Kansas City Royals Announce 2019 Organization Awards


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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (June 18, 2020) – The Kansas City Royals honored 10 individuals with organization awards for the 2019 season via Zoom ring ceremony yesterday afternoon that included all players and the Baseball Operations staff. The Royals’ four 2019 championship affiliates were also honored.

Individual honorees included:

Khalil Lee, recipient of the George Brett Award, which recognizes the top position player in the organization. Lee was named Northwest Arkansas Player of the Year last season after batting .264 (124-for-546) with a .363 on-base percentage in a career-high 129 games. He had a career-high 53 stolen bases, which ranked third in all of minor league baseball, and had on-base streaks of 23 games (May 20-June 15) and 17 games (July 11-30). In his first full season at Double-A, Lee was named a Texas League midseason All-Star, and earned Northwest Arkansas Player of the Month honors in July. Lee was selected in the third round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Flint High School in Virginia.

Kris Bubic, recipient of the Paul Splittorff Award, which recognizes the top pitcher in the organization. Bubic was named Wilmington Pitcher of the Year last season, after going 11-5 and led Royals farmhands with a 2.23 ERA (37 ER in 149.1 IP) and .199 opponents’ average in 26 starts across two levels. His 185 strikeouts led all of minor league baseball, and were the second most ever by a Royals left-handed minor leaguer. Nine of his 26 starts were scoreless, including his one-hit shutout on August 15 vs. Lynchburg, in which he struck out 11 batters for the second straight start. His last 17 starts came with the Blue Rocks, for which he earned Carolina League postseason All-Star honors. Bubic was also selected to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. He started two of Wilmington’s 10 playoff games and posted a 1.23 ERA (3 ER in 12.2 IP) with 19 strikeouts, leading the Blue Rocks to their first Carolina League championship since 1999. Bubic was selected in the first round (40th overall) in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

MJ Melendez, recipient of the Frank White Award, which recognizes the top defensive player in the organization. Melendez earned his second organization award in as many seasons, after being named recipient of the Mike Sweeney Award in 2018. Melendez earned Carolina League All-Star honors last season and led all catchers with a .991 fielding percentage (6 errors in 659 total chances). He also threw out 36 of 60 attempted base stealers (60.0%) in 71 games behind the plate.

Nick Heath, recipient of the Willie Wilson Baserunner of the Year, which recognizes the top baserunner in the organization. Heath earned this honor for the second straight season in 2019 after leading the minors with a career-high 60 stolen bases, the highest single-season total by a Royals minor leaguer since Terrance Gore had 68 steals in 2013. Heath was added to the Royals’ 40-man roster last November. He was selected in the 16th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.

Foster Griffin, recipient of the Mike Sweeney Award, which recognizes a player who best represents the organization on and off the field. Griffin was named the left-handed starting pitcher for the Pacific Coast League end-of-season All-Star team in 2019 after finishing fifth among league qualified starters in opponents’ average, eighth in winning percentage, ninth in strikeouts and 10th in ERA. He was selected in the first round (28th overall) in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.

Brooks Conrad, recipient of the Dick Howser Award, which recognizes a player development employee for outstanding contributions to the organization. In his first season as manager at Lexington, Conrad led the Legends to their second straight South Atlantic League title, making Lexington the first Royals affiliate to win back-to-back league championships since Omaha won consecutive Pacific Coast League titles from 2013-14. Conrad made his managerial debut in the Royals’ organization with Burlington in 2018, following a six-year Major League career with Oakland (2008), Atlanta (2009-11), Milwaukee (2012), Tampa Bay (2012) and San Diego (2014).

Freddy Fermin, recipient of the Carlos Fortuna Award, which recognizes a player who is dedicated to improving his English, work ethic and conduct. Fermin split the 2019 season between Lexington and Northwest Arkansas. He played in a career-high 86 games and hit a career-best 12 home runs, nine of which came in Lexington. Fermin was named a South Atlantic League midseason All-Star prior to his promotion to Double-A, and threw out 26 of 55 would-be base stealers (47.3%) across his two stops, including 17 of 25 (68.0%) with Lexington. Fermin also appeared in four games with the Surprise Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League. He was signed as an international free agent in 2015.

Todd Jansen and Danny Helmer, co-recipients of the Matt Minker Award, which recognizes an outstanding minor league affiliate employee. Jansen started with the Omaha Royals in 2003, making this his 18th season working in professional baseball. Since 2009, he has spent the Spring and Fall seasons working at the Surprise complex for the Royals. Helmer has spent 22 seasons working in professional baseball. He started working with the Royals in 1999 as a 14-year-old bat boy for the Wichita Wingnuts. This is his 13th season with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

Tim Conroy, recipient of the Art Stewart Award, which recognizes the organization’s most outstanding scout. Conroy joined the Royals organization in 2011 after serving in various roles with the Braves from 2004-11 and Cardinals from 1994-2000. A former first-round selection of the Oakland Athletics, Conroy spent parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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