Since being drafted in the 10th Round of the 2007 Draft, it's taken Greg Holland four years. It took four years to reach the Major Leagues for the first time at age 24. It took four more years for the right-hander to etch his name into franchise history and establish himself as one of the game's best closers. Perhaps he should run for president.
The 27-year-old Naturals alumnus completed perhaps the greatest season in Royals relief history. The North Carolina-native's 47 saves this season broke the 30-year-old franchise record of 45 set by Royals Hall of Famer Dan Quisenberry and later matched by fellow Inductee Jeff Montgomery 20 years ago. Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Holand gave up just two runs in the season's final three months.
Holland, who last appeared for the Naturals on May 10, 2012 on a rehab-assignment when he pitched the first inning of a combined no-hitter, led all American League relievers in strikeouts, fanning 103 batters in 67 innings. The 103 punch-outs also tied the Royals All-time record set by Jim York in 1971. According to Major League Baseball, his 1.23 ERA is the lowest in team history among pitchers with a minimum of 60 innings-pitched.
In early November, Major League Baseball will announce the Rolaids Relief Man Awards for each league and Holland's 2013 campaign make the right-hander a favorite long with Boston's Koji Uehara and Joe Nathan of the Texas Rangers. Among the three closers, Holland recorded the most strikeouts, appearances, and saves, converting 47 of 50 and is second to Uehara in ERA. Dan Quisenberry, the Royals All-time saves leader, won the award five times in six straight years including four straight from 1982 through 1985 and Montgomery took home the 38-year-ol annual award in 1993.
Holland reached Northwest Arkansas in his third professional season marking the first full year pitching exclusively in relief. As a 23-year-old in the Texas League Holland appeared in 29 games and went 3-2 with 3 saves and a 3.18 ERA surrendering 40 hits and 30 walks while striking out 60 batters in 56⅔ innings. He completed the season pitching in six games in AAA-Omaha, and only returned to begin what became the first no-hitter in the history Arvest Ballpark.
A POST-SEASON NATURAL: This past week Wil Myers became the first member of the Naturals roster to go on to play in the MLB Post-Season. The 22-year-old favorite for the American League Rookie of the Year batted .293 with 13 homeruns and 53 RBI in 88 games for Tampa Bay as they clinched a Wild Card Berth. A member of both the 2011 and 2012 Naturals, Myers was 2-for-20 in post-season play.
THE LAND OF HOZ: 2010 Natural Eric Hosmer led the Royals in batting average (.302), hits (188), doubles (34), and Slugging-percentage (.448), while finishing second in runs (86), homeruns (20), RBI (79), On-base Percentage (.353), and games played (159). In 2010, Hosmer joined the Naturals steam roll towards the Texas League Championship batting .313 with 13 homeruns and 35 RBI in 50 regular season games, and added two homeruns in Game 4 of the TLDS that gave the Naturals a come-from-behind victory to stave off elimination during the Texas League Playoffs.
#LetsThrowFire: 2013 Naturals RHP Yordano Ventura began the year in Northwest Arkansas and finished the year in a Kansas City Uniform with at least two stellar big league stars to his name. Ventura started three games for Kansas City, with two coming in the heat of their playoff push and posted a 1.59 ERA in 11⅓ innings allowing 7 hits and 5 walks while striking out nine in that until their elimination. According to CBS Sports, in his debut start against Cleveland on August 17th, the 22-year-old recorded a 102.8 MPH fastball, marking the fastest pitch ever recorded by a starting pitcher on Major League Baseball's current PitchFX tracking system. In 11 starts with the Naturals this season, Ventura was 3-2 with a 2.34 ERA and struck out 74 batters in 57⅔ innings, while allowing just 39 hits and 20 walks.
The Seventh Season of Naturals Baseball begins Thursday, April 3, 2014 in Frisco, TX. The team opens at Arvest Ballpark on Thursday April 10, 2014 against the same Frisco Rough Riders.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, AR. For more information including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit NWANaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @NWANaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.