DAVENPORT, IOWA (October 8, 2021) — Infielder Michael Massey, infielder Vinnie Pasquantino, catcher/infielder Logan Porter, left-handed pitcher Anthony Veneziano, and manager Chris Widger combined to earn High-A Central All-Star honors and league awards, Minor League Baseball announced Thursday.
“This team will go down as one of the very best in Quad Cities sports,” said River Bandits owner Dave Heller. “From the very first day, there was a great sense of camaraderie among the players and a sense that this team could be something very special and these guys never stopped working until they won the championship. I couldn’t be happier for them and for our championship community, or more delighted to be affiliated with the Kansas City Royals.”
Veneziano claimed a pair of 2021 accolades and was named High-A Central Pitcher of the Year while earning All-Star honors as the league’s top left-handed starter. Manager Chris Widger earned the River Bandits’ second league award as he was named High-A Central Manager of the Year. Quad Cities led the league with four total All-Stars, the most postseason representatives in franchise history.
In his first year at the High-A level, Veneziano led the River Bandits in nearly every pitching category. He tied for the league-lead in strikeouts (127), while finishing just shy of qualifying and ranking first in strikeouts per nine innings (12.2); tied for second in opponent batting average (.222); third in earned run average (3.75); and sixth in walks/hits per inning pitched (1.206). The lefty also finished just 6.1 innings short of surpassing Shelby Miller (2010) for the top single-season strikeouts per nine mark among starters in franchise history with 12.2.
Veneziano made nine starts of more than five innings and struck out five or more batters in sixteen of his 22 appearances. He allowed just two earned runs over his final 16.2 regular season innings and pitched 3.2 scoreless frames in Game 2 of the High-A Central Championship Series.
Massey tied his teammate Nick Loftin for the High-A Central lead in hitting (.289) and finished second in runs batted in (87), slugging percentage (.531), on-base plus slugging percentage (.882), and doubles (27). The Royals’ fourth-round pick in 2019 finished third in the High-A Central in total bases (206) and extra-base hits (206) and fourth in both home runs (21) and hits (112). His .441 slugging percentage ranks third in the Bandits’ single-season record books, while his 21 homers rank tied for fourth.
Entering the Royals’ top 30 prospect list midway through the season (MLB Pipeline), Massey also showcased one of the organization’s top gloves and committed just three errors in 284 total chances (81 games) at second base. He also notched a pair of High-A Central Player of the Week honors and was named High-A Central Player of the Month for July.
Porter spent time at both catcher and first base for the River Bandits and batted .241/.368/.451. The former Appalachian League postseason All-Star led all qualified catchers with ten of his fourteen home-runs from behind the plate and posted a .923 on-base plus slugging in 149 at-bats as a catcher (.819 OPS overall). Porter led qualified active River Bandits in at-bats per home run at 18.4, and homered in three consecutive games during the month of August.
In the postseason, Porter led the High-A Central Championship series with a .385 batting average and an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.086, while smacking a walk-off home run in Game Four to help the Bandits clinch their fourth title in the last ten seasons.
Prior to being promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Pasquantino batted .291/.384/.565 with Quad Cities and led the High-A Central in hits (69) and extra-base hits (36). He also tied for the lead in total bases (134). The former Old Dominion product also ranked second in doubles (twenty), slugging percentage (.565), and on-base plus slugging percentage (.950); third in batting average (.291); and tied for fourth in home runs (13). Finishing N° 17 on the Royals’ top-30 prospect list (MLB Pipeline), Pasquantino earned High-A Central Player of the Week honors in June when he slashed .444/.483/.852 with two home runs, three doubles, one triple, and seven runs batted in over a six-game stretch.
In his final month as a River Bandit, Kansas City’s 11th round pick in 2019 owned a .517 on-base percentage with thirteen walks in fourteen games, batted .383 with six doubles, and ended his High-A tenure on a five-game multi-hit streak and without a strike-out in 32-straight plate appearances.
Widger earned his first-career Manager of the Year honor and is the fourth skipper in River Bandits’ history to win the award. In his first year in Quad Cities, his sixth in the Royals organization, the 2005 World Series Champion guided the River Bandits to their 12th championship in franchise history after leading Burlington (R) to the Appalachian League Championship series in 2019 during his first season as a manager in the Royals’ system. Under his leadership, Quad Cities owned a winning record against all of their divisional opponents, won or split all but one series during the 2021 season, and never lost a series at home.
ABOUT THE BANDITS: The 2021 season marked the River Bandits’ first year as the High-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The River Bandits anchor the Quad Cities sports market, which The Sports Business Journal named the top minor-league sports-market in the country in 2015 and second-best minor-league market in its 2017 follow-up ranking. In 2015, 2017, and again in 2019, the River Bandits earned Ballpark Digest’s award for “Best Charitable Works” in Minor League Baseball, the only club to win that coveted award three times. For more information, visit www.riverbandits.com or contact General Manager Joe Kubly at (563) 333-2768.