Courtesy of the Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals announced their 2018 team award winners today, which were voted on by the Kansas City Chapter of the BBWAA at the end of last season. Infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield was named the Les Milgram Player of the Year, while right-handed pitcher Brad Keller earned the Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year award. Infielder Adalberto Mondesi garnered the Joe Burke Special Achievement Award. All three players were honored with team season awards for the first time in their careers.
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Merrifield, 29, led the Major Leagues in both hits (192) and stolen bases (45), batting .304 (192-for-632) with 43 doubles, three triples, 12 homers and 88 runs scored. He became the third player since World War II to lead the big leagues in both hits and steals, joining Dee Gordon (2015) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001). He finished the season on a career-best 20-game hitting streak, which was the longest in the big leagues in 2018. He also ranked among the American League leaders in multi-hit games (54, tied for fourth), doubles (sixth), batting average (sixth) and on-base percentage (.367, eighth). Merrifield is the only player in the Majors with at least 70 doubles (75) and 70 steals (American League-best 79) combined over the last two years.
Keller, 23, is the youngest to win the Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year Award since Zack Greinke (20) in 2004. He was 9-6 with a 3.08 ERA (48 ER in 140.1 IP) in 41 appearances (20 starts) during his first big league campaign, after being acquired during the 2017 Rule 5 Draft. He finished eighth in the American League in ERA and tops among AL rookies (min. 140.0 IP). He also ranked third in the Major Leagues in HR/9 (0.45), among pitchers that worked at least 100.00 innings, which included a streak of 63.1 consecutive homerless innings (April 25-July 22). After making his initial 21 appearances out of the bullpen, Keller earned his first victory as a starter on June 25, tossing 7.0 scoreless innings in a 2-0 triumph over the Angels. In that outing, he became the youngest Royal (22 years, 333 days) to toss 7.0 shutout innings since the late Yordano Ventura (22 years, 326 days) did it in 2014.
Mondesi, 23, started the season on the disabled list, but was recalled to the big leagues on June 17 and batted .276 (76-for-275) with 13 doubles, three triples, 14 homers, 47 runs scored and 32 stolen bases. He was the first player in Major League history to record as many homers and steals in 75 games or fewer. Of his 14 home runs, 13 of them came as a shortstop, which were fourth most in club history and most by a Royals shortstop since Yuniesky Betancourt (16) in 2010. Mondesi’s 32 steals ranked fourth in the American League, while his 82.1 steal percentage (32-for-39) was fourth in the Majors among players with at least 39 attempts. On Aug. 14 vs. Toronto, he collected a career-high four hits and three steals, becoming the fifth Royal to do this in a single game and first since Jose Offerman in 1998.
The Royals will make every effort to have all three players available to the media during the upcoming Royals FanFest presented by Commerce Bank this weekend at the Kansas City Convention Center’s Bartle Hall.