Royals’ Soler, Kennedy, Merrifield win 2019 team awards
Soler was named the Les Milgram Player of the Year, Ian Kennedy the Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year and Whit Merrifield the Joe Burke Special Achievement Award winner. The players were selected in voting by the Kansas City Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Soler, 27, hit 48 homers last season, smashing Mike Moustakas’ team record of 38 and making him the first Royal to lead the American League in home runs. The outfielder/DH also knocked in a career-high 117 runs (tied for second in the AL) while ranking fourth in extra-base hits (82), fifth in slugging percentage (.569) and seventh in OPS (.922).
Kennedy, 35, left the rotation to become the team’s closer and recorded 30 saves, which ranked fourth in the league. From May 30 on he had 28 saves, tops in the majors. The right-hander joined Dennis Eckersley, John Smoltz and Derek Lowe as the only pitchers since 1969, when saves became an official stat, to record both a 20-win (2011) and a 30-save season in a career. He finished with a 3-2 record, 3.41 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings.
Merrifield, 30, led the majors with a career-high 206 hits last season after topping the majors with 192 hits the year before, putting him in an exclusive club with Kirby Puckett as the only right-handed batters to do so in consecutive seasons. The infielder/outfielder hit safely in his first 11 games, extending his franchise-record hitting streak to 31 to surpass George Brett’s previous record of 30 in 1980. Merrifield also hit 10 triples, tied for the major league lead with teammates Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier and Arizona’s Eduardo Escobar.