KANSAS CITY, MO. (November 29, 2021) – The Kansas City Royals announced their 2021 team award winners today, which were voted on by the Kansas City Chapter of the BBWAA. Catcher Salvador Perez was named the Les Milgram Player of the Year for the second straight season, right-hander Scott Barlow earned the Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year, while infielder Nicky Lopez received the Joe Burke Special Achievement Award. Barlow and Lopez were both first-time honorees.
Perez, 31, is the first to win consecutive Les Milgram Player of the Year Awards since Eric Hosmer (2016-17) and the fifth to do so since the award was established in 1971. Salvy tied for the Major League lead with 48 home runs this season, which also matched the single-season franchise record set by Jorge Soler in 2019. He also led the Majors with 121 RBI, becoming just the second Royal to do so, joining Hal McRae, who had a Majors-best 133 RBI in 1982. He became the sixth different player to lead the Majors in home runs and RBI in the last 30 years, joining Giancarlo Stanton in 2017, Chris Davis in 2013, Miguel Cabrera in 2012, Ryan Howard in 2006 and 2008 and Álex Rodríguez in 2002 and 2007. Perez became the second primary catcher to lead the Majors in HR and RBI, joining Johnny Bench, who did it in 1970 and 1972. His 48 home runs tied the franchise record, set by Jorge Soler in 2019, and were the most in a single season by a player who played at least 75% of his games at catcher, three more than the previous benchmark held by Bench, who hit 45 home runs in 1970. Salvy hit 33 home runs as a catcher—the other 15 came as a designated hitter—which fell just two shy of Iván Rodríguez’s American League record of 35 HR as a catcher, set in 1999, according to Elias.
Barlow, 28, became the second reliever to win the Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year Award in the last six seasons, joining Ian Kennedy (2019). He appeared in a career-high 71 games and led the Royals’ bullpen in innings (74.1), ERA (2.42), strikeouts (91), saves (16), strikeouts per 9.0 innings (11.02), strikeouts-to-walks ratio (3.25) and tied with Jake Brentz for the team lead in wins (5) among relievers. Among qualifying American League relievers, he was fourth in innings, sixth in strikeouts, 10th in ERA and tied for 11th in saves. He also led the club with 56 scoreless outings, which tied for fifth-most in the Junior Circuit. Barlow was named the Royals Pitcher of the Month in May and June, posting a 1.59 ERA (4 ER in 22.2 IP), with 37 strikeouts (14.69 K/9), a .193 opponents’ batting average and a 1.19 WHIP. From May 14-June 10, he recorded a career-high 13.0-inning scoreless streak, which spanned 12 appearances. He also pitched to a 1.71 ERA (6 ER in 31.2 IP) after the All-Star break, which ranked sixth in the Majors and third in the AL (min. 30 appearances).
Lopez, 26, set career-highs across the board, batting .300 (149-for-497) with six triples, two homers, 43 RBI, 78 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. He became the first Royals left-handed batter to hit .300 or better since Hosmer (.318) in 2017, and first Royals shortstop (at least 75% of games at short) to hit .300 or higher. After hitting .226 (36-for-159) through his first 59 games through June 13, he batted .334 (113-for-338) over his final 92 contests from June 15 through season’s end, leading the American League in batting average and ranking second with a .386 on-base percentage during that time, which trailed only Shohei Ohtani (.387). He led American League shortstops for the season in fielding percentage (.987), which included setting a franchise record with 72 consecutive errorless games at short from May 5-Aug. 13. Lopez recorded a career-best 31-game on-base streak from Aug. 21-Sept. 21, which was the longest by a Royal since Whit Merrifield hit in a club-record 31-straight games from Sept. 10, 2018-April 10-2019 and was the longest within one season since Billy Butler reached in 32 consecutive games in 2013. Lopez’s on-base streak was the third longest in the Majors in 2021, behind Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco (43) and the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu (37).