Royals announce 2021 organization awards

SURPRISE, Ariz.—The Kansas City Royals honored seven individuals with organizational awards for the 2021 season at the club’s spring training facility in Surprise, Ariz., this morning. Two Royals affiliates were also honored for their league championships in 2021, including Double-A Central winners Northwest Arkansas Naturals and High-A Central winners Quad Cities River Bandits.

The winners of the 2021 George Brett Award (Bobby Witt Jr.) and the Paul Splittorff Award (Jackson Kowar) were announced last September.

Nick Pratto received the Frank White Award, which recognizes the organization’s best defensive player. Pratto, 23, split the season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha and played 113 combined games (112 starts) at first base and three in right field. He recorded 813 outs and 64 assists on 879 total first base chances and committed just two errors in 955.2 innings for a .998 fielding percentage, the most among players to win a minor league. Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2021. This is the second time Pratto has won the Frank White award, as he also did in 2018 after posting a .987 field percentage on first base. He was selected in the first round (14th overall) of the 2017 Freshman Draft.

Tyler Tolbert received the Willie Wilson Award, which recognizes the organization’s top baserunner. Tolbert, 24, split the season between the Arizona League (3 games), Class-A Columbia (80 games) and Advanced-A Quad Cities (6 games), collecting 55 stolen bases in total, which ranked in the fourth among all minor league players, and most among all Royals minor leaguers. He was only caught stealing twice, recording a 96.5% steal rate, the second highest of any player in major or minor league baseball (min. 30 bases stolen). He was selected in the 13th round of the 2019 Freshman Draft.

Vinnie Pasquantino received the Mike Sweeney Award, which recognizes a player who best represents the organization on and off the pitch. Pasquantino, 24, was named Quad Cities Player of the Year, after hitting a combined score of 0.300/0.394/0.563 (131 for 437) between Advanced-A Quad Cities and Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He finished the season tied for second among all minor leaguers in doubles (37), sixth in extra-base hits (64), and 11th in total bases (246), earning playoff All-Star honors. High-A Central at first base. Pasquantino was selected by the Royals in the 11th round of the 2019 Freshman Draft.

Mitch Stetter was the recipient of the Dick Howser Award, which recognizes a player development employee for outstanding contributions to the organization. Before taking on the role of Manager of Pitching Performance in 2020, Stetter spent four seasons as a pitching coach for Lexington (Class A), having held the same position with Surprise (Rookie) in 2015. He served as a reliever in the Majors. from 2007 to 2011 with Milwaukee and set a Brewers record in 2009, recording 15 consecutive strikeouts.

Dave Heller was the recipient of the Matt Minker Award, which recognizes an outstanding minor league affiliate employee. Heller is the President and CEO of Main Street Baseball, LLC, and the majority owner and managing partner of the Quad Cities River Bandits. Heller has been instrumental in the smooth transition to Quad Cities ahead of the 2021 season, and he is fully invested in his goal of making Royals players championship-caliber human beings. His commitment to the Kansas City Royals led to a $2.5 million renovation at Modern Woodmen Park, and when complete, it will become a minor league premier facility.

Keith Connolly was the recipient of the Art Stewart Award, which recognizes the organization’s most outstanding scout. Connolly joined the club in 2011, after serving as a regional scout for five years with the Baltimore Orioles, after a part-time stint with the Florida Marlins from 2004 to 2007. He spent parts of four minor league seasons in as a right-handed relief pitcher in the San Francisco Giants organization.

Adrian Alcantara received the Carlos Fortuna award, which recognizes a player who is dedicated to improving their English, work ethic and conduct. Alcantara, 22, appeared in 24 games (20 starts) for Class A Columbia, leading the team with 98 strikeouts on a record 96.1 innings pitched, while his five wins were one of the league-leading the team. He signed as an international free agent in 2017.

In addition to the seven individual organization awards, MJ Melendez also received the 2021 Joe Bauman Award, which is given annually to Minor League Baseball’s home run king. Melendez led the minors with 41 homers last season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha to become the third Royals minor leaguer to win the Joe Bauman Award, which was first presented in 2002, joining Chris Brazell (2007) and Mike Moustakas. (2010).

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