This latest rebuilding effort by the Royals is starting to gain some traction.
Three young cornerstones were honored Monday for their achievements last season by the Kansas City Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Rookie shortstop Mike Aviles, 27, is the Les Milgram Player of the Year after batting .325 with 10 homers and 51 RBIs in 102 games following his May 29 promotion from Class AAA Omaha.
Closer Joakim Soria, 24, is the Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year after converting 42 of 45 save opportunities, compiling a 1.60 ERA in 63 appearances and contributing 1 2/3 scoreless innings to the American League’s victory in the All-Star Game.
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Pitcher Zack Greinke, 25, was cited for special achievement after continuing his personal recovery from personal issues that forced him to miss most of the 2006 season. He returned to the rotation on a full-time basis for the first time since 2005 and went 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 32 starts.
Soria was a unanimous selection as pitcher of the year. The BBWAA awards are the first for Aviles and Soria. Greinke was picked as the pitcher of the year in 2004 after a strong rookie season.
All three players were twice honored last season as the player or pitcher of the month. Aviles won the player award in July and August. Soria was the pitcher of the month in May and June, while Greinke won the award in April and September.
Aviles joined the organization as a seventh-round pick in 2003 and worked his way through the minors before finally getting a big-league opportunity this season when the Royals sought alternatives to slumping shortstop Tony Peña.
The Royals acquired Soria from San Diego on Dec. 7, 2006 with the second overall pick in the Rule 5 draft. He made an immediate impact as a rookie by compiling a 2.48 ERA in 62 games.
Soria became the club’s closer after the July 31, 2007 trade that sent Octavio Dotel to Atlanta. Soria finished that season with 17 saves in 21 opportunities. Greinke flashed his immense potential almost immediately following his selection as the sixth overall pick in the 2002 draft.
The Sporting News picked him in 2003 as its Minor League Player of the Year, and he made his big-league debut at age 20 on May 22, 2004 at Oakland.
Greinke’s career nose-dived in 2005, when he went 5-17, before he was diagnosed the following spring with clinical depression and social anxiety. He spent much of the 2007 season in the bullpen before making a full-time return to the rotation in August.