SURPRISE, Ariz. (March 13, 2019) - The Kansas City Royals honored nine individuals with organization awards for the 2018 season at the club's Spring Training complex in Surprise, Ariz. this morning. The Lexington Legends, winners of the 2018 South Atlantic League, were also honored.
Individual honorees included:
Sebastian Rivero, recipient of the Carlos Fortuna Award - recognizes a player who is dedicated to improving his English, work ethic and conduct. Rivero, 20, hit .258 (72-for-279) with a career-high 23 extra-base hits with Lexington in 2018, his first year with a full-season affiliate. Behind the plate, he threw out 35.2 percent of attempted base stealers (19-for-54). Rivero was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2015 out of Venezuela.
Richard Lovelady, recipient of the Paul Splittorff Award - recognizes the top minor league pitcher in the organization. Lovelady, 23, earned Omaha Pitcher of the Year honors in 2018, after winning the honors at Wilmington in 2017. He went 3-3 last season with a 2.47 ERA (20 ER in 73 IP) and 71 strikeouts (8.8 K/9) in 46 relief appearances. Among Pacific Coast League relievers, Lovelady ranked second with a .204 opponents' average (53-for-260) and 2.22 BB/9 (18 BB in 73 IP). He surrendered just three home runs in the hitter-friendly PCL, and finished the season with a 41-inning homerless streak over 24 appearances. Lovelady was selected in the 10th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.
MJ Melendez, recipient of the Mike Sweeney Award - recognizes a player who best represents the organization on and off the field. Melendez, 20, earned Lexington Co-Player of the Years honors in 2018, after slugging .492 with 19 home runs (5th most in the South Atlantic League and 4th among Royals farmhands) and 73 RBI (4th in the league and tied for 2nd among Royals minor leaguers). He also ranked among the league leaders in extra-base hits (54, 2nd), triples (9, 3rd), total bases (206, 5th) and slugging percentage (5th), and was named a South Atlantic League midseason All-Star. His 19 home runs were the most by a teenage catcher in the South Atlantic League since at least 2006. Behind the plate, he threw out 26 of 62 attempted base stealers (41.9%), which tied for the league lead among qualified catchers. He went 4-for-14 (.286) with a home run and three RBI in the league championship series, leading the Legends to their first league title since they became a Royals affiliate in 2013. This offseason, Melendez starred off the field as he hosted various youth clinics and camps in his community. He was a second-round pick in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft.
Nick Pratto, recipient of the Frank White Defensive Player of the Year Award - recognizes the organization's top defensive player. Pratto, 20, hit .280 with with 49 extra-base hits while spending the entire season at Lexington, and earned South Atlantic League Top Star honors in the All-Star Game. He posted a .987 fielding percentage in 1,050 chances at first base. Pratto was a first-round pick (14th overall) in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft.
Nick Heath, recipient of the Willie Wilson Baserunner of the Year - recognizes the top baserunner in the organization. Heath, 25, played in 90 games between Wilmington (A+) and Northwest Arkansas (AA) in 2018, and led Royals farmhands with a career-high 39 stolen bases. In the Arizona Fall League, he led the league in steals (13) and runs (21), while batting .338 (26-for-77) with a .427 on-base percentage in 21 games with the Surprise Saguaros. Heath was selected in the 16th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.
Nicky Lopez, recipient of the George Brett Hitter of the Year - recognizes the top position player in the organization. Lopez, 23, split the season between Northwest Arkansas (AA) and Omaha (AAA) while batting .308 and leading Royals farmhands with 155 hits. He hit .331 (93-for-281) in 73 games with the Naturals, which earned him Texas League midseason All-Star honors. Lopez spent most of his time at shortstop, but also played second base. He was a fifth-round pick in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.
Scott Thorman, current manager of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, recipient of the Dick Howser Award - recognizing the organization's most outstanding player development person. Thorman, in his second season as manager of the Lexington Legends in 2018, led the team to its first South Atlantic League championship since they became a Royals affiliate in 2013.
Dan Moushon, vice president of the Burlington Royals recipient of the Matt Minker Award - recognizing an outstanding minor league affiliate employee. Moushon has held his role as vice president of the Burlington Royals since 1995, including each of the last 12 years in which the club has served as the Royals' affiliate. In January, he also became president of the Appalachian League.
Jim Buckley, area scout, recipient of the Art Stewart Award - recognizing the organization's most outstanding scout. Buckley is in his seventh year as an area scout for the Royals, covering North Florida. His most recent notable signings including Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar - Kansas City's top two picks from the 2018 Draft - and the 2017 Paul Splittorff Award winner, Foster Griffin.
For more information, members of the media may contact the Royals Media Relations Department at (816) 921-8000.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.