SURPRISE, Ariz.—The Kansas City Royals honored nine individuals with organization awards for the 2022 season at the club’s Spring Training Complex in Surprise, Ariz. this morning.
Tyler Gentry was the recipient of the George Brett Award, given to the top position player in the Royals organization. After spending the first 35 games of his season with High-A Quad Cities, Gentry, who was also named Double-A Northwest Arkansas Player of the Year in October, earned a mid-June promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he slugged his way to a .321/.417/.555 (88-for-274) slashline with the Naturals. Gentry was originally selected in the 3rd round of the 2020 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Alabama, and was signed by scout Travis Ezi.
Ben Kudrna was the recipient of the Paul Splittorff Award, given to the top pitcher in the organization. A Blue Valley Southwest High School alumnus, Kudrna shined in his first season of professional ball, earning the Columbia Pitcher of the Year Award after posting a 3.48 ERA (28 ER in 72.1 IP) with 61 strikeouts and a .239 opponents’ batting average (66-for-276) in 17 starts for the Fireflies. The righthander was selected by the Royals in the 2nd round of the 2021 First-Year Player Draft, and was signed by scout Matt Price.
Freddy Fermin was the recipient of the Frank White Award, which recognizes the organization’s top defensive player. Fermin, 27, spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he appeared in 69 games (67 starts) for the Storm Chasers behind the plate. He posted a .992 fielding percentage across 581.0 innings, making just 5 errors and assisting in 4 double plays. The Venezuela-born catcher was signed by Kansas City as an international free agent in 2015 by scouts Joelvis Gonzalez and Richard Castro.
Tyler Tolbert was the recipient of the Willie Wilson Award for the second consecutive season, which recognizes the top baserunner in the organization. Tolbert, 25, went 60-for-60 in stolen base attempts in High-A Quad Cities in 2022, a feat that no other player has achieved since at least 1992, when data is available, via STATS. His 60 stolen bases led all Royals minor leaguers and ranked 10th in all of Minor League Baseball. Tolbert was selected in the 13th round of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft, and was signed by scout Nick Hamilton.
Carter Jensen was the recipient of the Mike Sweeney Award, which recognizes a player who best represents the organization on and off the field. Jensen earned Columbia Player of the Year honors in his second professional season, the Royals announced in October, after he posted a .745 OPS with 66 runs scored, 24 doubles, 2 triples, 11 home runs, 50 RBI, 83 walks and 8 stolen bases, collecting 150 total bases in 113 games for the Fireflies. This past offseason, he attended Night to Shine, an unforgettable prom night experience held by the Tim Tebow Foundation in Surprise, Ariz. Night to Shine is an event centered on God’s love, for people with special needs, ages 14 and older. The Park Hill High School (Mo.) graduate was selected by the Royals in the 3rd round of the 2021 First-Year Player Draft, and was signed by scout Matt Price.
Omar Ramírez was the recipient of the Dick Howser Award, which recognizes a player development employee for outstanding contributions to the organization. Ramírez is in his 15th season in the Royals organization and his first as the Arizona Field Coordinator after working the past two seasons as a Manager in Surprise. Ramírez, the Guardians 31st-round pick in 1990 out of Hill Junior College in Texas, played outfield for eight seasons in the minors with the Guardians and Astros before playing in the Mexican League from 2002-07.
Brad Shank was the recipient of the Matt Minker Award, which recognizes an outstanding minor league affiliate employee. Shank is the President of the Columbia Fireflies, and he joined the Fireflies organization in July 2015. Before joining the Fireflies, he started his baseball career as an intern for the Richmond Roosters, and after a year away from baseball he found his way back to Minor League Baseball in Fort Wayne, Ind. Over 13 seasons with the Fort Wayne Wizards/TinCaps, Brad went from a Group Sales Representative to the Director of Group Sales, and eventually Vice President of Ticket Sales.
Terry Wetzel was the recipient of the Art Stewart Award, which recognizes the organization’s most outstanding scout. Wetzel is in his second season with the Royals after re-joining the organization in October 2021 as a Major League/Special Assignment Scout. Prior to that, he spent six years as a Special Assistant to the President of Baseball Operations and General Manager with the Washington Nationals, including their 2019 World Series-winning season. During his 39-year scouting career, Wetzel has been honored with several awards, including the 1993 Kansas City Royals Ewing M. Kauffman Scout of the Year Award, the 2000 TOPPS Scout of the Year Award, and the 2003 Colorado Rockies Pat Daugherty Scout of the Year Award.
Marcelo Martinez was the recipient of the Carlos Fortuna Award, which recognizes a player who is dedicated to improving his English, work ethic and conduct. Martinez struck out 115 batters between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, ranking 5th among Royals farmhands. He signed as an international free agent in 2018, by scouts Manuel Samaniego and Luis Ortiz.