Those moves affected the roster status of several Naturals who now find themselves on the Royals' 40-man Major League roster and thus protected from selection in the upcoming December Rule 5 Draft.
The Royals have selected the contracts of infielder Jeff Bianchi, outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Jordan Parraz, catcher Manny Pina and right-handed pitcher Blake Wood from the winter roster of Triple-A Omaha. Those players are all now members of the Royals' 40-man roster. Although amongst the group of players only Parraz has actually logged time with Omaha, teams typically shift their better prospects onto the Triple-A roster during the off-season to protect non-roster prospects from selection in the minor league phases of the Rule-5 Draft. Those internal transactions are of the procedural nature and do not necessarily indicate the level at which a player may begin the following season.
The 23-year old Bianchi, the 2008 Frank White Defensive Player of the Year, split his season between Advanced Class-A Wilmington and the Naturals, hitting over .300 at each stop with a combined 29 doubles, 70 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 28 attempts. The Lancaster, PA resident was the Royals' second-round pick in the 2005 Draft and played mostly shortstop for the Surprise Rafters in the Arizona Fall League, batting .265 with 13 RBI in 17 games.
The speedy Dyson was Kansas City's 50th round pick in the 2006 Draft. The 25-year old opened the season with Class-A Burlington before spending the final two and a half months of the season in Northwest Arkansas. The center fielder hit .258 for the Naturals in 63 games, stealing 37 bases in 43 attempts. The McComb, MS resident continued his season in the Arizona Fall League for Surprise, hitting .310 with two steals in 16 games.
Parraz, the 25-year old Henderson, NV resident was acquired by Kansas City from the Astros on December 11, 2008. He opened the 2009 season with the Naturals, batting .358 with 17 doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 42 RBI and 35 runs scored in 64 games, compiling a .451 on-base pct. and .553 slugging before being sidelined by a hamstring injury. After rehabbing at Idaho Falls (R) for four games, he hit .298 in 13 games for Omaha.
The 22-year old Pina was acquired by the Royals from the Rangers organization on September 3rd. The Venezuelan was on the disabled list and did not appear in a Naturals' uniform after the trade despite joining the roster, but hit .259 for Frisco prior to the trade and was selected as the starting catcher for the South Division in the Texas League All-Star Game.
The 24-year old Wood, the Royals' third-round selection in 2006 out of Georgia Tech, was 2-8 with a 5.83 ERA in 17 games (13 starts) for the Naturals. The Suwanee, GA resident also made three rehab appearances for Surprise (R). Wood returned to the desert in October to pitch for the Surprise Rafters in the Arizona Fall League, going 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in eight games, including three starts.
In a separate announcement the Royals announced that they have re-signed catcher Vance Wilson and pitcher Juan Abreu. Both had recently become minor league free agents.
Wilson who will receive a non-roster invitation to Royals' spring training, will compete for a spot on Kansas City's major league roster. The Springdale resident spent the 2009 season with the Naturals as he built up arm strength following two surgeries on his throwing elbow. The 36-year old veteran of eight major league seasons served the Naturals well at the plate, batting .270 with ten homers and 32 RBI in 59 games.
Abreu, a 24-year old flamethrowing right-hander from San Francisco de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, struggled a bit after his mid-season promotion to the Naturals from Wilmington. He posted a 3-2 record and a 1.69 ERA with 12 saves in 20 appearances with the Blue Rocks, but struggled to keep the ball over the plate en route to a 2-2 record, a 5.75 ERA, and just four saves for the Naturals. Abreu walked 22 and fanned 25 in 20.1 innings, but has a fastball that reached 97 MPH on the radar gun. Abreu is pitching winter ball in his native Dominican and is a likely bet to return to Northwest Arkansas for 2010.
The Royals also announced that they have outrighted former Naturals right-hander Devon Lowery to Omaha and requested unconditional release waivers on former Naturals' right-hander Julio Pimentel. Both pitchers missed the 2009 season with injury.
Based on service time, Lowery gains the right to opt for minor league free agency, while Pimentel, ranked prior to the 2009 season as the 18th best prospect in the Kansas City system by Baseball America, looks as if he'll have to continue his comeback from surgery with another organization. Pimentel started for the Naturals in the first game in Arvest Ballpark history on April 10th, 2008.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. The 2010 season begins on Thursday, April 8th. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.