This is an abbreviated look at the Royals minor league system. All teams have finished up except the Omaha Storm Chasers, who are in the hunt for another Pacific Coast League title.
The Chukars finished their season with a 4-game series at Ogden this past week.
In a move that surprised nobody, Ryan O'Hearn won the Idaho Falls Player of the Year award. In his final games this week, he added another 3 hits including a double and a home run. His final line for the season was .361/.444/.590. These are pretty astonishing numbers - the slugging and his 1.034 OPS were tops in the Pioneer League, and his average and OBP were 3rd and 2nd, respectively.
The only Pioneer Leaguer with a higher OBP than O'Hearn was teammate Corey Toups. Toups went 0-fer in his last 2 games of the season but still finished with a line of .335/.453/.507.
Marten Gasparini joined IDF for the last few games of the season. He had a pretty good first look at things in his new league, finishing the season with a 3-hit game including a home run.
Matthew Strahm is a left-handed pitcher back in limited action (10 games) after missing all of 2013 for Tommy John surgery. He had a ludicrous outing on Wednesday, striking out 8 Raptors in 3.1 innings. Strahm was drafted in 2012 and pulled a classic Bubba Starling, passing up the University of Nebraska to sign with the Royals organization instead.
The roster that clinched another division title in the wee hours of September 1st* is a totally different group than the ones who headed into postseason play. September callups took Carlos Peguero, Johnny Giavotella, and Francisco Pena, three pillars of the team. (Seriously, they call Peguero "Jesus," presumably for his role in starting a daily team prayer huddle that grew to include multitudes of players by season's end. It was very cute.)
*a huge storm delayed that game by 2:45, a Werner Park record. The game didn't end until about 1:30 a.m., and the next day's game was at noon. Manager Brian Poldberg admitted he slept at the ballpark, and I'm certain he wasn't the only one.
Anyway, you know all about those guys. On to who's left:
Jorge Bonifacio was promoted to fill Peguero's spot in right. He's off to a good start at AAA, with 5 hits in 3 playoff games. Prior to his promotion to Omaha, he only hit.230/.302/.309 at NWArk, but Omaha needed a right fielder, and he is one.
Whit Merrifield slid a little as the regular season progressed, but he was still good enough to pick up the Omaha media's Prospect of the Year Award, and he's off to a good start in the playoffs. In the four games against Memphis, Whit picked up 6 hits including three home runs. It was only the 2nd time in his pro career that he homered in back-to-back games.
I got a sense that Paulo Orlando is pissed that he didn't get a September callup after having such a strong season in all areas of the game. If that's the case, he's channeling his rage straight into Memphis pitchers's offerings. In the Conference Championship series, he had 9 hits including 2 doubles and a home run. Orlando's regular season final line was.301/.355/.415 and he plays outstanding center field defense. He hit better at home overall, but a road line of .284/.341/.424 isn't terrible either. Would you give him a cup of coffee?
On the mound, let's tip our caps to Buddy Baumann, a reliever by trade who stepped up to make "one spot start" on July 5 and has gutted out 12 starts since then. The results don't always look sexy in a box score, but make no mistake: Omaha would have wilted into nothing without his efforts.
Christian Binford added 4 shutout innings in the deciding game of the Conference Championships, but did walk a batter. Unforgivable, kid.
On Thursday, Omaha's lone loss of the series, Clayton Mortensen came on in relief and, at one point, struck out six Redbirds in a row.
We'll follow the Chasers as they vie for another league title - and another champagne celebration! - this week. In general, how much do you think MiLB postseason success matters to the organization?