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Royals Announce 2021 Organization Awards

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

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

Nick Pratto was the recipient of the Frank White Award, which recognizes the organization’s top defensive player. Pratto, 23, split the season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha and appeared in 113 combined games (112 starts) at first base and three in right field. He recorded 813 putouts and 64 assists in 879 total chances at first base and committed just two errors in 955.2 innings for a .998 fielding percentage, the highest among players to earn a Minor League Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2021. This marks Pratto’s second time earning the Frank White Award, as he also did so in 2018 after posting a .987 fielding percentage at first base. He was selected in the first round (14th overall) of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft.

Tyler Tolbert was the recipient of the Willie Wilson Award, which recognizes the top baserunner in the organization. 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 total stolen bases, which ranked fourth among all minor league players, and most among all Royals minor leaguers. He was caught stealing only twice, recording a 96.5% success rate, the second highest of any player in either Major or Minor League Baseball (min. 30 stolen bases). He was selected in the 13th round of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft.

Vinnie Pasquantino was the recipient of the Mike Sweeney Award, which recognizes a player who best represents the organization on and off the field. Pasquantino, 24, was named the Quad Cities Player of the Year, after hitting a combined .300/.394/.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 High-A Central postseason All-Star honors at first base. Pasquantino was selected by the Royals in the 11th round of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft.

Mitch Stetter was the recipient of the Dick Howser Award, which recognizes a player development employee for outstanding contributions to the organization. Prior to taking over the position of Manager of Pitching Performance in 2020, Stetter spent four seasons as the Pitching Coach for Lexington (Class-A), after holding the same position with Surprise (Rookie) in 2015. He was a reliever in the Majors from 2007-2011 with Milwaukee and set a Brewers record in 2009, recording 15 consecutive outs on 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 played a key role in the seamless transition into Quad Cities prior to 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-dollar renovation at Modern Woodmen Park, and when completed will be a premier minor league 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 an Area Scout for five years with the Baltimore Orioles, which came after a part-time stint with the Florida Marlins from 2004-2007. He spent parts of four minor league seasons as a right-handed relief pitcher in the San Francisco Giants organization.

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

In addition to the seven individual organization awards, MJ Melendez was also presented with the 2021 Joe Bauman Award, which is awarded 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 earn the Joe Bauman Award, which was first presented in 2002, joining Chris Brazell (2007) and Mike Moustakas (2010).

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Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
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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