Opinion

Royals on the Farm: Corey Toups’ two homers lift Northwest Arkansas in playoff opener

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Brooks Pounders threw during a spring-training game.
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Brooks Pounders threw during a spring-training game. jsleezer@kcstar.com

And then there was one.

The Royals are down to one affiliate competing in the playoffs after Burlington lost in the rookie-level Appalachian League championship series on Wednesday to the Johnson City Cardinals.

The Class AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals beat the Springfield Cardinals in their playoff opener.

Here’s a quick rundown of the Royals’ farm system:

Class AAA Omaha

Record: 58-82 (season ended Monday).

Top hitter: Third baseman Hunter Dozier hit .294 with 15 home runs, 36 doubles and 54 RBIs in 103 games.

Top pitcher: A case could be made for starter Luke Farrell (6-3, 3.76 ERA in 91 innings), but reliever Brooks Pounders gets the call here. Pounders, a 25-year-old right-hander, made his big-league debut this season after a successful transition to the bullpen. Pounders went 5-3 with 90 strikeouts and a 3.14 ERA in 80  1/3 innings pitched with Omaha.

Class AA Northwest Arkansas

Record: 65-75 overall (36-34 and first place of the Texas League North Division in the second half).

Playoffs: Beat Springfield 9-6 Wednesday in the first game of a best-of-five semifinal. Midland leads Corpus Christi 1-0 in the other semifinal.

Second baseman Corey Toups hit two home runs and scored three times Wednesday against the Cardinals.

Game 2 is 7:10 Thursday night in Springfield.

Class A Wilmington (Advanced)

Record: 54-84 (season ended Monday).

Top hitter: First baseman Samir Duenez (.300 average, 42 RBIs in 56 games) excelled in Lexington and Wilmington this season.

Top pitcher: Tough-luck righty Zach Lovvorn (2-15, 3.95 ERA in 127  2/3 innings) had a solid season despite being tied for the third-most losses in minor-league baseball in 2016. However, reliever Jake Newberry posted the best season of any Blue Rocks pitcher. Newberry went 3-2 with three saves, a 3.00 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 57 innings.

Class A Lexington

Record: 52-87 (season ended Monday).

Top hitter: Center fielder Cody Jones hit .300 with 11 stolen bases in 39 games before advancing to Wilmington.

Top pitcher: Left-hander Emilio Ogando went 7-10 with a 3.80 ERA and had 130 strikeouts in 132  2/3 innings.

Rookie Idaho Falls

Record: 39-36 overall (season ends Thursday).

Playoff chances: Eliminated.

Top hitter: Catcher Meibrys Viloria (.378 average with 55 RBIs and only 34 strikeouts in 57 games) was named the Pioneer League’s most valuable player.

Top pitcher: Right-hander Andres Machado went 2-4 with a 3.99 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 58  2/3 innings in a hitter-friendly league.

Rookie Burlington

Record: 42-26 in the regular season.

Playoffs: Lost to Johnson City in Appalachian League championship series, 2-0. The Cardinals broke a 4-all tie with five runs in the seventh inning Wednesday en route to an 11-6 series-clinching victory.

Top hitter: Outfielder Kort Peterson posted a slash line of .347/.437/.545 in 49 games.

Top pitcher: Left-hander Garrett Davila (7-0, 2.77 ERA, 1.28 WHIP in 65 innings) is regarded as the better prospect, but Cristian Castillo had the better season. A 21-year-old left-hander, Castillo went 6-3 with a 3.13 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 72 innings.

Rookie Arizona League Royals

Record: 31-24 overall.

Playoffs: Lost to AZL Angels in one-game playoff on Aug. 31.

Top hitter: Third baseman John Brontsema, a 26th-round draft pick from UC Irvine, hit .343 in 47 games.

Top pitcher: Parkville native Grant Galvin went 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 49  1/3 innings.

Jeff Patterson: 816-234-4767, @jeffpatt_KC

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