Royals honor Legends, nine individuals with 2018 organization awards

Nick Heath, shown in a recent spring training game, was named the winner of the Willie Wilson Baserunner of the Year Award.
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Along with the 2018 South Atlantic League champion Lexington Legends, the Kansas City Royals honored nine individuals with 2018 organization awards Wednesday in Surprise, Arizona.

The individual award recipients:

• Sebastian Rivero, Carlos Fortuna Award (player who is dedicated to improving his English, work ethic and conduct). Rivero, 20, hit .258 with Lexington and threw out 35.2 percent of attempted base stealers. Rivero was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2015.

• Richard Lovelady, Paul Splittorff Award (organization’s top minor league pitcher). Lovelady, 23, earned Omaha Pitcher of the Year honors in 2018 after being honored similarly at Wilmington in 2017. He went 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 46 relief appearances.

• MJ Melendez, Mike Sweeney Award (player who best represents the organization on and off the field). Melendez, 20, earned Lexington Co-Player of the Years honors after slugging .492 with 19 home runs and 73 RBIs and throwing out 41.9 percent of attempted base stealers. This offseason, Melendez hosted various youth clinics and camps in his community.

• Nick Pratto, Frank White Defensive Player of the Year Award (organization’s top defensive player). Pratto, 20, posted a .987 fielding percentage in 1,050 chances at first base for Lexington.

• Nick Heath, Willie Wilson Baserunner of the Year (organization’s top baserunner). Heath, 25, played 90 games between Class A+ Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas and led Royals minor leaguers with a career-high 39 stolen bases. He led the Arizona Fall League with 13 stolen bases and 21 runs.

• Nicky Lopez, George Brett Hitter of the Year (organization’s top position player). Lopez, 23, split the season between Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha and batted .308 with 155 hits — tops among Royals farmhands — while playing shortstop and some second base.

• Scott Thorman, Dick Howser Award (organization’s most outstanding player development person). In his second season as Lexington manager, Thorman led the Legends to their first South Atlantic League championship since they became a Royals affiliate in 2013. He now is manager of the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

• Dan Moushon, Matt Minker Award (outstanding minor league affiliate employee). Moushon has served as vice president of the Burlington Royals since 1995, including each of the last 12 years since the club became a Royals affiliate. He became president of the Appalachian League in January.

• Jim Buckley, Art Stewart Award (organization’s most outstanding scout). Buckley covers North Florida and is in his seventh year as a Royals area scout. His most recent notable signings include Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar – Kansas City’s top two picks from the 2018 draft – and Foster Griffin, the 2017 Paul Splittorff Award winner.