2019 Kansas City Royals Spring Training Awards

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In less than twenty four hours, the 2019 season officially begins for the Kansas City Royals. It has been a relatively drama-free six weeks since pitchers and catchers reported on February 13th, with the only real moments of stress stemming from the incredibly unfortunate season ending injury to Salvador Perez and the continued health questions surrounding Danny Duffy.

Otherwise, the organization quietly put together a damn fine offensive Spring Training campaign, leading all of MLB in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and (well, duh) OPS.

Will it translate to the regular season? Who knows? Probably not. Spring Training numbers rarely mean anything once the real action actually starts. But entering a season where the Royals can show marked improvement over last year and still lose 90 games, we fans gotta hold on to something, right?

So raise your glasses of Boulevard to the sky and toast our (completely unofficial and subjective) Spring Training Award Winners.

The George Brett Award for Offensive Excellence goes to …

Chris Owings

So this was really tough. There was an excess of mashing this spring, with 5 players posting an OPS above 1.000 over at least 32 AB . For my money, I’m giving this to Chris Owings.

Over 51 at bats, he hit .333/.404/.725 with 4 homeruns, 8 doubles and 13 RBI. He was tied for second on the team in walks with 8. Picked up on the (relatively) cheap after running his feast-or-famine course with the Diamondbacks over the past six seasons, this has Dayton Moore reclamation project written ALL over it. He has no obvious everyday spot with the team, but expect Ned Yost to find all kinds of ways to get him in 4-5 games a week. He’s probably not Ben Zobrist or Whit Merrifield, but that’s the mold here.

Honorable mentions: Humberto Arteaga, Bubba Startling, Erick Mejia and Hunter Dozier. Hell, even Gordo and Soler ended up with .974 and .973 OPSs. Damn near everyone was hitting this spring.

The Kevin Appier Award for Starting Pitching goes to …

Brad Keller

This was equally as hard to pick, but for the opposite reason. The starters kinda stunk up the desert. If you’re gonna make me pick someone, I’ll throw a dart and say Brad Keller.

Look, a 5.40 ERA over 18 innings is not good. But he had the lowest WHIP of pitchers that had 3 or more starts (1.31) and his 14/4 K/BB ratio is also best of that population.

And he’s the opening day starter. So there’s that.

Honorable mentions: Umm. Uhh. Well, you see. There’s … I got nothing. I can’t stress enough how rough this group’s spring was a whole. Gotta hope they leave that funk in the Grand Canyon state.

The Dan Quissenberry Award for Relief Pitching goes to …

Kyle Zimmer

Kyle Zimmer. If you caught Zimmer’s very long winded interview on one of the broadcasts towards the end of Spring Training, you got a good snapshot of everything he has gone through.

GMDM should probably send one hell of a fruit basket to Driveline, for working with them has rejuvenated Zimmer’s once promising career. Time will obviously tell if he can hold up to the load of being a major league reliever (and DEFINITELY expect Yost to wear the thickest kid’s gloves you’ve ever seen with his workload), but he had a really strong spring. .71 ERA over 12.2 IP. His BB/K ratio wasn’t great (4/8), but he held his mid-90s velocity for six weeks. For a guy that couldn’t throw 60 MPH when he started at Driveline last year, that is remarkable.

We’re pulling for him. If healthy, he can be a back end of the rotation kind of guy. And a really good one at that.

Honorable mentions: Michael Ynoa, Jake Diekman, Wily Peralta.

The “Who’s That Guy? I’ve Never Heard of Him. He Had a Great Spring and Should Be on the Roster, You Idiots!” Award goes to …

Humberto Arteaga

Humberto Arteaga. You *might* have heard his name before depending on how much you follow the Royals minor league system. But I’m guessing most of you don’t, so you probably haven’t.

He’s been with the Royals organization since 2010 when he signed as 17 year old out of Venezuela. He has always been a glove-first utility guy, never posting a full season OPS higher than .708 (and more often down near or below .600).

But coming off a strong winter ball showing this year (.801 OPS over 50 games), he’s been hitting baseballs like beach balls down in Surprise. He still doesn’t show much power, with 19 of his 22 hits this spring being singles. But he had a .478 average over 46 at bats. Even in spring training, that’s pretty ridiculous.

Chances are high he won’t become an impact player at the major leagues. But there is some amount of hope given his stronger past 12 months that he is simply a late bloomer and can be a solid utility piece for this team moving forward.

So let’s hear it for our boys in blue. Tomorrow, the games start to matter. Cheers to all of you and to another wonderful summer of Royals baseball!

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Author: Zach Hodson

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