There’s some consolation for Mitch Maier, now on the disabled list while his face heals up.
Maier was honored as the Omaha Player of the Year as the Royals named their top players and pitchers for Minor League clubs in 2008.
A center fielder, Maier was called up to the Royals on July 24 after batting .316 with 24 doubles, nine homers and 41 RBIs for the Triple-A O-Royals. On Aug. 20 at Cleveland, he was hit in the face by a pitch, suffering three facial fractures and went on the DL.
The top Omaha pitcher is right-hander Devon Lowery, a reliever who has a 1-1 record, five saves and a 1.88 ERA in 30 games. He started the season with Double-A Northwest Arkansas and had a 0.69 ERA in nine games.
First baseman Kila Ka’aihue was named Northwest Arksansas’ Player of the Year after banging 26 home runs with 79 RBIs and a .314 average in 91 games before being promoted to Omaha. A left-handed batter, he’s hit 10 more home runs for Omaha.
The Naturals’ top pitcher was Dan Cortes, a 6-6 right-hander with a 9-4 record and 3.98 ERA in 22 starts. Cortes, 21, was obtained from the White Sox in the 2006 deal for Mike MacDougal.
The other honorees were:
WILMINGTON (Single-A Advanced): Right-hander Matt Kniginyzky has a 9-8 record and 3.57 ERA in 27 starts. Switch-hitting outfielder Derrick Robinson leads the Carolina League with 62 stolen bases and has a .244 average with 66 runs scored.
BURLINGTON, IOWA (Single A): Third baseman Mike Moustakas, last year’s first-round draft choice, has a league-leading 22 homers, 71 RBIs and a .272 average. Left-hander Danny Duffy has an 8-4 record and 2.20 ERA in 17 starts with 102 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings.
IDAHO FALLS (Rookie-Advanced): Right-hander Bryan Casey, after missing 2007 with an elbow injury, is 3-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 14 starts. Catcher Sean McCauley is hitting .278 with 12 doubles and 19 RBIs for the Chukars.
BURLINGTON, N.C. (Rookie): Right-hander Kelvin Herrera was 2-2 with a 1.42 ERA in 11 games (eight starts). He’s also 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA at Single-A. Switch-hitting second baseman Angel Franco is hitting .257 with 25 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.
SURPRISE (Rookie): Left-hander Mike Montgomery, this year’s sandwich round pick, is 2-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games. Catcher Jose Bonilla is hitting .357 with five homers and 24 RBIs in 34 games.
DOMINICAN ROYALS (Rookie): Right-hander Willian Avinazar is 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 14 starts. Catcher-first baseman Henry Moreno, has a .314 average with 22 doubles and 41 RBIs.
— Dick Kaegel
At Triple-A Omaha, Ryan Shealy and Kila Ka’aihue have been making a bid to keep their names in the mix for the Royals’ first-base job of the future. Shealy hit .280 through his first 100 games with 19 homers and 57 RBIs. After hitting .347 in July, Shealy has tailed off to .250 in August. Once stuck behind Todd Helton in Colorado, Shealy is still hopeful that Kansas City can be a true springboard for a long Major League career.
Ka’aihue was promoted after tearing up Double-A pitching. The power stroke didn’t leave Ka’aihue after he reached Omaha. Through his first 23 games with the O-Royals, Ka’aihue hit eight homers. His combined numbers at Double-A and Triple-A were 34 homers and a .315 batting average through the third week of August.
The big problem for both Shealy and Ka’aihue is that young Billy Butler’s position is also first base. If Shealy and/or Ka’aihue should be included in the September callup activity, they’ll have a chance to give the front office more to think about regarding the first-base mix going forward.
— Robert Falkoff
Well, Kila isn’t exactly doing it softly. The Royals’ decision to promote Kila Kaaihue from Double-A Northwest Arkansas is looking like a solid one. In his first week with the team, Kaaihue has two home runs and five RBI’s, and is hitting .385.
“It’s just fun man,” Kaaihue said. “It’s fun when things are going good.”
It can’t get a whole lot better for the O-Royals at first base right now. Kaaihue plays that position, along with hard-hitting Ryan Shealy. Shealy is hitting .285 for the season with 14 home runs and 45 RBI’s. Those two are switching playing at first base and playing designated hitter. And just in case one or both of them needs a rest, Omaha has Mike Stodolka. Stodolka, who plays about anywhere including outfield and first base, has lifted his average up to .290.
Royals fans may also want to note that Jimmy Gobble, who went on the disabled list last week after giving up 10 runs in one inning, will start for Omaha on Saturday. It will be his first appearance since going on the DL.
Other than a major offensive eruption this week, the O-Royals have struggled. They scored a season-high 17 runs in a victory on Tuesday and then lost all their offensive power. Since then, Omaha has scored a total of 10 runs in three losses. The recalling of Mitch Maier to the big leagues certainly won’t help the offense get any better.
Mike Stodolka was prominent in that offensive boon and has been the last couple of weeks. Now that he’s getting consistent playing time, Stodolka is on a nine-game hitting streak and is batting .472 during the stretch.
Northwest Arkansas, Double-A
The Naturals couldn’t have really asked for more in the month of July. As of Saturday, Northwest had gone 16-7. Attendance records have also been shattered. In its first season in Springdale, Ark., this season’s total attendance is already greater than any single-season attendance than when the team was in Wichita.
Kila Kaaihue and Marc Maddox are among the top 15 leaders in batting average for the Texas League. Kaaihue also leads the league in walks and home runs. Blake Johnson is the only Naturals pitcher who cracks the top 15 in ERA, and his is 4.49.
Burlington Bees, Single-A
It seems that only one player matters for most Royals fans on this team: Mike Moustakas. Moustakas struggled through an early season slump and injuries. Right now, he’s hitting .252 with 13 home runs and a team-high 46 RBI’s in what is regarded as a pitcher’s league.
Another Royals prospect, Johnny Giavotella, the team’s second round pick this summer, is hitting .297 with 12 RBI’s in 35 games.
Friday’s game was a little too crazy for the Blue Rocks. They had a 3-0 lead at the start of the inning then allowed Kinston to score four runs. In the bottom of the ninth, the Blue Rocks scored two to win.
Recent pickup Matt Correll is hitting .378 since joining the team from the T-Bones. He had a solo homer on Friday.
Burlington Royals, Rookie
Josh Vittek has been swinging the ball well lately for Kansas City. Vittek, a first baseman, is hitting .368 with five home runs and 12 RBI’s in the last 10 games. He had a grand slam on Friday.
Idaho Falls, Rookie
Things aren’t going so well for the Chukars. They’ve lost three straight and are now eight games under .500.
Surprise Royals, Rookie
2008 Draft pick Michael Montgomery is off to a good start so far for Surprise. Montgomery, a sandwich round pick, has a 1.65 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 16 innings. Another draft pick from this year, Tyler Sample is not doing quite as well so far. Sample has a 10.66 ERA in 12 2/3 innings.