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Handful of Former Rocks Excelling in Spring Training

Singer, Isbel, Zuber and more off to strong starts in Arizona
March 6, 2020

Wilmington, DE – With Opening Day just under three weeks away at the big league level, a handful of former Wilmington Blue Rocks have had strong performances through the first week of action in the Cactus League out in Arizona.

Wilmington, DE – With Opening Day just under three weeks away at the big league level, a handful of former Wilmington Blue Rocks have had strong performances through the first week of action in the Cactus League out in Arizona.

The main topic of discussion for the Royals’ farm system is the plethora of pitching prospects that have been accumulated due in large part to the strong 2018 draft class which saw the Blue Rocks’ parent club select five college pitchers. All five hurlers made their way to Wilmington and played vital roles in the historic 2019 season which saw the Blue Crew claim their fifth Mills Cup Championship in franchise history and first in 20 years.

It starts with right-hander Brady Singer who was the first pick for the Royals (18th overall) in the 2018 Draft out of University of Florida. The 23-year-old turned heads immediately this spring, most notably in his second outing as he tossed two scoreless innings against the Cubs and did so in very impressive fashion, retiring bonafide big leaguers in Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. What did he do for an encore?

Fans in Wilmington were able to see Singer and his high level of competitiveness first-hand, making his highly anticipated professional debut on the Riverfront on April 6 in which he worked 5.1 innings, allowed two earned runs on three hits, walked one and struck out four in a losing effort.

It didn’t take long for Singer to dominate the Carolina League and over his final six starts with the Rocks had a 1.00 ERA in 36 innings, allowing four earned runs while striking out 34 batters. The highly-touted prospect needed just 10 starts in Advanced-A before finishing the year with Double-A Northwest Arkansas where he was nearly as good, posting a 3.47 ERA in 90.2 innings of work.

Another starter who joined Wilmington later in the year was a fellow 2018 draft choice by the Royals in southpaw Kris Bubic from Stanford. Bubic, put together a head-turning campaign between both Low-A Lexington and Wilmington as he paced all of Minor League Baseball with 185 strikeouts. In addition, he was named the Royals Minor League Player of the Year and also appeared in the SiriusXM Futures Game alongside Singer to represent the Rocks and the Royals in the showcase of the best prospects in baseball.

Bubic, a student of the game, put himself on the map after his stellar 2019 campaign which included seven outings, five with the Blue Rocks, in which he struck out 10 or more batters. Two of those came in back-to-back starts with Wilmington on August 8 and August 15. The latter of the two starts was nearly historic for Bubic.

The 22-year-old has tossed a pair of scoreless innings in his lone appearance in Spring Training thus far allowing a hit, one walk and striking out a two batters.

Hard-throwing right-hander Tyler Zuberhas also caught the attention of many after a strong 2019 season which saw him start in Wilmington, be named a Carolina League All-Star and finish in Double-A where he posted a 2.42 ERA in 22 relief appearances. Between the two stops, the 6th round pick out of Arkansas State earned a career-high 21 saves with 11 as a Blue Rock and 10 with the Naturals. He also slammed the door shut in the Carolina League All-Star Game a year ago as the battery was Zuber and teammate and catching prospect MJ Melendez.

He has posted a 2.08 ERA in four appearances and has allowed just a run in 4.1 innings of work while striking out five batters.

Moving away from the mound, outfielder Kyle Isbel has played in 11 game already for the Royals, tied for the most of any player this spring. Isbel has made the most of it, collecting a double, triple, a home run and driving in four runs so far. Isbel got off to a torrid start in his first year with Wilmington last season, slashing .348/.423/.630 before suffering two injuries that forced him to miss over two months. Isbel returned in grand style to the Riverfront on July 14.

The third-round pick in 2018 out of UNLV continued to play an integral part with the Rocks en route to winning the Mills Cup Championship with the Blue Rocks and not only has the bat to help him progress up the ladder in the system, but also has flashed the leather this spring.

Melendez, rated as one of the top-10 catching prospects according to MLBPipeline.com a year ago, has played in six games this spring and has had success. Melendez smacked a home run in big-league camp and has also drawn five walks in six games in Arizona. The 21-year-old was a 2nd round pick out of high school by the Royals and spent the entire year with the Blue Rocks. Melendez saved his best for last, delivering with clutch hits in the playoffs, including this home run in the Mills Cup Championship Series:

Melendez earned the Mills Cup Championship MVP honor after hitting .333 in five games (5-for-15) with a home run, three RBI and also played stellar defense behind the plate.

Other notable players who have seen action is Khalil Lee, who spent half of the 2018 season with the Blue Crew. One of the top ranked position players in the system, Lee has played in 10 games this spring, hitting .273 with a .304 on-base percentage. He has also clubbed a home run and has four RBI. Catcher Meibrys Viloria, who also was on the 2018 Wilmington roster, is looking to battle for the backup catcher spot on the 26-man roster for the Royals. He first made his big league debut back on September 2, 2018 against the Baltimore Orioles, becoming just the second player in Blue Rocks’ history to make the jump from Wilmington to the bigs, joining former Royals’ legend, Mike Sweeney. This spring, the 23-year-old native of Colombia is hitting .364 with a .417 on-base percentage in seven games.

Opening Day for the Blue Rocks is April 9 when the team starts the 2020 campaign with a week-long homestand to Myrtle Beach and Carolina. The defending Mills Cup Champions will begin their home slate on Thursday, April 16 when they welcome the Salem Red Sox to the Riverfront.

The Wilmington Blue Rocks are the Advanced-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and the 2019 Mills Cup champions. Individual tickets, season tickets, mini plans and group packages are on sale now. For more information the team's website is www.BlueRocks.com.