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Soler, Kennedy, Merrifield honored with 2019 team awards

January 21, 2020

KANSAS CITY, MO (January 21, 2020) – The Kansas City Royals announced their 2019 team award winners today, which were voted on by the Kansas City Chapter of the BBWAA. Outfielder/designated hitter Jorge Soler was named the Les Milgram Player of the Year, right-hander Ian Kennedy garnered the Bruce Rice

KANSAS CITY, MO (January 21, 2020) – The Kansas City Royals announced their 2019 team award winners today, which were voted on by the Kansas City Chapter of the BBWAA. Outfielder/designated hitter Jorge Soler was named the Les Milgram Player of the Year, right-hander Ian Kennedy garnered the Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year, while infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield received the Joe Burke Special Achievement Award.

The Royals will make every effort to have all three honorees available to the media during the upcoming Royals FanFest presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City this weekend at the Kansas City Convention Center’s Bartle Hall.

     Soler, 27, had a breakout year in 2019, becoming the first Royal to lead the American League in home runs, hitting a team-record 48. His total was 10 more than the previous record, set by **Mike Moustakas** in 2017. His home run total also set a Major League record by a Cuban-born player, topping **Rafael Palmeiro’s** 1999 and 2001 marks by one. The right-handed slugger collected a career-high 117 RBI, which tied for second in the American League and were the most by a Royal since 2000, when **Mike Sweeney** set the club record (144) and **Jermaine Dye** had 118. Soler also ranked fourth in the AL in extra-base hits (82), fifth in slugging percentage (.569) and seventh in OPS (.922). He and Merrifield were two of only five players in MLB to appear in all 162 games last season, and the third set of Royals teammates to do it in the same year, joining **Alcides Escobar** and **Eric Hosmer** in 2017 and **Al Cowens** and **Hal McRae** in 1977. This marks Soler’s first Player of the Year Award.

A long-time starter, Kennedy, 35, was moved to the bullpen for 2019 and recorded 30 saves, which ranked fourth in the American League. Of his 30 saves, a Major League-best 28 of them came between May 30 and season’s end, while his 19 rescues after the All-Star break tied for third in the Majors, behind only Carlos Martinez (21) and Liam Hendriks (20). Kennedy became the fourth pitcher since 1969, when saves became an official stat, to record both a 20-win (2011) and a 30-save season in his career, joining Dennis Eckersley, John Smoltz and Derek Lowe. The right-hander led the team with 63 appearances, going 3-2 with a 3.41 ERA (24 ER in 63.1 IP) and recording 73 strikeouts (10.37 K/9). This marks his first Pitcher of the Year award with Kansas City.

Merrifield, 30, led the Major Leagues with a career-high 206 hits last season, the most in the American League since 2016 and matching Mike Sweeney (2000) for the sixth most in franchise history. After leading the Majors with 192 hits in 2018, Merrifield became just the second right-handed batter to do it in consecutive seasons, joining Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett (1988-89). Whit was the first player regardless of handedness to lead the Majors in hits in back-to-back years since Ichiro Suzuki did it in five-straight seasons (2006-10). He opened the year by hitting safely in his first 11 games, extending his franchise-record hitting streak to 31, topping George Brett’s previous record of 30 in 1980. Merrifield also tied for the Major League lead with 10 triples last season, matching teammates Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier as well as Arizona’s Eduardo Escobar. This marks the second-straight year that he has been honored with a team award, after being named Player of the Year in 2018.