The minor leagues’ top manager is in the Kansas City Royals organization

·2 min read

Top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. wasn’t the only member of the Kansas City Royals farm system to garner lofty praise and accolades from Baseball America this offseason. The publication named High-A Quad Cities manager Chris Widger its Minor League Manager of the Year in his first season as that club’s skipper.

Many of the top prospects in the Royals’ farm system, such as Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez and Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year Witt, played and put up gaudy numbers in the upper levels of the minors this past season.

Even without the organization’s elite prospects, Widger guided the Quad Cities River Bandits to the High-A Central championship and a record of 77-41 in the regular season. That record gave the River Bandits the fourth-best mark of all minor-league clubs regardless of level.

The River Bandits featured second baseman Michael Massey, infielder Nick Loftin, outfielder John Rave, starting pitcher Drew Parrish and relief pitcher Will Klein, who were each selected as Royals Organizational All-Stars by MiLB.com.

Massey also became the first Quad Cities player to win a minor-league Gold Glove.

Power-hitting first baseman Vinny Pasquantino, who ranked second among all hitters in the minors with 37 doubles and slashed .300/.394/.563, also began his stellar season with Quad Cities before moving to Double-A.

Quad Cities led the High-A Central Division in batting average, ranked second in OPS and third in home runs.

Meanwhile, the pitching staff ranked among the top four in the league in ERA (fourth), WHIP (third) and opponent’s batting average (third).

Widger, who spent parts of 10 seasons in the majors as a catcher, joined the Royals organization in 2016 and served as Wilmington’s bench coach from 2016-18. He managed Burlington in the Rookie level Appalachian League in 2019 and led that club to the championship series. He’d been scheduled to manage Wilmington in 2020 before the pandemic wiped out the entire minor-league season.

The Royals have not yet announced coaching assignments for 2022. Triple-A manager Brian Poldberg announced his retirement in September. Tony Pena Jr. spent last season as part of the major-league coaching staff, but he will return to coaching in the minors this coming season.

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