For Pete's Sake

Royals’ Class A team advances after three straight wins in elimination playoff games

Royals’ catching prospect MJ Melendez benefits from being at big-league camp

Minor league catcher MJ Melendez was the youngest player invited to camp by the Royals, and he's part of a wealth of catching talent in the club's farm system. He and teammate Sebastian Rivero were both South Atlantic League all-stars in 2018.
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Minor league catcher MJ Melendez was the youngest player invited to camp by the Royals, and he's part of a wealth of catching talent in the club's farm system. He and teammate Sebastian Rivero were both South Atlantic League all-stars in 2018.

Last month, as five Royals’ minor-league affiliates were preparing for the playoffs, assistant general manager J.J. Picollo talked about the importance of postseason play.

“We always feel like playoff baseball is icing on the cake in development,” Picollo said in a video tweeted by the Royals. “The pressure is a little bit higher. You find out who’s gonna step up in big situations. Who are the guys respond when their backs are to the wall?”

The Royals’ Class A-advanced team in Wilmington, Delaware, showed its cool under pressure.

Playing in the Carolina League’s Northern Division Championship Series over the last week, the Blue Rocks dropped the first two games of the best-of-five series against Salem. The Red Sox also held a 2-1 lead going to the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3, but Wilmington pushed two runs across on three hits, including Kyle Isbel’s bunt single that scored Michael Gigliotti for the walk-off victory.

Wilmington trailed 1-0 in the eighth inning of Game 4, but scored four times in the eighth inning. After Salem tied the game in the ninth inning, the Blue Rocks walked off with a 10th inning victory on Tyler Hill’s RBI single.

The deciding fifth game on Sunday wasn’t quite so stressful as Wilmington never trailed and won 6-3. Lefty Rito Lugo struck out 10 in six innings and Isbel, a third-round pick in 2018 draft, hit a home run for the Blue Rocks, whose roster includes a number of players who helped Class A Lexington win last year’s South Atlantic League championship.

“We never really counted ourselves out (of the series),” first baseman Nick Pratto, the Royals’ first-round pick in 2017, told MiLB.com. “We knew this was going to be a dogfight the way our offenses are. Our pitching came around the last couple of games. Winning is one of the sweetest things to be a part of.

“Our chemistry is off the charts. We are fighting till the end every day. You see it in the locker room and on the field.”

Wilmington will play Fayetteville in the Mills Cup Finals beginning Tuesday.

Lexington going for another title

The Legends returned to the South Atlantic League finals by sweeping Augusta in a best-of-three series. Jon Heasley allowed one hit over seven innings in the first game on Thursday and Lexington won 2-1. The Legends won 4-2 in Game 2.

They will play Hickory in a best-of-five series starting Monday night.

Idaho Falls wins playoff opener

The Chukars, who are the Royals’ rookie advanced affiliate, downed Billings 2-0 on Sunday in Game 1 the best-of-three Northern Division Championship Series.

Chih-Ting Wang allowed two hits in four innings and Christian Cosby gave up two hits in five innings of relief.

The Chukars are one win from advancing to the Pioneer League Championship Series.

Burlington falls just short of title

The Royals’ rookie league team in Burlington, North Carolina, won the opening game of the Appalachian League Championship Series, but the Johnson City Cardinals won the next two and took the series.

Catcher Logan Porter hit .352 with nine home runs in 44 games and a 1.129 OPS for the team this year.

Dominican Summer League title

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