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Names to know on the Idaho Falls Chukars this year

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The Royals Pioneer League (R) affiliate has a veteran roster that is rolling early on.

With short-season Minor League Baseball getting under way, it is a good time to catch up on the already Idaho Falls Chukars, the Royals’ affiliate in the advanced rookie ball Pioneer League.

The Pioneer League is typically for new college draftees or returning players in the low minors. The league is notoriously offense friendly - last year teams averaged nearly six runs-per-game, and the average hitter hit .278/.349/.428.

The Chukars have gotten off to a 4-0 start and have already had a couple of big performances from prospects worth mentioning. Perhaps none of them have been more impressive than Nathan Webb of Lee’s Summit, MO.

Webb was absolutely electric in his first outing of the season, reportedly sitting in the mid-90’s with his fastball and touching as high as 98 mph in his 2019 debut. That’ll play, kid.

Juan Carlos Negret, the outfielder that the Royals signed in free agency two offseason ago after the Braves were forced to release him, is back playing with Idaho Falls after struggling a bit with the Royals Low-A affiliate, the Lexington Legends. Negret has posted a .749 OPS in four games with IDF.

Negret has not been super consistent since coming to Kansas City. He’s got a ton of power, and he’s a really good athlete in the outfield, but he has had a really hard time with swings and misses. He consistently swings over the top of breaking balls and was ate up pretty good by pitchers in the South Atlantic League (A). His general athleticism and swing remind me a bit of Alfonso Soriano (no, I don’t think he’ll be that good, just saying he looks that way at times). I’m really rooting for this kid to figure it out.

Michael Emodi, the catcher that KC selected in the 11th round out of Creighton in 2018, is off to a roaring start, posting an OPS of 1.400 with a pair of doubles and a home run early on.

Chih-Ting Wang, a pitcher that KC signed out of Taiwan, looked brilliant last night in 3 23 innings of work. He gave up no runs and struck out four. The 20-year old Taiwanese product has been compared to Hyun-Jin Ryu and I’m all here for that. He wasn’t great in the Arizona League last summer (4.95 ERA), but he did strike out 40 batters in 40 innings, so I’ll be anxious to see if he can get an uptick in strikeouts as he moves forward.

Tyler James probably shouldn’t excite me as a 22-year old in his third bout with rookie ball, but I can’t help it. James brings little to no thunder with the stick, but the kid can absolutely fly. He stole 69 bases in his first two professional seasons (over 93 games) and posted a 119 wRC+ with IDF last summer. He’s got some work to do, but I expect we’ll see him in Lexington pretty soon when Nathan Eaton gets a bump to Wilmington.

The team will feature 2019 picks like second round right-handed pitcher Alec Marsh, ninth-round infielder Clay Dungan, and tenth-round left-handed pitcher Anthony Veneziano.

The roster also includes 2018 draft picks Emodi (11th round), right-handed pitcher Christian Cosby (14th round), left-handed pitcher Derrick Adams (27th round), and first baseman Rhett Aplin (28th round). Also on the team are Montae Bradshaw, son of Royals hitting coach Terry Bradshaw.

The Chukars are managed by Omar Ramirez with Damon Hollins serving as bench coach, Chris Nelson as hitting coach, and Clayton Mortenson as pitching coach.

Idaho Falls Chukars Roster

Catchers: Michael Emodi, Chris Hudgins

Infielders: Rhett Aplin, Clay Dungan, Tyler James, Kember Nacero, Hector Pineda, Rafael Romero

Outfielders: Montae Bradshaw, Isaiah Henry, Juan Carlos Negret, Ismaldo Rodriguez, Isaiah Smith

Pitchers: Derrick Adams, Adrian Alcantara, Christian Cosby, Brady Cox, Jaret Hellinger, Bryar Johnson, Alec Marsh, Stephen Ridings, Anthony Veneziano, Chih-Ting Wang, Cole Watts, Nathan Webb

Most Royals fans will probably be eager to find out where Bobby Witt Jr. lands, but I don’t know that he’ll ever see Idaho Falls. If I had to guess, Witt will get a few games in with the Surprise Royals in the Arizona League before moving to Burlington to join the B-Royals in the rookie ball Appalachian League.

So there ya go, Royals fans. A brief round-up of your 2019 Idaho Falls Chukars. Submit any questions about specific players you have in the comments or to me directly @duvy_013 on Twitter and I’ll do my best to get back to you on all of them.