Kansas City Monarchs ‘Lords’ Form New ‘Murders Row’
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier looks at the incredible heart of the order that will be powering the Kansas City Monarchs lineup this season, an American Association version of the New York Yankees famed “Murderers Row.”
A Season Built on Offense
The 2021 American Association season was arguably the best offensive showcase the league has ever seen. With many of the top pitchers moving to affiliate ball while the league kept the vast majority of their top hitters, several league records were set, most more homeruns and RBI in a season. It was one for the ages in terms of run production as nine of the 12 teams averaged better than five runs per game.
Manager Joe Calfapietra put together one of the most potent lineups for the Kansas City Monarchs. The club set a league record for homeruns in a season, crushing the previous mark with 147 homers (the previous mark was 128 set by the Lincoln Saltdogs in 2010). They scored 664 runs, also setting a league mark, breaking the old mark held by Amarillo in 2011 when they scored 650 runs.
It was a remarkable run made only more amazing by the fact that their best hitter, Jan Hernandez, had his contract transferred to the Cincinnati Reds a little over halfway into the season. However, Calfapietra did what he had become legendary for – finding guys who put up comparable numbers to those they replace.
The Kansas City Monarchs Are Stacked
As the 2022 American Association season is 44 days away, one thing that no one expects is for there to be the number of contracts transferred to affiliate clubs as what was seen in 2021. There were over 70 players who found their way onto affiliate rosters, the most ever in any season. With fewer pitchers headed to a Major League organization, there is no way that the offensive numbers will be as inflated. Or will they?
Not every club will be as good offensively, but do not be surprised if the Monarchs are the exception. In fact, they could be even better. That is because they have a heart of the order that is going to be the American Association’s version of the famed Yankees’ “Murderers Row.” In fact, so much is anticipated out of this group that the Minor League Sports Report has already affectionately dubbed them “The Lords of Legends Field.” No doubt that group will live up to that name.
Jan Hernandez, OF
It starts with Sir Hernandez, who was in the running for the league MVP before his contract was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds. In 55 games, Hernandez hit .318 with 19 homers and 66 runs driven it. He boasted an impressive .399 on-base percentage and had a 1.053 OPS. Hernandez struggled at AAA Louisville after signing with the Reds (.167, 3 HR), but he is back with Kansas City and is ready to lead this lineup as its top Lord in the Monarchs lineup.
Ibandel Isabel, OF
When the contract of Hernandez was transferred to Cincinnati, Calfapietra signed Sir Isabel Ibandel and he ensured that there was no drop-off. Isabel appeared in just 27 games for Kansas City, but hit .320 with 11 homers, 25 runs scored, and 24 RBI. The outfielder delivered a 1.026 OPS. Now, instead of replacing Hernandez in the lineup, he will likely bat directly behind him.
Gabriel Guerrero, OF
Sir Gabriel Guerrero was the heart and soul of the Monarchs, hitting .319 with 18 home runs and 86 runs driven in. Not only did he deliver impressive numbers during the regular season, but stepped up his game in the run to the American Association Championship, earning Playoff MVP honors. He is the leader of this club as well and sets the tone with a fearless dedication to his Court. This trio is an absolute murderers row, and it would not be surprising to see this group combine for 70 homeruns and 290 RBI.
Darnell Sweeney, IF
Sir Darnell Sweeney delivers impressive numbers often with little fanfare. Sweeney hit .262 with a .354 on-base percentage, clubbing 19 homers and 28 doubles last season. He scored 76 runs and drove in 69. Sweeney can play just about any place on the diamond and is great at getting on base, setting the table for those batting behind him. However, he has a power bat as well, providing another dagger for the Kings Court.
Casey Gillaspie, 1B
Because of the impressive performances by so many of these Monarchs players, Sir Casey Gillaspie played under near obscurity, despite leading Kansas City in homeruns last season with 21. He also clubbed 26 doubles, scored 67 runs, and drove in 70. Gillaspie hit .257 and boasted a .357 on-base percentage, providing an .870 OPS. In this potent lineup, it is likely that Gillaspie will hit seventh, providing a telltale sign of how ridiculously powerful this lineup is going to be.
David Thompson, IF
Sir David Thompson is the new addition to the Kings Court. Thompson was signed out of the New York Mets organization. In 2021, he clubbed 13 homers for AAA Syracuse in 67 games. Even at that pace, he would likely hit 20 homers in a 100 game season, giving the team potentially six players who could hit 20 homeruns.
What They Have Already Done
If one simply looks at the numbers for the six from 2021, they are staggering. The Lords of Legends Field combined for 102 homeruns with only half the Court playing as many as 90 games for the Monarchs.
While numbers may be down in the American Association this season as fewer pitchers head back to affiliate ball, no one should believe that Kansas City will be seeing any drop-off. That is good news for boys and girls at Monarchs games, as they will have plenty of souvenirs to retrieve.
By Robert Pannier