Andrew Edwards, a native of Gilbertsville, Kentucky and a 2014 Legend, is among Kansas City’s top pitching prospects. (Photo-Mary Lay)

Kentuckian and former Lexington Legend Andrew Edwards is moving ever closer to making his major league debut.   A right-handed relief pitcher, Edwards, a native of Gilbertsville who pitched for Western Kentucky University, was with the Legends in 2014.  He was 3-5 with one save in 22 appearances with Lexington, including six starts, and has continued to make progress through the Kansas City Royals system.   He is now on the Royals 40-man roster after spending most of 2016 at triple-A Omaha.

With spring training approaching, Edwards is rated at number 21 in MLB.com’s list of top 30 Royals prospects.  The comments there note that his fastball regularly hits 94-96 mph after sitting at 91-93 during the 2015 season.

Edwards was selected by Kansas City in the 19th round of the 2013 first-year player draft.  After pitching in 2013 for Burlington of the Appalachian League and Wilmington of the Carolina League, Edwards began the 2014 season with the Legends, working in the same ballpark where, five years earlier, he had taken the mound for Marshall County in the state high school baseball tournament.

Royals pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training in Surprise, Arizona on February 14.

Scott Thorman, who was the manager at Burlington of the Appalachian League for the last two seasons, will be the manager of the Lexington Legends in 2017. (Photo: Waterloo Region-Record/Burlington Royals)

Scott Thorman will be the manager of the Lexington Legends in 2017.   He’ll be joined in Lexington by bench coach Glenn Hubbard, pitching coach Mitch Stetter,  hitting coach Jesus Azuaje, athletic trainer Saburo Hagihara and strength and conditioning coach Jon Ervin.   Thorman, Azuaje, Hagihara and Ervin are all new to the Legends.   Stetter returns for his second season, and Hubbard will be in his fourth season with Lexington.

Field staff appointments were announced Tuesday (Jan. 10) by the Legends’ parent club, the Kansas City Royals.  Full story

Xavier Fernandez threw out 44 runners attempting to steal in 2016.

Chase Vallot and Xavier Fernandez, who handled most of the catching duties for the Lexington Legends in 2016, are among 22 non-roster invitees to major league spring training with the Kansas City Royals.  In all, nine former Legends are in the non-roster invitee group that will report to Surprise, Arizona in February, along with players on the Royals’ 40-man roster.  The 40-man roster includes 15 more former Legends.  The Legends are entering their fifth year as a Royals’ class A affiliate.

Vallot, 20, was chosen by the Royals in the Competitive Balance Round of the 2014 first-year player draft, and was the 40th overall choice in the draft.   After hitting 13 home runs with 44 runs batted in in 80 games with the Legends in 2015, he returned to Lexington in 2016 and hit 13 homers with 40 RBI in 82 games overall.  He was behind the plate for 53 games in 2016. Vallot was chosen to be the starting catcher for the Southern Division in the South Atlantic League All-Star game, but was unable to play due to injuries suffered when he was struck in the face by a pitch on June 14.   He was sidelined until July 20.

 Vallot’s walk-off HR Aug. 8

Fernandez, 21, caught in 71 games for the Legends last season and appeared in 92 games in all.  He hit nine homers and drove in 42 runs.  Fernandez threw out 44 runners attempting to steal, the third best total in the league.

Fernandez’ sliding catch

 

“Chase and Xavier both had excellent years for the Legends in 2016,” said Legends President/CEO Andy Shea.  “It’s great that they’ll get an opportunity to work with the major league players in spring training.  With each passing year, we’re seeing more former Legends moving up the ladder in the Royals’ organization, and that’s always exciting.”

 

Catcher Chase Vallot is ranked sixth among Kansas City Royals prospects by mlb.com. (Photo – Mary Lay)

Other former Legends among the non-roster invitees are pitchers Luke Farrell (a Legend in 2014) Eric Stout (2014) and A.J. Puckett (2016), first baseman Ryan O’Hearn (2015), infielders Corey Toups (2015) and Humberto Arteaga (2013,’14, ’15), and outfielder Alfredo Escalera (2014, ’15).

Former Legends on the Royals’ 40-man roster include pitchers Scott Alexander (2013), Miguel Almonte (2013), Andrew Edwards (2014), Jake Junis (2014), Kevin McCarthy (2014, ’15), Alec Mills (2013-14), Matt Strahm (2015) and Kyle Zimmer (2015);  catcher Cam Gallagher (2013); infielders Hunter Dozier (2013), Raul Mondesi (2013) and Ramon Torres (2013, ’14);  and outfielders Samir Duenez (2014, ’15, ’16) Terrance Gore (2013), and Bubba Starling (2013).

 

 

 

 

Brandon Barnes played for the Legends in 2008 and 2009.

Two former Lexington Legends will be with new organizations when spring training opens next month.

Veteran major league outfielder Brandon Barnes, who was with the Legends in 2008 and 2009, signed a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins in December.  The agreement includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Right-handed pitcher Sam Lewis, who pitched for the Legends in 2016, was traded January 3 by the Legends’ parent club, the Kansas City Royals, to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Peter O’Brien.

Barnes was a sixth round pick of the Houston Astros in 2005.  In 2008, he played in 87 games for the Legends, then a Houston affiliate, and batted .241 with two homers and 19 runs batted in.  He returned to Lexington in 2009 and played in 57 games and batted .264 with five homers and 25 RBI before being promoted to advanced-A Lancaster.   He reached the majors with Houston in 2012 and was with the Astros through 2013 before being traded along with pitcher Jordan Lyles, a former Lexington teammate, to the Colorado Rockies.  Barnes was released by the Rockies in September  2016.

Barnes is known as an outstanding defensive outfielder, and his catches have been frequently featured in MLB highlights, such as this one from June 24, 2014.

Lewis signed with the Royals as a non-drafted free agent in August 2012.   After pitching for Idaho Falls in 2012, Burlington in 2013 and Idaho Falls again in 2014, he missed the entire 2015 season due to elbow surgery.  He joined the Legends June 27, 2016, and in 12 relief appearances, had a 1-1 record with an earned run average of 1.11. In 24 and one-third innings, he struck out 24 batters and allowed just 15 hits.  He was promoted to advanced-A Wilmington August 16.

 

Brian Buchanan, who managed the Legends in 2013 and 2014, will be on the Kansas City Royals' major league staff in 2017.  (Photo-Mary Lay)

Brian Buchanan, who managed the Legends in 2013 and 2014, will be on the Kansas City Royals’ major league staff in 2017. (Photo-Mary Lay)

Former Lexington Legends manager Brian Buchanan will join the major league coaching staff of the Kansas City Royals in 2017.  The Royals announced today (Dec. 19) that Buchanan has been named assistant hitting coach for the major league team.

Buchanan served as the Lexington manager in 2013 and 2014.

He joined the Royals’ minor league coaching ranks in 2010.  He was the manager at Idaho Falls of the Pioneer League in 2010 and 2011 and at Kane County of the class A Midwest League in 2012.  The Legends, who are in the South Atlantic League, became the Royals’ class A affiliate after the 2012 season.

Buchanan moved on from Lexington to manage the advanced-A Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Carolina League in 2015, and was the hitting coach at double-A Northwest Arkansas of the Texas League in 2016.

Buchanan, an All-American at the University of Virginia, was selected by the New York Yankees in the first round of the 1994 first-year player draft and played in the major leagues with Minnesota (2000-02), San Diego (2002-04) and the New York Mets (2004).

 

Roman Collins was the Legends Player of the Month for August 2016. (Photo - Mary Lay)

Roman Collins was the Legends Player of the Month for August 2016. (Photo – Mary Lay)

Two former Lexington Legends are still playing baseball in mid-December, and they have a few weeks to go.  But the weather is just fine for baseball in Australia, where the Australian Baseball League season is well under way.   Outfielders Roman Collins and Cody Jones are playing for the Melbourne Aces.

Through games of December 12, Collins is batting .281 in 16 games with three homers and eight runs batted in.  He hit two homers in one game December 3 against Brisbane.

Jones is batting .246 in 16 games with six steals in eight attempts.

Collins and Jones both played for the Legends in 2016, though they were not teammates in Lexington.   In fact, when Jones moved from Lexington to advanced-A Wilmington May 22, it was Collins who came to Lexington from Wilmington.

Cody Jones batted .300 and stole 11 bases in 39 games for Lexington in 2016. (Photo - Mary Lay)

Cody Jones batted .300 and stole 11 bases in 39 games for Lexington in 2016. (Photo – Mary Lay)

Collins, 22, a fifth round pick by the Kansas City Royals in the June 2015 draft, batted .246 with nine home runs and 36 RBI in 90 games for the Legends.   In August, the last full month of the season, he batted .297 with five homers and 13 RBI.  The Royals named him Lexington’s Player of the Month for August.

Jones, 23, was chosen by the Royals in the sixth round in 2015.  In 39 games for Lexington before his promotion, he batted an even .300 with one homer and 11 RBI and stole 11 bases in 16 tries.

The Australian Baseball League season runs through January 29, so Collins and Jones won’t have much of an off-season.   Minor league players normally report to the Royals spring training complex in Surprise, Arizona in early March.

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Stumpf pitched a no-hitter for the Legends July 2, 2013. (Photo-Mary Lay)

Daniel Stumpf pitched a no-hitter for the Legends July 2, 2013. (Photo-Mary Lay)

Glenn Sparkman was with the Legends briefly in 2016.  (Photo-Mary Lay)

Glenn Sparkman was with the Legends briefly in 2016. (Photo-Mary Lay)

Former Lexington Legends pitchers Daniel Stumpf and Glenn Sparkman could be in the major leagues on opening day 2017.  Both were chosen in the Rule 5 Draft earlier this week, and unless they are returned to the Kansas City Royals organization by the teams that selected them, they must be on the major league rosters of those teams for the entire 2017 season.  Stumpf was chosen by the Detroit Tigers in this year’s Rule 5 Draft, which was held Thursday morning December 8, the closing day of baseball’s winter meetings.  Sparkman was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays.

It’s a second opportunity for Stumpf, a left-hander, who was chosen by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Rule 5 Draft last year.  He started the 2016 season with the Phillies, but was suspended on April 14 for 80 games after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug.  He was returned to the Royals’ organization July 25, and finished the season at double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he was 2-0 with a 2.11 earned run average in 14 appearances.

With Lexington in 2013, Stumpf was 10-10 with a 3.07 ERA.  He pitched a no-hitter in a 1-0 win over Greenville in the first game of a doubleheader at Whitaker Bank Ballpark July 2, 2013.  The only run of the game came on a first-inning homer by Legends’ shortstop Raul Mondesi.  The leadoff hitter for Greenville was current Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts, who finished second in the voting for the 2016 American League Most Valuable Player award.

Sparkman, making a comeback after elbow surgery in 2015, pitched for four Royals’ minor league teams, including the Legends, in 2016.  The right-hander was 0-2 with a 6.91 ERA in three appearances for the Legends, but struck out 19 batters in 14 and one-third innings.  Sparkman moved on from Lexington to advanced-A Wilmington and double-A Northwest Arkansas.  He had started his 2016 season with the Royals’ Arizona League team before being assigned to Lexington.

Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years.  Major league teams can protect players from the draft by adding them to their 40-man rosters.

 

Drew Muren batted .279 in 48 games with the Legends in 2012. (Photo-Mary Lay)

Drew Muren batted .279 in 48 games with the Legends in 2012. (Photo-Mary Lay)

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper recently previewed the Rule 5 Draft for 2016, and among the players he expects to be considered for selection is former Legends outfielder Drew Muren, who is now a pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks system.

(How the Rule 5 Draft works, from mlb.com:  Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years.  All players on a Major League Baseball team’s 40-man roster, regardless of other eligibility factors, are “protected” and ineligible for the Rule 5 Draft.)

                 Muren, who played college baseball for Cal State-Northridge, was a 22nd round choice by Houston in the 2011 draft.   He played in 48 games for the Legends in 2012 and batted .279 with three home runs and 17 runs batted in.  He had an 11-game hitting streak from April 28-May 11 in which he had 17 hits in 43 at bats (.395), and he also provided several highlight plays in center field.

Muren made it to double-A Corpus Christi in the Houston organization before he was released March 29, 2014.  He played two years of independent league baseball as an outfielder with Sioux Falls, Gary and Fargo-Moorhead of the American Association before signing with the Diamondbacks to try pitching in March 2016.

In his first year on the mound, Muren, in 38 relief appearances at three levels, including two appearances at triple-A, had a record of 0-5, but the right-hander struck out 61 batters and walked 20 in 41 innings.

“Muren’s stuff has helped make up for lost time. He sits in the mid-to-high 90s and touched 100 mph this year,” Cooper wrote. “He struck out 61 in 41 innings between three stops although he also showed below-average control. Muren’s delivery is a little unconventional as might be expected for a converted hitter. His release point is nearly sidearm giving hitters a very odd look for a pitcher with a near-top-of-the-scale fastball.”

The Rule 5 draft will begin at 9 a.m. Eastern time December 8, the closing day of baseball’s winter meetings, which will be held this year in National Harbor, Maryland.

Andrew Edwards, a former Western Kentucky University star, pitched for the Legends in 2014.  (Photo - Mary Lay)

Andrew Edwards, a former Western Kentucky University star, pitched for the Legends in 2014. (Photo – Mary Lay)

The Kansas City Royals added four players to their 40-man roster ahead of the 7 p.m. November 18 deadline, and all four are former Lexington Legends.

Catcher Cam Gallagher, a 2013 Legend, pitchers Jake Junis (2014 Legend) and Andrew Edwards (2014), and first baseman Samir Duenez (2014-15-16) were named to the 40-man roster Friday.  Edwards, a native of Gilbertsville, Ky., pitched in college for Western Kentucky University.

Adding the players to the 40-man roster keeps them from being chosen in the Rule 5 draft, under which players meeting certain conditions in terms of age and length of service may be chosen by other major league teams.  Former Legend Delino DeShields Jr., who was originally drafted by the Houston Astros, was chosen in the Rule 5 draft by the Texas Rangers in 2014 and has been with the Rangers at the major league level for the past two seasons.

The best known Rule 5 selection is Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, who was chosen from the Brooklyn Dodgers’ organization in November of 1954 by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Jeffrey Flanagan’s story on mlb.com has more about the Royals’ moves.

Jose Altuve was a Lexington Legend in 2010. (Photo-Mary Lay)

Jose Altuve batted .308 with 11 home runs, 45 RBI and 39 stolen bases for the Lexington Legends in 2010. (Photo-Mary Lay)

Houston Astros’ second baseman Jose Altuve, a Lexington Legend in 2010, finished third behind winner Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and runner-up Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox in voting for the 2016 American League Most Valuable Player Award.  

Altuve won his second American League batting title with a .338 average and led the major leagues with 216 hits.  He also hit a career-high 24 home runs.  A story by Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle offers analysis of the voting. 

Royals prospects play for title:  Eight Kansas City Royals prospects, including six former Lexington Legends, are on the roster of the Surprise Saguaros, who will play for the championship of the Arizona Fall League Saturday against Mesa.

The six-team league brings together the top prospects in baseball for fall competition.  Each team consists of prospects from five different major league teams.  Surprise has players from Kansas City, Boston, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Texas.   The former Legends on the Surprise roster are left-handed pitcher Eric Stout, first baseman Ryan O’Hearn, infielders Corey Toups and Mauricio Ramos, and outfielder Alfredo Escalera.   Royals’ prospects Josh Staumont and Todd Eaton, both pitchers, are on the Surprise roster but did not play for the Legends.

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