| Huber receives Minor honor...
First baseman named KC's top Minor League player
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
|KANSAS CITY Justin Huber heard it here first: He's the Royals Minor League Player of the Year.
"Wow. I didn't even know it so I'm very shocked," said Huber, a first baseman now on the Major League club. "There are some tremendous players who had some tremendous years so I'm very honored."
Right-hander Luis Cota was named the Royals Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Cota and Huber will be recognized as Alex George Award winners prior to Friday night's game against the Cleveland Indians.
"I feel pretty good about it," Huber said. "I'm pretty blown away actually. I didn't ever really think about anything like that. I didn't even know they had the award."
Huber was the Texas League batting champion for Double-A Wichita with a .343 average. He also hit 16 home runs and had 74 RBIs for the Wranglers. For Triple-A Omaha, he batted .274 with seven homers and 23 RBIs. He also led the Texas League in on-base percentage (.432) and slugging percentage (.570).
Huber, 23, from Melbourne, Australia, was the MVP in the Futures Game on July 10 in Detroit where his two-run pinch-hit double led the World team to a 4-0 victory over manager George Brett's USA team.
Cota, 20, from Hermosillo, Mexico, had a 5-8 record and a 4.01 ERA for Class A Burlington. He was fifth in the Midwest League with 137 strikeouts.
A shortstop at Sunnyside High in Tucson, Ariz., Cota was a 10th-round draft choice in June 2003.
"He's made strides and is very good for a guy who hadn't pitched that much," said Shaun McGinn, senior director of Minor League operations.
Cota throws an above-average fastball plus a slider and a changeup. He's currently in the Arizona Instructional League, tightening up his slider.
While Cota is probably years away from the Majors, Huber will have a chance to stay with the Royals next spring. This season he was converted from catcher to first base.
"I'm making strides," Huber said. "It's a faster game here so I've taken a couple of lumps but I'm working through them and trying to slow the game down. It's one thing learning to play a new position in the Minor Leagues. It's another trying to play a new position in the big leagues. So I'm trying to stay grounded about the whole thing and not get too caught up in trying to be perfect."
Batting, however, is something the right-handed hitter has done well. He didn't encounter too many problems this summer.
"Then when I went to Omaha, I started off real slow and picked it up after a while."
And the winners are: The Royals announced players and the pitchers of the year for each of their Minor League affiliates:
Omaha: Right fielder Aaron Guiel pounded 30 home runs and had 95 RBIs in 128 games for the O-Royals. He batted .276 and was named to the All-Pacific Coast League team.
Right-handed pitcher Dennis Tankersley was 9-8 with a team-best ERA of 4.24. He had 104 strikeouts.
Wichita: Huber was the top player.
Ryan Baerlocher, a right-hander, was 7-5 and led the Wranglers starters with a 3.44 ERA in 15 games. He held opponents to a .230 average.
High Desert: Outfielders Billy Butler and Chris Lubanski shared the top player award. Butler (.348 average) banged 25 homers, 30 doubles and had 91 RBIs in 92 games. After a slow start, Lubanski batted .301 and had 28 home runs and 116 RBIs. He was 13-for-15 in the California League playoffs.
Left-hander John Gragg III had a 13-5 record and a 4.36 ERA in 27 starts. He led the Mavericks in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts.
Burlington: Middle infielder Irving Falu had a .254 average with 20 doubles, five triples and a team-high 34 stolen bases for the Bees. He also drew 61 walks and struck out just 39 times.
Cota was the top pitcher.
Idaho Falls: Shortstop Chris McConnell had a .331 average, 17 doubles, eight triples, six homers and 39 RBIs in 70 games for the Chukars. He was named to the Pioneer League all-star team.
David Henninger, a 6-foot-7 right-hander, went 5-1 with a team-best 3.60 ERA in 21 relief appearances. He had at least one strikeout in each outing.
Arizona: Valentino Arce, who played second base and third, hit .335 and scored 37 runs in 47 games. He missed the 2004 season because of an ankle injury.
Right-hander Rayner Oliveros was 7-1 with a 2.39 ERA in 14 Rookie League starts. He struck out 48 and walked only five in 75 1/3 innings.
Salcedo: Infielder Alwin Perez, who hit .283, led the Dominican Summer League team with 12 doubles, 36 RBIs and 15 steals.
Juan Hernandez, a 17-year-old left-hander, was 6-0 and had a 1.25 ERA in 18 relief outings and one start. He had 62 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 50 1/3 innings.
All of the winners will receive their awards before Friday night's 7:10 p.m. CT game against the Indians. On Thursday afternoon, they will visit patients at Children's Mercy Hospital.
Radio news: The Royals announced they have restructured their current four-year agreement with Union Broadcasting to give all network and local advertising sales responsibilities to the club. ABC Regional Sports Sales will act as the club's agent.
WHB 810 in Kansas City will continue to be the flagship station for the Royals.
On deck: The Royals and Tigers will wrap up their four-game series at 1:10 p.m. CT Wednesday. Left-hander Jimmy Gobble (1-1, 5.91 ERA) will be matched with Tigers right-hander Jason Johnson (8-12, 4.62 ERA).