Category: Kansas City Royals

Chukars’ notebook: Chukars, Royals looking for speed

Chukars’ Angel Medina rounds third on his way to home after a hit by Nathan Eaton in the third inning as the Chukars take on the Helena Brewers at Melaleuca Field on Tuesday. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | @Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

In sports, speed wins. Or, it certainly helps win.

Ask Al Davis (I mean, if you can talk to the dead).

Ask Usain Bolt or any sprinter. Ask any dude who’s ever tried to tackle running backs Barry Sanders or Chris Johnson.

Heck, even ask the Kansas City Royals — who, despite being amidst a rebuild, are looking for speed, Chukars field manager Omar Ramirez said.

“That is the Kansas City Royal’s identity. Run, run, run, run, run,” Ramirez said July 4. “I like to run (the bases, put pressure on defenses). That’s the Royals’ identity. And personally, I’m that type of manager.”

The Chukars certainly embody that “speed-first” idea from the Royals’ higher management.

Idaho Falls leads the Pioneer League in stolen bases this summer with 69. The second-most? Grand Junction at …. 52.

With speedster Tyler James — who overwhelmingly leads the league in stolen bases with 26 — and Offerman Collado batting second, the Chukars are trying to put as much speed as possible on the bags. Even Nate Eaton, who bats third, has 10 stolen bases, tied for the fourth-most in the league.

Chukars’ Nick Hutchins heads to third on a ground hit as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

On paper, it’s worked. The Chukars host one of the most prominent offenses in the Pioneer League — scoring the second most runs (295) with a league-leading on-base percentage of .390. Simply put, the Chukars get on base often (they’re first in hits with 452; hit the most doubles and triples; walk the second-most out of any team), steal, and can play relatively smart small ball.

“That is my game: get on base anyway I can whether it’s a walk, hit, error, bunt. And just try to score runs,” James said previously. “Try to get in scoring position for the guys that knock me in.”

While in the big leagues, the correlation with speed and winning has yet to field results for the Royals — at least not yet. The Royals are tied for 12th in stolen bases (49) — Whit Merrifield is tied for fourth with 22 stolen bases — and have nine of the fastest 150 players in the MLB, per the MLB’s Statcast Sprint Speed Leaderboard metrics.

They’re at the bottom of the AL Central with a 32-71 record.

Standings (as of Saturday morning and in order by second half records)

Pioneer League North

Helena Brewers (MIL) 19-21, 2-0

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 16-23, 1-0

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 19-20, 0-1

* Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 22-18, 0-2

Pioneer League South

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 22-19, 2-1

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 22-18, 1-1

Orem Owlz (LAA) 13-27, 1-1

* Ogden Raptors (LAD) 27-14, 1-2

* – Denotes first-half division winner

Increasing stock

Catcher Chase Vallot.

On rehab assignment, Vallot joined the Chukars in mid-July and brought a heavy bat late in the Chukars’ lineup. After batting an abysmal .101 in Wilmington, he’s now batting .263 for the Chukars including a 3 for 5 night Friday against Orem. He had three RBIs and a home run in the sixth inning. He also hit two doubles.

Decreasing stock

Third baseman Angel Medina.

While batting .246/.281/.361 for the Chukars in 14 games, Medina committed three errors during Friday’s loss (two fielding, one throwing). His nine errors is second-most on the team (shortstop Offerman Collado has 11) but Medina has committed more in a half the amount of games (Medina’s played 14 games; Collado’s played 28).

Recent transactions (from July 21 to July 28)

– None, though Kansas City Royals’ third baseman Mike Moustakas was recently traded from Kansas City to the Milwaukee Brewers for Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez. Moustakas played for the Chukars in 2007 and was a pivotal piece for the Royals’ World Series team in 2015.

First half MVPs

Nate Eaton, Reed Rohlman and JC Cloney.

While names like Manny Olloque, Carlos Diaz and Kyle Isbel provided more offensive firepower in a shorter span, and eventually moved up in the Royals’ farming system, Eaton and Rohlman have been the most statistically consistent offensive batters for the Chukars.

Eaton — who’s played a variety of infield positions — has batted .355 and knocked in 24 RBIs (second most), two home runs (tied for third), eight triples (first) and 10 doubles (third) in 124 at-bats. He’s also shown promise fielding, showcasing solid arm strength.

Rohlman, who exclusively plays first base, has batted .348 from mostly the cleanup spot. He leads the team in hits (48), RBIs (38) and home runs (4), displaying solid power and contact at the plate. He’s done it all in 138 at-bats.

Finally, Cloney. The southpaw ace selected out of Arizona in the ninth round of last year’s draft has been the Chukars’ most consistent arm. He’s a perfect 7-0 on the season, allowing 40 hits in 43.1 innings pitched. His 2.28 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 1.06 WHIP are some of the team’s best.

Upcoming

Idaho Falls is on the road until Thursday, playing two games in Ogden and three games in Orem. The Chukars return home Thursday for a crucial four-game homestand with Grand Junction, which may have some Pioneer League playoff implications down the line.

Chukars’ notebook: Q+A with Chukars GM Kevin Greene

By LUKE O’ROARK | Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

In sports, consistency is a key ingredient to success.

Kevin Greene

The Chukars haven’t always been successful, sure, but every summer you’re going to see a consistent face walking around Melaleuca Field: Chukars general manager Kevin Greene.

The Post Register sat down with the Chukars’ GM earlier this summer to ask about Greene’s background, his management style, why he became involved with the Chukars and what the future holds for the Kansas City Royals’ affiliate. Some components of the interview, questions and answers have been cut for brevity.

Post Register: Kevin, what is the status of (the Idaho Falls Chukars) and, in terms of yourself, where you’re at personally?

Kevin Greene: “You know, this is my 35th year in baseball but I’m only 56. I started as intern back in 1984 for the Rochester Red Wings (minor league affiliate for the Minnesota Twins in Rochester, New York). Sometimes the grind gets to me a little bit. But I think I see myself not getting out of the game anytime in the next 5-to-10 years. I do see myself adjusting my schedule. I spent all morning and most of the early afternoon on a bucket lift 35 feet in the air and people look at me, like, ‘Why do you do that? You’re the general manager.’ Um, I like to do that, but, I won’t be doing that 10 years from now. I might be still working here as a GM but I might be saying, ‘Hey, I need two guys to go up on that lift’ or I might be hiring a company to go upon that lift. I won’t be doing it myself anymore.”

PR: What’s made you stay (with the Chukars) … I know you’re originally from New York.

KG: When I moved out here, I thought I was on a three-year plan to do a little bit of resume building, like a lot of people that come out here, but then you find out: not only is it a really good town to raise your family in — and you like all the atmosphere of the Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, rivers, mountains, all that — but you also find out, you know, if you find somebody that you connect with that you work for. Having that special relationship with your boss. That’s made this a special job for me. My boss, Dave Elmore, who’s owned this team since 1986, he comes out a few times a year. He lets us do our thing. I send him the reports and as long everything is to his satisfaction, he lets us run the team. And that is so important. When I worked in Rochester, we were micromanaged in Rochester. And it was tough, it was very tough. … Here, having one boss, who knows the business and knows how to manage, he allows us to take the reins and run with it.

PR: I’ve seen inside the office and I certainly understand, what it seems like, that “laissez-faire” kind of approach.

KG: It is. I’m not going to ask someone to go out and clean a bathroom right now if I’m not willing to do it myself. I went out and raked the warning track for a couple of hours. It’s what we do.

PR: Where does that management style stem from? Where does it come from?

KG: When I worked in Rochester, even though we had board oversight, when they were letting us do our thing, the staff all worked like the way we do here. I felt like we all worked on the same level and it was communicative and we all had each other’s back. And if an intern asks me, ‘Hey, Kevin, can you help me with his,’ I don’t say, ‘I’m the GM, you’re the intern’ and I don’t help him. It doesn’t work that way. We all work together, and that’s what I’ve always tried to preach and I’ve always said: I’ve worked with people that have been difficult, and I hope I never get that way.

PR: So, when did that management style start?

KG: When I moved out here in ‘93. Maybe I was a little staunched, thinking that’s how you were supposed to be, but I loosened up. We had a really small staff, and we all got along great. So, that’s what I like. I like a small staff where we can all trust each other to get their job done and if there’s an issue, we can work it out together.

PR: Because it seems like most, some businesses use that management model where it’s a “top-down”. I’m guessing you don’t believe in that (model)?

KG: You know, as long as we get our work done, it doesn’t matter (what it looks like). I’m dressed a slob right now, I’ll admit that. But I’m not going to come in here with a suit on and just point at banners and say, ‘Hey, get those hanged. I expect them to be done in 40 minutes.’ How are the people who work for me going to respect me, or want to work for me, for very long? I think that’s part of the reason I’m able to keep quality people here — people, maybe, trying to climb through minor league baseball. Quality people have stayed longer than they should have and I think it’s because they really like the atmosphere.

PR: It seems like year in and year out there’s some change, but you’ve stayed.

KG: Yeah, I’m the one constant, I guess. I think Paul Henderson is a constant. He’s from Idaho Falls and I hope when I step down I can turn the reins over to him and let him have a nice, long run at it.

PR: Any goals left for you? You mentioned 30-plus years in the business…anything that still drives you?

KG: You know, I would love to win more rings. Love to win more championships. Those are the highlights of what we do here. Some of the most memorable things in baseball are going to playoff games and rushing the field and knowing you get to start designing a ring the next week. That’s always a lot of fun. I like the camaraderie. One day I was in the winter meetings, it was after dinner and I was at a sports bar, with a lot of baseball people, and I looked around and said, ‘My gosh, I know more people here than I don’t know.’ At that point, I felt like I was a part of it.

PR: It was interesting, you mentioned earlier the feeling of winning and the playoff atmosphere, but I feel like that juxtaposes, at times, with the attitude of the club/minors. You know, ‘these kids are learning’, ‘winning may not be everything’. Any thoughts on that juxtaposition? You obviously want a viable, winning organization, but there’s also that attitude of ‘Hey, these kids are learning.’

KG: It is. This is player development. Every player out here with the ultimate goal of helping the Kansas City Royals make it back to the World Series and win one, that’s what the goal is. Along the way, it would be great if the Royals won at the Idaho Falls level, they win at the Lexington level, they win at Omaha. That’s great. It helps these kids know how to win, winning baseball players, as they are being prepared for the major leagues. We’re just fortunate as a small town with the opportunity to watch future major leaguers perform at this level in this little ballpark. I think it’s special for a town this size.

Standings (through Friday’s games)

Pioneer League North

Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 21-13

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 17-17

Helena Brewers (MIL) 16-18

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 13-21

Pioneer League South

Ogden Raptors (LAD) 23-11

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 19-15

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 17-17

Orem Owlz (LAA) 10-24

Increasing stock

Reed Rohlman.

The Chukars’ first baseman has batted 11 for 21 during the previous five games including an impressive 4 for 5 day at the plate against Missoula. He’s batting .357 with an OPS of 1.017.

Decreasing stock

Jonathan Bowlan.

Bowlan — the Royals’ second round pick this previous draft — holds a 1-1 record with a 4.71 ERA. He’s struck out 13 in 21 innings pitched, and gave up seven earned runs in a 12-0 loss to Missoula on July 14.

Recent transactions (from July 5 to July 21)

– Outfielder Kyle Isbel was promoted to the Lexington Legends on July 19.

– Outfielder Hunter Strong was assigned to the Chukars from the Burlington Royals on July 17.

– Right-handed pitcher Christopher Marte was released on July 13.

– Wilmington Blue Rocks sent catcher Chase Vallot on a rehab assignment to Idaho Falls on July 10.

– Third baseman Angel Medina was assigned to the Chukars from Burlington on July 7.

Upcoming

Idaho Falls finishes its seven-game road trip Tuesday at Missoula before starting a three-game home series against Orem Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is 7:15 p.m.

Chukars shut out for first time this season

At Melaleuca Field, the Orem Owlz dealt the Idaho Falls Chukars their first shutout loss of the season after a big night by Mario Sanjur.

A catcher, Sanjur ended the evening 3 for 4 with a double, three RBIs and a run scored for the Owls (7-14). The Chukars (12-9) mustered six hits against Orem in a 7-0 loss and left nine on base.

The Owlz, who are in fourth in the Pioneer League South Division, built a 4-0 lead through three innings thanks to RBI singles by Sanjur (two) and and Cam Williams. They stretched their lead to 7-0 after a Tim Millard home run, an RBI double by Kiki Menendez and an RBI double by Sanjur.

Reed Rohlman went 2 for 3 and Carlos Diaz went 2 for 4 to lead the Chukars at the plate. Idaho Falls recorded no extra base hits in Thursday’s contest.

Kris Bubic, the Kansas City Royals’ first round draft pick this year (40th overall) started on the mound for Idaho Falls and recorded the loss. He allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits while walking two and striking out one in 2.2 innings.

The Chukars remain in second place in the South Division standings through Thursday, two games behind first-place Ogden. Game three of Idaho Falls’ three-game home series with Orem is tonight at 7:15 p.m. at Melaleuca Field.

Chukars notebook: Midway through season, Chukars still seeking consistency

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Luke O’Roark will break down the Chukars, the Pioneer League, and give some insight on what’s going on inside the Kansas City affiliate.
Saturday is the start of a new season in the Pioneer League. Teams go back to 0-0 for the second half of the year.
For the Chukars, specifically, Saturday means a clean slate.
Idaho Falls finished in last the Pioneer League south division at 17-21. And if it wants to make the Pioneer League playoffs, it will need to use its clean slate to find some consistency.

Idaho Falls’ Julio Gonzales makes the throw to first base after getting the force-out on Missoula’s Dominic Miroglio at second base during Monday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. The double play ended the sixth inning.

“It feels good, as a team, to know that we get a clean slate,” catcher Darrell Miller Jr. said. “And we have an opportunity to make the playoffs in the second half.”
Even with a developmental mindset, as players attempt to perfect different components of their game, the Chukars’ play have fluctuated through the first 38 games.
On some nights, the hits have come in droves for the Chukars’ offense. Other nights, it’s been quiet.
The Chukars have plenty of hitters that have looked solid at the plate (Chris Hudgins, Matt Moralez, Amalani Fukofuka, Travis Jones, Robby Rinn and Miller Jr.) but it now needs more everyday players.
Only four players — Tyler Straub, Cristhian Vasquez, Fukofuka and Rinn — have played 30-plus games this year.
In general, the Chukars have only had 17 players come to the plate — a league-low.
Ogden, for context, had 25 players come to the plate during the first half of the season. The result: the Raptors are one of the best offenses in the league.
“I like the way the compete,” manager Justin Gemoll said. “We’re just striving for consistency, in all three facets of the game: pitching, hitting and defense. At this level, sometimes you have some of those, sometimes you don’t.”
Pitching has been hot-and-cold for Idaho Falls, too.
Midseason acquisitions like Holden Capps has tightened the Chukars’ command on the mound that lacked early in the year. But, the Chukars’ bullpen has statistically struggled.
They rank last in team ERA (6.86), hits allowed (474) and earned runs (256) allowed. The Chukars have allowed 10 or more runs in 13 games this season.
Defensively, the Chukars had 21-straight games with an error.
So, maybe, a clean slate is a good thing.
“Our goal as coaches is to get them better and move them through the system,” Gemoll said.

First half MVPs:

Robby Rinn — Arguably the Chukars best hitter. Rinn leads the team in hits, RBIs, total bases (with Fukofuka) and is third in batting average (.357).

Amalani Fukofuka — one of the Chukars’ most consistent players. Has played well in right field and at the three spot in the lineup. Leads the team in stolen bases (13).

Darrell Miller Jr. — Miller Jr. has shown plenty of power in 76 at-bats this season. He also garnered five hits in a game … twice.

Vance Vizcaino — Athletic and a utility-type of player during his tenure with the Chukars, Vizcaino has moved up the Kansas City Royals’ farming system. He now plays for single-A Lexington.

Chukars infielder Tyler Straub (18) gets ready to catch the ball while Brewers infielder Dallas Carroll (29) goes to slide to the base during a regular season game at Melaluca on Wednesday night.

Holden Capps — Selected to the Pioneer League All-Star team, Capps has been a good mid-season acquisition for the Chukars. In three starts, has a 4.05 ERA and a 1-1 record on the mound.

Janser Lara — Also an All-Star, Lara has gone 2-1 in four starts with the Chukars this season.

Michael Silva — A solid reliever for Idaho Falls. Has a 3.44 ERA in nine games and 18.1 innings pitched.

Team Transactions (as of July 23-29):

– The Chukars received right-handed pitcher Dillon Drabble from the Arizona League on July 25.

First half standings:

North division

Billings Mustangs (CIN): 18-18 (.500)

Missoula Osprey (ARI): 18-19 (.486)

Helena Brewers (MIL): 15-22 (.405)

Great Falls Voyagers (CWS): 14-23 (.378)

South division

Orem Owlz (LAA): 26-11 (.703)

Ogden Raptors (LAD): 23-15 (.605)

Grand Junction Rockies (COL): 18-20 (.474)

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC): 17-21 (.447)

Chukars’ notebook: Just like the rest of the MLB, Chukars’ games can go long

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Editors note: Every Sunday, Luke O’Roark will break down the Chukars, the Pioneer League, and give some insight on what’s going on inside the Kansas City affiliate.

Fans enjoy witnessing a Chukars’ win, but, it may take them a while to see one.
Friday the Chukars beat the Brewers easily, 13-1, in… three hours and 38 minutes. It wasn’t even the longest game of the season — that was Idaho Falls’ 13-10 win over Grand Junction on June 22.
It took four (!) hours.
For context: MLB games took about two hours and 56 minutes in 2015, according to a Fox Sports report. The average time increased to three hours and 26 seconds in 2016, per ESPN.
Intriguingly, MLB games are taking longer today than a they were decade ago, according to research from Baseball Reference.com.
“It’s tough,” Vance Vizcaino said of how long some games go. “We’ve got good opponents and our pitchers throw well and they throw strikes. And when we face good hitters, they’ll get hits.”
Still, the Chukars are trending around three hours a game in 2017.
In the month of July (so far), the average Chukars’ game takes two hours and 58 minutes. Eight of the Chukars’ 19 games took three hours or longer.

(FILE) Idaho Falls’ Julio Gonzales makes the throw to first base after getting the force-out on Missoula’s Dominic Miroglio at second base during Monday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. The double play ended the sixth inning.

The Chukars’ 12 games in June took even longer: three hours and 16 minutes. Nine of their 12 games went past the three-hour mark.
Considering the Chukars’ normal start time at home (7:15 p.m.), most games don’t finish until 10-10:30 p.m.
The quickest Chukars game this year was Tuesday’s 6-1 win against Missoula at two hours and 18 minutes.
“I mean, this game, it was 15-11 so that kind of explains (why it went long) a little bit,” Chukars catcher Chris Hudgins said on July 15. “I don’t know, really. We have extra time in between innings where we’re doing some stuff, entertaining the crowd so that could be a big part of it, but it could also depend on the tempo of the game.”
The justification behind why baseball games — whether at Melaleuca Field or the Kansas City Royals’s Kauffman Stadium — take so long? It depends on who you ask.
The length of baseball games has, historically, been longer than its major sports contemporaries because of pitches, time in between innings and the natural structure of the sport.
The MLB has tried to implement new rules in order to speed up the game. But baseball games are still about the same length of a “Lord of the Rings” movie.
“I wish I knew the answer,” Chukars’ manager Justin Gemoll said after Idaho Falls’ home opener. “Maybe an earlier start time would get us done earlier. We had a long day last night. We left (Grand Junction) around midnight and rolled in here around 8:30 in the morning, so quick turnaround.”
The Chukars are the only Pioneer League team to start home games at 7:15 during Monday through Saturday. Other teams start anywhere from 6:05 p.m. (Billings) to 7 p.m. (Ogden).
Pitcher David McKay said he actually enjoys the later starts.
“It’s not bad,” he said. “You get to sleep in.”
Secondly, the Pioneer League is also a developmental level for the MLB’s farming system. Players are trying different pitches and perfecting different components of their respective games.
With errors and mistakes being made, games have the potential to go longer because of more batters, pitches and chances for games to be extended. Vin Scully told the Boston Globe in a 2013 article that even minuscule changes, like Velcro, have added time to baseball games.

(FILE) Chukars infielder Offerman Collado (1) runs to second base during a regular season game against the Brewers on Wednesday night at Melaluca Field.

Other theories include the amount of promotions before first pitches and between innings.
“I don’t know,” pitcher Michael Silva said. “It’s just the game of baseball. Every game can be different and it happens everyday.”

Chukars transactions (as of July 18-22)

– The Chukars received outfielder Travis Jones from the Burlington Royals on July 19. Idaho Falls is Jones’ third destination this year. He played seven games for Burlington and nine games in the Arizona League before arriving in Idaho Falls.

Around the Pioneer League

With the first half of the regular season coming to a close, Orem leads the league at 23-8. Ogden is second in the Pioneer League South division (behind the Owlz) at 17-14. Grand Junction is third at 15-15. Idaho Falls is in fourth at 14-17.

In the North division, Billings (15-15) is only 0.5 games ahead of Missoula (15-16) atop of the standings. Helena is third (14-17), as Great Falls has the worst record in the league at 10-21.

Chukars notebook: Rinn continues to improve

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Editors note: Luke O’Roark will break down the Chukars, the Pioneer League, and give some insight on what’s going on inside the Kansas City affiliate every week. Normally on Sundays, this week’s notebook comes on a Tuesday.

Robby Rinn has been all over the place.

Robby Rinn (via Chukars media)

Massachusetts. Rhode Island. Arizona. Idaho Falls. He’s been racking up the air miles since he was drafted in the 25th round by the Royals in 2016.

He’s also been racking up the hits since joining the Chukars this summer.

Rinn leads Idaho Falls in hits (33), at-bats (101), walks (16) and RBIs (24, good for third in the Pioneer League). For the Chukars, he’s second in doubles (7), tied for second in home runs (3), third in total bases (50), third in on-base percentage (.429), fifth in slugging (.495) and fourth in batting average (.327).

O.K., you probably get it — Rinn can do it all.

“He is very consistent for us,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “He’s got good at-bats and doesn’t try to do too much.”

Rinn’s handy work with a baseball bat began attending private schools in Warwick, Rhode Island and Worcester, Massachusetts before walking on at Bryant University.

From there, he was drafted by the Royals in the 2016 MLB draft and spent 2016 in the Arizona League. He batted .280 in 189 at-bats, with 53 hits and 31 RBIs in 50 games.

Rinn, 24, has continued to improve in Idaho Falls.

“You get here and the players are more polished for sure,” Rinn said on June 26. “I mean, kids are still a lot more polished than I am, it’s just a different style it seems … Yeah, I’m from a small school and it was even hard for me to get to that small school because of the recruiting process in college, too, and it was hard for me to even get to this point so I’m just appreciating it.”

Gemoll said Rinn is the type of hitter managers look for in the middle of order. Rinn is batting fourth behind Amalani Fukofuka, and found some luck: he’s notched eight hits in the previous 10 games.

“He’s a strong guy, and keeps swinging in the zone as much as possible,” Chukars’ hitting coach Damon Hollins said. “Just gotta keep going up there and get his pitch.”

Team transactions (from July 8-17):

– The Chukars received Julio Gonzalez from the Burlington Royals, as Ricky Aracena was assigned to the Lexington Legends. Aracena played six games for Idaho Falls, registering 10 hits and 10 runs while batting .385.

– Dalton Griffin was listed as “suspended” on July 12, according to MiLB.com league transactions. Chukars manager Justin Gemoll did not clarify the reasoning behind the suspension. Griffin, 19, last played on July 7 against Ogden. He had one at-bat.

– On July 11, the Chukars swapped three players with the Arizona League Royals: Pitchers Danny Hrbek, Andrew Beckwith and Holden Capps came to Idaho Falls. In return, Jose De Leon, Randy Acevedo and Adres Sotillet were assigned to the Arizona League.

– Left-handed pitcher Josh Mitchell was also assigned to the Chukars on July 11.

– Vance Vizcaino was transferred to the Lexington Legends on July 15. Vizcaino was vital to the Chukars’ offense this season. He batted .287 with 25 hits and 16 RBIs in 22 games. Gemoll called Vizcaino “athletic” and “smart” on the field and is a player who can play multiple outfield positions.

– Jonathan McCray was assigned to the Wilmington Blue Rocks on Monday. It will be McCray’s second stint in Carolina. With the Chukars, McCray tallied 30 hits, 54 total bases and 14 RBIs in 22 games.

Around the Pioneer League (as of July 17):

– Orem is the best team in the Pioneer League, sitting at 19-7. Missoula and Billings leads the Pioneer League North Division at 14-13. Idaho Falls is tied for fourth in the South Division at 12-15 (7.5 games behind Orem).

– Speaking of Billings, the Mustangs recently acquired Reds’ first-round pick Hunter Greene, according to the Billings Gazette. Greene was selected second overall in this year’s draft, signing a $7.23 million signing bonus.

– Orem and Ogden continue to be the league’s top offenses. Orem leads the league in hits (326), runs (237), RBIs (212) and batting average (.326). Ogden has the most home runs with 43 and OPS at .946.

– In terms of pitching, Great Falls leads the league in team pitching with a 4.39 ERA. The Voyagers have allowed a league-low 12 home runs.

– Grand Junction’s Shael Mendoza is the league’s hits-leader at 41. Orem’s David MacKinnon leads the league in batting average at .468.

– Billings’ Moises Nova holds the league’s best ERA at 2.49 in 21.2 innings pitched.

Royals draft 41 players, Chukars season starts Saturday

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register
Thanks to the MLB Draft, the Chukars may soon receive some solid players from around the country.

(FILE) Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman Jordan Ebert rounds third base. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

The Royals had 41 picks during this week’s 2017 MLB Draft. Highlighting the picks were first basemen Nick Pratto, catcher MJ Melendez and left-handed pitchers Evan Steele and Daniel Tillo during the first three rounds.
The Chukars, a Single-A affiliate of the Royals based in Idaho Falls, could have the chance to groom some of these players this summer (however, none of the Royals 2016 draft picks started the season with the Chukars last year, according to a previous Post Register report). Since 2012, the Royals have usually sent 11 drafted players to the Chukars, according to a previous Post Register report.
Chukars’ media relations member Logan Ratick said the team will officially announce the roster Thursday at 10 a.m. But some of the Royals’ 41 selections may wear a Chukars’ uniform throughout their 76-game regular season.
The Chukars’ season begins Saturday with an exhibition game against the Idaho Falls Bandits’, an American Legion team. The game begins at 7:15 p.m. at Melaleuca Field. Idaho Falls begins the regular season Monday at Grand Junction.
Here is some insight on the Royals’ draft selections:

First baseman Nick Pratto, selected 14th overall — Ranked the 13th-best player in this year’s MLB Draft, Pratto is worth around $3.7 million, according to MLB.com draft tracker. Pratto is a 6-foot-1, 195 pound lefty from Huntington Beach (Calif.) High School who batted a .318 and hit seven home runs during his senior season at Huntington. He also hit a walk-off home run to win the 2011 Little League World Series against Japan, per the Kansas City Star.
He is considered by many to be one of the best hitters in this year’s draft and is a University of South Carolina commit.

Catcher MJ Melendez, selected 52nd overall — A 6-foot-1, 175 pound catcher from Westminster Christian (Fla.) High School, Melendez is an “all-around” backstop, according to MLB.com’s draft tracker. The website also lauded Melendez’s athleticism and power. He was ranked 72-best in the draft by the website and was the second high school player selected by the Royals.

Left-handed pitcher Evan Steele, selected 73rd overall — A JUCO product courtesy of Chipola College (Fla.), Steele won the 2017 JUCO World Series and caught the Royal’s attention after going 5-0 with a 2.01 ERA in 40 1/3 innings this season. According to MLB.com, Steele struck out 58 opposing batters while holding them to a .208 batting average.

Royals director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg told Kansas City MLB.com: “To get a big, 6-foot-6 left-hander who throws strikes, who can command his breaking ball, we thought it was a really good day.”

Left-handed pitcher Daniel Tillo, selected 90th overall — From Sioux City, started his career at Kentucky before transferring to Iowa Western and recorded a 2.86 ERA in nine games, according to the Des Moines Register. Tillo has a fastball clocked in around 95 mph, according to MLB.com. He was previously selected by the Minnesota Twins in 2015 (39th round, 1160th pick).

Center fielder Michael Gigliotti, selected 120th overall — A lefty from Lipscomb University, Gigliotti could be a solid professional leadoff hitter. He batted a .310 in the Cape Cod League and recorded a .451 on-base percentage as a junior at Lipscomb, according to CBS Sports. In 2016, he made 49 starts in the outfield and recorded a .301 batting percentage for Lipscomb.

Others selected:

5th round, 150th pick: Charlie Neuweiler/RHP/McClancy HS (Elmhusrt, NY)
6th round, 180th pick: Tyler Zuber/RHP/Arkansas State University
7th round, 210th pick: Brewer Hicklen/OF/University of Alabama-Birmingham
8th round, 240th pick: Holden Capps/LHP/Central Oklahoma
9th round, 270th pick: J.C. Cloney/LHP/Arizona
10th round, 300th pick: Jordan Floyd/LHP/Kansas State
11th round, 330th pick: Sal Biasi/RHP/Penn State
12th round, 360th pick: Collin Snider/RHP/Vanderbilt
13th round, 390th: Cason Sherrod/RHP/Texas A&M
14th round, 420th pick: Isaiah Henry/RHP/North Shore HS
15th round, 450th pick: Robert Garcia/LHP/California-Davis
16th round, 480th pick: Christopher Hudgins/C/Cal State Fullerton
17th round, 510th pick: Julio Gonzalez/SS/ Florida Gulf Coast
18th round, 540th pick: Marlin Willis/LHP/McEachern HS
19th round, 570th pick: Korry Howell/SS/Kirkwood CC
20th round, 600th pick: Bryar Johnson/RHP/Carolina Forest HS
21st round, 630th pick: Isaiah Smith/OF/Battle Ground HS
22nd round, 660th pick: Josh Mitchell/LHP/University of Pittsburgh
23rd round, 690th pick: Matt Morales/SS/Palm Beach CC
24th round, 720th pick: Connor Mayes/RHP/Texas
25th round, 750th pick: Tyler James/CF/William Carey
26th round, 780th pick: Garrett Suchey/RHP/Alabama
27th round, 810th pick: Nick Hutchins/C/Southern Illinois Carbondale
28th round, 840th pick: Taylor Fischer/RHP/Langham Creek HS
29th round, 870th pick: Travis Jones/UTL/Texas
30th round, 900th pick: Adam Brainbridge/LHP/Old Dominon
31st round, 930th pick: Justin Vought/C/Wyoming Valley West HS
32nd round, 960th pick: Andrew Beckwith/RHP/Coastal Carolina
33rd round, 990th pick: Damon Olds/RHP/Indiana State
34th round, 1,020th pick: Jackson Klein/RHP/Stanford
35th round, 1,050th pick: Reed Rohlman/OF/Clemson
36th round, 1,080th pick: Brady Cox/C/Texas-Arlington
37th round, 1,110th pick: Trvor Hauver/SS/ Perry HS
38th round, 1,140th pick: Montae Bradshaw/CF/Patrick Henry CC
39th round, 1,170th pick: Justin Mitchell/C/Platte Country R-3 HS
40th round, 1,200th pick: Yaniel Ramos/SS/Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy

Chukars announce their 2017 coaching staff

Gemoll
Gemoll

A new hitting coach will sit in the Idaho Falls Chukars dugout this summer.

Damon Hollins will replace Andre David as the Chukars’ hitting instructor for the 2017 season, the Chukars announced Friday. Manager Justin Gemoll and pitching coach Jeff Suppan will return to Idaho Falls for their third straight seasons, and Justin Kemp will serve as the Chukars’ head athletic trainer for the second straight year.

This is not Hollins’ first stint as the Chukars’ hitting coach. He held the same position in 2013 and 2014. Hollins spent the previous two seasons as the hitting coach for the Single-A Lexington Legends. 2017 will be Hollins’ eighth year in the Kansas City Royals’ organization.

David was named the hitting coach for the Burlington Royals, Kansas City’s other Rookie-level affiliate, according to the (Burlington, N.C.) Times-News. Former Chukars manager Omar Ramirez will become Burlington’s manager this upcoming season, as well. Ramirez, who managed the Legends the last two years, spent three seasons in Idaho Falls. He and Hollins won a Pioneer League title in 2013.

The Chukars did not name a bench coach on Friday. Ramon Castro has occupied that role the previous two seasons.

Chukars Notebook: Meibrys Viloria reflects on MVP season

Idaho Falls Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game on Aug. 2 in Ogden, Utah. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game on Aug. 2 in Ogden, Utah. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)

Barring a major slump, the Pioneer League MVP was Meibrys Viloria’s to lose at the end of the first half.

Viloria, 19, tailed off a bit in the second half, but it didn’t cost him. The catcher became the third Idaho Falls Chukar since 2007 to win the Ralph Nelles Award. The league announced his MVP honor on Tuesday.

“I was working hard since spring training to right now, so I’m very excited,” Viloria said Thursday through I.F. bench coach Ramon Castro.

In the first 38 games, Viloria led the league in almost every major category: batting average (.457), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.793), hits (53), RBIs (36), doubles (15) and total bases (92). Most of those leads evaporated in the second half, but he still remained near the top.

His numbers look especially impressive compared to 2015. In 150 at-bats with Burlington last season, Viloria did not record single extra-base hit. He had 37 in 226 at-bats this season (28 doubles, three triples and six home runs).

“I’ve been working hard, working with Andre (David) in the cage every day, Viloria said. “That’s part of why I had a great season.”

Viloria still saw parts of his game that need improvement. Defense was his biggest weakness, he said, especially throwing outbase stealers. Viloria did, however, throw out 34 percent of all runners who tried to steal on him this season. That number would land him well within the top 10 of MLB catchers, and it was near the middle among regular Pioneer League catchers this season.

David, the Chukars’ hitting coach, said Viloria is mechanically sound as a hitter. One of the big things David worked on with Viloria was improving the position of his back elbow. That area has improved, David said, but there’s still room to grow.

David also praised Viloria’s hitting approach.

“When there were days that weren’t going well, which weren’t very many, he seemed to maintain a positive approach and knew that his plan and daily routine would carry him over into good things,” David said. “He understands what it takes on daily basis.”

DINI’S BUMPY ROAD TO I.F.

Nick Dini played 42 games for the Chukars last season. The catcher returned to I.F. for nine more this summer.

Dini, 23, began the 2016 season with Single-A Lexington, where he played one game. He moved up to Class A Advanced Wilmington for seven games, then returned to Lexington on June 30. In his first at-bat back on July 2, a pitch hit Dini in the hand, forcing him to exit the game. He later found out that his hand was broken, and he was placed on the 7-day disabled list.

Dini returned to action in the Arizona League on Aug. 16 and was moved up to I.F. on Aug. 22. He hit .378 with an .843 OPS in 39 plate appearances for the Chukars.

The constant shuffling and limited playing time this summer has frustrated Dini. But he put his struggles into perspective after seeing so many of his former teammates get released.

“Every opportunity you get, you’ve gotta take advantage of it,” Dini said. “The harsh reality is, if you don’t, you’ll be out of job. It sucks seeing guys go, but you understand that that’s part of it.”

STRAHM’S STRONG SEASON

Former Chukar Matt Strahm has thrived during his brief action with the Kansas City Royals this season. The left-handed pitcher owns a 0.54 ERA, 22 strikeouts and six walks in 16.2 innings pitched for the big league club this year.

Strahm, 24, was called up on July 31. He made his MLB debut that day and allowed one earned run in 0.1 inning against the Texas Rangers. He hasn’t allowed a run since.

Strahm made his professional debut with the Chukars in 2012. He returned to I.F. in 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery the year before, according to the Kansas City Star.

MLB.com’s most recent prospect rankings has Strahm at No. 4 in Kansas City’s system.

FOLLOW THE LEADERS

Multiple Chukars led the Pioneer League in various statistical categories this season. Here they are:

Batting average Meibrys Viloria (.376)

Doubles Viloria (28)

RBIs Viloria (55)

Stolen bases Nick Heath (36)

Errors Ricky Aracena (38)

Hits allowed Arnaldo Hernandez (99)

Walks issued Matt Portland (37)

THE “WHO’S HOT?” PLAYER OF THE YEAR

C Meibrys Viloria

Apologies to Joe Dudek, Nick Heath, Alex Luna, Yeison Melo, Manny Olloque and Luke Willis, but this honor clearly belongs to the MVP.

THE “WHO’S NOT” PLAYER OF THE YEAR

LHP Nick Andros

Andros finished the season with a 9.20 ERA, 48 hits allowed, 31 strikeouts, 14 walks issued and seven home runs given up. On Monday at Orem, the Chukars had a 9-8 lead in the 10th inning when Andros entered the game. The Owlz scored two runs off Andros to walk off and eliminate I.F. from playoff contention.

Chukars Notebook: Q&A with Ricky Aracena

Aracena
Aracena

Perhaps no player represents the Idaho Falls Chukars’ poor second half more than Ricky Aracena.

Through Sunday, the shortstop had hit .183 since the first half ended. His on-base percentage dropped from .320 to .286, and his slugging percentage fell from .379 to .305.

Aracena’s biggest area of struggle this season has been defense, where he committed 38 errors going into Monday’s game.Missoula shortstop Jasrado Chisholm is second in the Pioneer League with 24 errors.

But errors only tell half the story. Aracena has a cannon of a right arm that’s rarely inaccurate (MLB.com ranked his arm a 65 on the 20 to 80 scouting scale). He’s also shown good range thanks to his above average speed. His biggest issue is corralling routine ground balls.

Aracena signed with the Kansas City Royals for $850,000 as a 16-year-old in 2014. He was MLB.com’s No. 24 international prospect at the time, and he’s the 29th-ranked prospect in Kansas City’s system in the website’s most recent list.

“Aracena has the quickness and range to play shortstop, and his very strong arm allows him to make all of the necessary throws,” MLB.com’s scouting report says. “He exhibits good instincts in all facets of the game and earns praise for his makeup as well.”

Aracena recently talked with the Post Register about his defense, signing with the Royals and his favorite MLB player. Chukars bench coach Ramon Castro translated.

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

I’ve noticed good arm strength and accuracy from you this season. Is that something you would say, too?

“I haven’t been good with defense, but I try every time to throw perfect to the base. I think it’s becoming better.”

What has been the main reason for the errors this season?

“The errors I make are because I’m not ready, not focused. It’s a mentality.”

Do you think you’ll be able to fix your error troubles going forward?

I’ve been more focused, I’ve been more relaxed from making nice plays. I’m continuing to work.”

Do you feel like you’ve improved as a defender this season?

“I try to work hard all the time, whether I make an error or not. There are a lot of things I can do better.”

How did you get noticed by MLB scouts as a teenager?

“I was training in the Dominican Republic. Some friend told a scout with the Kansas City Royals, ‘I’ve got this guy here, so come down here and watch him.’ I was good when I signed. I was running good, threw good to the base and hit good. That’s why the Kansas City Royals signed me.”

How did you react when you signed?

“I was excited to sign with the Kansas City Royals. I was very happy coming to the states. I’m working hard and trying to go to the big leagues.”

Did earning that much money surprise you?

“I was looking for more money. Another team wanted to give me less money. I wanted to stay in Kansas City because I knew the Royals give a lot of opportunities.”

Who is your favorite MLB player or players?

“Jose Reyes.”

Why him?

“He plays hard every day. He plays hard, he plays exciting, he enjoys the game.”

DOZIER MOVES UP

Former Chukar Hunter Dozier was promoted from Triple-A Omaha to Kansas City on Friday. The Royals made room for Dozier on their 40-man roster by placing pitcher Luke Hochevar on the 60-day disabled list, according to the Kansas City Star.

Dozier hit .294/.357/.506 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) with 15 home runs in 433 plate appearances this summer with the Storm Chasers. Before Friday, the third baseman was considered the Royals’ top minor league prospect in the minor leagues, per MLB.com.

Dozier, 24, played for the 2013 Pioneer League champion Chukars. He hit .303/.403/.509 with seven homers that season.

2015 CHUKARS MOVE ON

The Post Register ran an interview last month with former Chukar Josh Banuelos, who was released by the Kansas City Royals in June. But he wasn’t the only 2015 I.F. player who was released since last summer. Here are the others (their 2015 stats with the Chukars are in parentheses):

LHP Tripp Davis (Pioneer League all-star; 2.81 ERA, 30 Ks, 11BB in 32 IP)

LHP Cruz Guevara (5.30 ERA, 37 Ks, 17 BBs in 37.1 IP)

OF Brawlun Gomez (.231/.279/.447, team-leading 11 HRs in 208 ABs)

C Pedro Gonzalez (.328/.403/.552 in 58 ABs)

LHP Nick Green (3.52 ERA, 15 Ks, 7 BBs in 15.1 IP)

LHP Hunter Haynes (7.04 ERA, 27 Ks, 24 BBs in 47.1 IP)

RHP Carter Hope (6.07 ERA, 28 Ks, 12 BBs in 56.1 IP)

OF Riley King (1 for 3 in one game)

C Luis Lara (.320/.393/.320 in 25 ABs)

INF Logan Nottebrook* (.252/.341/.470 in 33 ABs)

C Kyle Pollock (.280/.348/.464 in 125 ABs)

RHP Alberto Rodriguez (3.38 ERA, 21 Ks, 13 BBs in 29.1 IP)

LHP Brandon Thomas (3.35 ERA, 34 Ks, 25 BBs in 45.2 IP)

LHP Ian Thompkins (4.44 ERA, 25 Ks, 20 BBs in 2.41 IP)

*Nottebrook retired

WHO’S HOT?

1B Joe Dudek

From Aug. 30 to Sept. 3, Dudek notched at least two hits in each of the four games. Through Sunday, Dudek had gone 17 for 35 (.486) with three home runs, five doubles and 11 walks in his last 11 games.

WHO’S NOT?

C MJ Sanchez

Sanchez has been saddled with the backup catcher role thanks to Meibrys Viloria, so his playing time has been sparse. When Sanchez has played, he’s struggled.

Through Sunday, the 22-year-old had played in nine games since the start of August. He went 2 for 28 (.071) with one walk in those contests. He’s hitting .214/.291/.229 on the season.