DH duties for the first month-plus this season.

Cardinals: Conner Greene, RHP (STL No. 27)
In his first season with the Cardinals after coming over from the Blue Jays in the Randal Grichuk trade, Greene was so-so as a starter in Double-A. He improved somewhat with a move to the bullpen and a bump up to Triple-A and has the power repertoire to excel in that role. Greene'll continue to work on the transition to relief in Fall League while hoping to improve his command (6.4 BB/9 in 2018).

Cubs: Nico Hoerner, SS (CHC No. 6)
The Cubs' first-round pick (24th overall) in June, Hoerner is the top 2018 Draft pick playing in Arizona. Though he played just 14 games in his pro debut before straining ligaments in his left elbow while diving for a ball, that was long enough to show why scouts considered him one of the best offensive-minded middle infielders available. Hoerner has exceptional hand-eye coordination, an advanced approach and developing power.

Pirates: Cole Tucker, SS (PIT No. 5)
A broken thumb kept Tucker, an Arizona native, from attending Fall League a year ago, but now he's ready to go. The tall and athletic shortstop tied for the system lead in stolen bases with 35, his third year of 25 or more steals. Tucker was swinging a hot bat at the end of the season, including hitting a pair of playoff homers for Double-A Altoona.

Reds: Taylor Trammell, OF (CIN No. 3; MLB No. 17)
The Futures Game MVP has all the tools needed to be an elite-level player and finished third in the organization with 25 steals despite missing some time with a concussion in August. Trammell has an advanced approach at the plate (career .372 OBP) and is still learning to tap into his power. The 21-year-old could see time in all three outfield spots this fall.

NL West

D-backs: Jon Duplantier, RHP (ARI No. 1; MLB No. 80)
Durability concerns coming out of Rice forced Duplantier down to the third round of the 2016 Draft, but he answered those questions with a huge first full season across two levels and a trip to the Futures Game. While he pitched well in 2018, biceps tendinitis forced him out for nearly two months, so the right-hander is making up for lost innings in Fall League.

Dodgers: Keibert Ruiz, C (LAD No. 2; MLB No. 39)
One of the game's best catching prospects, Ruiz held his own offensively this year as the second-youngest regular (age 19 for most of the season) in the Double-A Texas League. He's a switch-hitter with advanced feel for the barrel and developing power, with most of his home runs coming as a left-hander. Ruiz is improving defensively and could become a solid receiver with arm strength to match.

Giants: Heath Quinn, OF (SF No. 10)
The second-highest pick (third round) in Samford history behind only Phil Ervin, Quinn has a similar offensive profile but has had difficulty staying healthy in pro ball. Hamate and shoulder injuries affected his first full pro season, while a hamstring strain sidelined him for a month in 2018. He drives the ball to all fields and has deceptive athleticism for a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder, showing solid speed once he gets going.

Padres: Buddy Reed, OF (SD No. 13)
The 2016 second-rounder struggled in his first pro season but rebounded in 2018 to hit .271 with 48 extra-base hits and 51 steals in 122 games between two levels including Double-A. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder boasts some of the best tools in this year's Fall League, though questions remain about his hitting ability.

Rockies: Sam Hilliard, OF (COL No. 9)
First drafted by the Twins as a left-handed pitcher out of Crowder (Mo.) JC in 2014, Hilliard signed as an outfielder after a year at Wichita State in 2015. He's still somewhat raw at the plate, but Rockies officials once likened him to Larry Walker because he's a tooled-up right fielder who bats from the left side. Hilliard has plus raw power, speed and arm strength, giving him 20-20 potential and the ability to play anywhere in the outfield.

5 pressing questions as Royals turn to '19

MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- As the 2018 season began winding down, Royals manager Ned Yost was asked several times how he viewed this rebuilding season.

Over and over again, Yost talked optimistically about the future of the Royals' young core, which even he admitted likely sounded strange considering the Royals lost 104 games.

KANSAS CITY -- As the 2018 season began winding down, Royals manager Ned Yost was asked several times how he viewed this rebuilding season.

Over and over again, Yost talked optimistically about the future of the Royals' young core, which even he admitted likely sounded strange considering the Royals lost 104 games.

"It just doesn't feel like a bad team," Yost said. "It doesn't feel like a team that has lost [over 100 games]. It has been encouraging to watch these young guys develop, to watch how they compete. They have a long way to go, but it's a good start."

With that in mind, let's look at five pressing questions facing the Royals this offseason:

1. Can the Royals build an effective bullpen for 2019?
It's no secret the Royals' bullpen was the team's weakest area in 2018. Its ERA was 5.04, worst in the American League, and its WHIP of 1.54 also was the worst. And the relievers were just 33-for-57 in save opportunities, a far cry from the glory bullpen days of '14 and '15.

But one thing general manager Dayton Moore and his staff have proven is they can construct a bullpen. There are some serviceable parts to begin with, such as closer Wily Peralta, who has a $3 million team option and seems likely to return. Tim Hill, Brian Flynn and Kevin McCarthy were effective at times. And with the Royals' rotation depth, some starters who don't make the rotation could fill important bullpen roles. But expect Moore to search for some external answers as well.

"It's certainly been a weakness for us," Moore said. "I've said this before, but if you have a letdown in one area of this game, you're probably going to lose. You have to be strong in all areas. The bullpen is an area we need to improve. We'll work to simply do that. I told Mr. [David] Glass last month that we don't have [free-agent] names for you right now … but we'll be very aggressive to find guys who give us a chance to be more dominant."

2. Can Danny Duffy come back?
This was not the season Duffy envisioned. Duffy (8-12, 4.88 ERA) had some good stretches, but his velocity, which only two years ago sat around 95-97 mph, has dipped to the low 90s. And his final two months of the season essentially were a wash because of left shoulder impingement.

Duffy voiced his frustrations to MLB.com, "I've got to come up with an offseason training program that strengthens the [rotator] cuff so I don't keep ending up on the DL. A couple of years ago, I was throwing 96, 97. I need to be that guy again."

3. Who will play center field in 2019?
This could be the most intriguing position battle in Spring Training. The Royals love Brett Phillips' defense, but he will need to make big strides offensively to claim the job. Brian Goodwin, acquired from Washington, is more advanced offensively than Phillips and is an above-average defender. Can Bubba Starling stay healthy and force his way into the equation? Would the Royals move Gold Glove outfielder Alex Gordon to center field on a more regular basis? Or will Moore seek a solution externally?

4. Can Jorge Soler bounce back from injury, and can Jorge Bonifacio be the player he was in 2017?
Soler missed almost two-thirds of the season with a toe fracture just as he was about to show Royals fans his potential (.265, nine home runs, 28 RBIs). The Royals still believe he will grow into an All-Star type of player. And that would bode well for a lineup that has a dynamic 1-2 punch in Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi.

Bonifacio (.225, four homers) never got it going after serving his 80-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

5. How active will the Royals be in the free-agent market this winter?
Probably not too active. The Royals' payroll will dip well below $100 million simply through attrition as Jason Hammel and Alcides Escobar come off the payroll (as Mike Moustakas, Kelvin Herrera, Justin Grimm, Jon Jay and Lucas Duda did earlier), as well as any potential non-tenders. The Royals could be much improved in 2019, but realistically it will be at least '20 before they start being consistently competitive.

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

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