The minor league regular season is over, and while the Royals’ farm system is no longer the “Best Farm System in the History of Whatever”, there were a few gems this year that stood out. We wanted to honor those that excelled this year with the Royals Review Minor League Awards. The awards were voted on by our writers, with editor Max Rieper serving as a tie-breaker.
And your 2017 Award winners:
Minor League Player of the Year: Frank Schwindel
Frank “The Tank” Schwindel was caught in an organizational logjam to start the year, with Peter O’Brien, Ryan O’Hearn, and Samir Duenez all at first base or DH in the upper levels of the minors. Nonetheless, it was Schwindel that stood out among that crowd by hitting .329/.349/.541 between AA and AAA. He dominated AA, and after just 34 games was promoted to Omaha, where he smashed 17 home runs in 99 games. His .528 slugging percentage was 12th among all AAA hitters. His poor walk rate may limit his upside, but Schwindel stood out the most for his hitting this year.
“Doesn't really fit the prospect profile, but Schwindel pretty much had the best season of any Royals' Minor League hitter. He hit 66 extra-base hit this year in 133 games after hitting 40 in 120 last season.” -Patrick Brennan
Honorable mention: Emmanuel Rivera
Minor League Pitcher of the Year: Richard Lovelady
Lefty reliever Richard Lovelady has a plus name, and this year, he showed has the stuff to match his moniker. The 22-year old allowed just five runs in 33 1⁄3 innings at Wilmington, with 41 strikeouts and an absurdly low total of four walks. His 1.08 ERA earned him a promotion to AA Northwest Arkansas, where he continued to excel with a 2.16 ERA in 33 1/3 innings with 36 strikeouts. Lovelady has some good upside and should be a contender for a bullpen role with the Royals in 2018.
“Lovelady put up good FIPs at each level, gets groundballs 3/4th of the time, and has strong whiff rates. Will be interesting to see how he does in spring training next year and has an outside shot of breaking camp I think.” -Shaun Newkirk
Honorable mention: Foster Griffin
The Royals All-Organization Team
Catcher: Chase Vallot, Wilmington
2017 draft pick M.J. Melendez also put up impressive numbers, but in a small sample size, so we’ll go with the hitter who has the best walk rate in the organization at 18%.
First Base: Frank Schwindel, Northwest Arkansas/Omaha
Only Jorge Soler hit more home runs in the Royals’ minor league system than Schwindel’s 23.
Second Base: Gabriel Cancel, Lexington
One of the better prospects in the system, posted a 125 wRC+ in 103 games with Lexington.
Shortstop: Raul Mondesi, Omaha
He struggled in the big leagues, but excelled in the minors, hitting .305/.340/.539 with 13 home runs in 85 games.
Third Base: Emmanuel Rivera, Lexington
Ending up winning the South Atlantic League batting title, and put up a 139 wRC+.
Left Field: Donnie Dewees, Northwest Arkansas
We are cheating a bit, as he played just 14 games in left, primarily playing in center. Acquired from the Cubs last winter, Dewees hit .272/.340/.407 for the Naturals.
Center Field: Michael Gigliotti, Burlington/Lexington
The 2017 fourth-round pick excelled in his first pro season, hitting .320/.420/.456 with 22 steals in 64 games.
Right Field: Khalil Lee, Lexington
Khalil also played mostly centerfield, but has a cannon for an arm and is more than capable of playing right. Just 19 years old, he smashed 17 home runs and stole 20 bases while drawing 65 walks.
We also handed out awards for each level.
Omaha Player of the Year: Jorge Soler
Sure, he was a disappointment overall, but he did smash 24 home runs in just 70 games for Omaha, tied for tenth in the Pacific Coast League.
Omaha Pitcher of the Year: Jake Junis
The Storm Chasers had to deal with a revolving door in their pitching staff, but Junis was the most steady pitcher with a 2.92 ERA in 12 starts and an outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.73.
Northwest Arkansas Player of the Year: Donnie Dewees
Samir Duenez had a nice season as well, but Dewees had an on-base percentage nearly 40 points higher with 20 steals and looks like he could be a decent leadoff option for the Royals someday.
Northwest Arkansas Pitcher of the Year: Foster Griffin
Griffin was sharp all year, even after his promotion to the Naturals. He won 15 games overall, the most by a Royals minor leaguer since Jake Odorizzi in 2012. Griffin posted a 3.35 ERA and was second in the entire organization in innings pitched.
Wilmington Player of the Year: Nicky Lopez
Lopez is one of the toughest Royals hitters to strike out and can draw a walk to boot. Hit .295/.376/.407 for Wilmington before being promoted to Northwest Arkansas.
Wilmington Pitcher of the Year: Richard Lovelady
Lovelady was second among all High A pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched in both FIP (1.48) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.25).
Lexington Player of the Year: Emmanuel Rivera
Hit .310/.364/.468 with 12 home runs in 122 games in his first season in full-season ball.
Lexington Pitcher of the Year: Gerson Garabito
The 22-year old Dominican posted a 2.81 ERA in 15 starts with 8.3 strikeouts-per-nine innings.
Idaho Falls Player of the Year: Robby Rinn and Darrell Miller, Jr.
The hitting numbers in the Pioneer League are ridiculous, but first baseman Robbie Rinn still stood above the crowd by hitting .346/.422/.509 with six home runs in 66 games. Catcher Darrell Miller, Jr, the son of former big league catcher Darrell Miller, Sr., and nephew to basketball stars Reggie and Cheryl Miller, went 8-for-9 in his first two games, and ended the year hitting .373/.457/.554.
Idaho Falls Pitcher of the Year: Janser Lara
The 4.30 ERA doesn’t look great, but that is 33% better than the league average, and he struck out 9.8 hitters-per-nine innings.
Burlington Player of the Year: Michael Gigliotti
The Lipscomb grad was fourth in the Appalachian League in OPS among players with at least 150 plate appearances. He was third in steals and fourth in Speed Score.
Burlington Pitcher of the Year: Sal Biasi
The former Penn State pitcher put up a 2.41 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 56 innings.
Arizona Royals Player of the Year: M.J. Melendez
The second round pick from 2017 hit .262/.374/.417 with four home runs in 47 games in his first pro season.
Arizona Royals Pitcher of the Year: Charlie Neuweiler
Just a few months removed from pitching high school ball in New York, Neuweiler posted a 1.76 ERA in 41 innings of pro ball.
Dominican Royals Player of the Year: Rubendy Jaquez
The Dominican League is a pitcher’s league, with the Royals team hitting just .199 as a team. So Jaquez’s line of .267/.363/.338 is pretty impressive, especially with his 19 steals.
Dominican Royals Pitcher of the Year: Delvin Capellan
Capellan walked just three hitters and gave up four runs in 56 innings of work, good for a 0.48 ERA.