Kansas City Royals Minor League Affiliates Finishing Strong As Big League Team Is Already Looking To Future

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 06: Salvador Perez #13 talks to starting pitcher Danny Duffy #23 of the Kansas City Royals in the third inning of their game against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on September 6, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Eric Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur both homered for the Royals in Tuesday's win against the Athletics, while Omaha and Northwest Arkansas both gear up for the playoffs beginning on Wednesday evening.

If you are expecting the Kansas City Royals to call up more prospects this month to be showcased with the young talent already on the current big league squad, you may find yourself disappointed. The organization's two highest minor league affiliates both qualified for the playoffs in their respective leagues.

Despite losing the final two games of the season at Iowa, the Omaha Stormchasers finished with a 79-63 record and won the Northern Division of the Pacific Coast League. The Stormchasers will be on the road Wednesday, beginning a best-of-five series against Round Rock, the AAA affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year Luis Mendoza will be taking the mound in the first game as Omaha looks to put together a championship run.

Speaking of championships, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals are once again back in the playoffs, this time for the third consecutive season. After winning the league title last season with players currently in Kansas City such as Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, the Naturals finished 2011 with a 73-64 mark that was good enough to win the North Division of the Texas League. Northwest Arkansas will also begin a best-of-five series on Wednesday evening against the Angels affiliate, the Arkansas Travelers. Chris Dwyer will start the opening game of the series. The 23-year old lefty was 8-10 during the regular season with a 5.60 ERA.

The Royals also recently named their minor league players of the year, with Johnny Giavotella winning the George Brett Hitter of the Year Award, while Kelvin Herrera won the Paul Splittorff Pitcher of the Year Award. Giavotella was batting .338 with nine home runs 72 RBI's for Omaha before being promoted to Kansas City on August 5th. He has went on to hit .244 so far with the Royals and recently hit his second home run of the season in Saturday's 5-1 victory for the Indians.

Kelvin Herrera started the season in high A ball with Wilmington and worked his way up to Omaha on July 29th. The 21-year old reliever from the Dominican Republic, Herrera is 7-1 this season with a 1.60 ERA to go with 14 saves in 45 appearances overall. He also made an appearance this summer in the All-Star Futures Game that took place during the All-Star events in Arizona in July.

Moving forward to the big league club, Danny Duffy made his last start of the season on Tuesday evening in Oakland where the Royals took on the A's. Duffy threw 119 pitches in 6.1 innings before exiting with a 7-2 lead. His final line for the year showed him allowing three runs on four hits. He walked three and struck out four. He is not injured, but the Royals are choosing to shut him down as this is his first year in the major leagues and it is common practice for teams at the major league level to shut down rookie pitchers who aren't used to pitching the entire length of a major league season. In picking up the win on Tuesday, Duffy finishes his rookie campaign at 4-8, after having been the losing pitcher of record in four of his previous six starts (the other two were no decisions).

Vin Mazzaro or Sean O`Sullivan will likely be recalled to take Duffy's spot in the rotation, but there has been no offcial decision.

In the 7-4 victory over the Athletics, Hosmer and Jeff Francoeur hit back-to-back home runs in the second inning as the Royals scored four times in the inning to get out to a quick start. For Hosmer it was his 16th long ball of the year, while Francoeur hit his 17th. Kansas City chased Oakland started Gio Gonzalez after just five innings, allowing seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits. Rookie Salvador Perez was 3-for-4 with two runs scored as not is batting .305/.341/.439 since his promotion to the big league level. Joakim Sora entered in the ninth after Blake Wood ran into trouble (allowed two runners to reach without recording an out), picking up his 26th save of the season.

Though the Royals may be another year away from contending for a playoff spot, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is already jumping on the Royals bandwagon. The free agent market for starting pitchers, and those who may be available in trades looks to be lean this offseason, but with the Royals offense coming around during the second half of the season and the future lineup now starting to take place, 2012 and 2013 could turn into exciting seasons in Kansas City if the starting pitching situation can be resolved.

In obtaining the victory, Kansas City now sits at 60-83 this year and are now 1.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins for fourth place.

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