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11/21/11 4:40 PM EST

Royals trio lauded for '11 excellence

KANSAS CITY -- Take a Nebraskan, a Panamanian and a Dominican and what have you got?

You've got, in order, Alex Gordon, Bruce Chen, Melky Cabrera and the winners of the first annual MLB.com awards for the Kansas City Royals.

As selected by MLB.com, awards have been designated in three categories -- Pitcher, Perfomer and Breakout Player -- for each of the 30 teams.

Gordon was named Player of the Year, Chen was Pitcher of the Year and Cabrera, who was dealt to the Giants for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and a Minor Leaguer on Nov. 7, was Breakout Player of the Year.

Team Awards 2011

A product of Lincoln, Neb., Gordon finally fulfilled the high expectations put on him when he was the Royals' first-round Draft choice out the University of Nebraska in 2005.

When this season was over, he not only had established himself as an outstanding left fielder and team leader but he registered career highs in many categories, including average (.303), hits (185), runs (101), doubles (45), homers (23), and RBIs (87). He also had 17 stolen bases.

No matter where he batted -- first, third or occasionally fourth -- he was a consistent force in a vigorous offense on a team that scored 54 more runs than in 2010. And he leaped into prominence after two subpar seasons marked by hip surgery (2009) and a demotion to Triple-A Omaha (2010).

"I just came into this season motivated -- not that I haven't before -- but with the last two years, injuries and being sent down and stuff like that, I think that drove me in the offseason to work even harder and that's what I did," Gordon said. "Throughout the year, I took every day playing 100 percent on the practice field and in every game and it paid off a little bit."

Chen, whose grandparents moved from China to Panama City where he was born, led the Royals' pitching staff in victories with 12 for the second straight season.

Despite missing six weeks with a lat injury, he posted a 12-8 record and 3.77 ERA in 25 starts. The Royals are Chen's 10th Major League team and, in addition to victories, he gave them leadership for their young pitchers and provided a light-hearted spirit in the clubhouse and on the bench. On the mound, Chen falls into that crafty lefty category -- he doesn't throw that hard, maybe 88 mph tops, but he throws four pitches from a lot of different angles.

Chen, after 10 years in the Majors, slipped from view for a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. But the Royals took a chance and signed him to a Minor League contract in March 2009. He reached the Majors that year and didn't have much success. But in 2010, he worked his way out of the bullpen and into the rotation, ultimately delivering more wins than staff ace Zack Greinke.

"2010 was a good year and I tried to build on that," Chen said. "This year, I couldn't have done by myself. I had the support of my teammates who played really good defense behind us and the offense was great."

Even with the long stay on the disabled list, Chen used a strong finish to again top the staff in victories.

There was a good deal of skepticism when the Royals signed Cabrera at the last Winter Meetings. The Melk-man was coming off a lackluster season for the Atlanta Braves after being traded by the New York Yankees.

However, Cabrera took a big salary cut to sign and the switch-hitter from Bajos De Haina in the Dominican Republic worked strenuously to get back into shape, losing weight and adding muscle. When he hit the field for the Royals this season, scouts marveled that he looked like a different player.

That showed not only in his physique but in a huge upswing in his statistics. Talk about a breakout, bounce-back year: Cabrera accumulated 201 hits -- the first Royals player to reach 200 since 2000 -- and had a career-best .305 average. He settled in as the Royals' two-hole batter and piled up 44 doubles, 18 homers, 87 RBIs, 102 runs and 20 stolen bases -- all career highs.

He also excelled in center field, getting 13 assists to contribute to the Major League-leading 51 posted by the Royals' outfielders.

Gordon had 20 of those assists and that, plus his dazzling play all over left field, earned the converted third baseman a spot on the American League Rawlings Gold Glove team. It was the 19th Gold Glove Award in Royals history.

In team awards announced by the Royals, Gordon was the Les Milgram Player of the Year, Chen was the Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year and first baseman Eric Hosmer won the Joe Burke Special Achievement Award.

Also a contender for the AL Rookie of the Year Award, Hosmer finished third in the BBWAA voting. He fit right into the Majors with 19 homers, 27 doubles, 78 RBIs and a .293 average in 128 games. He also flashed a gifted glove at first base, tightening the Royals' defense.

National Awards
MVP Cy Young Rookie of the Year
George Brett 1980 Bret Saberhagen 1985 Lou Piniella 1969
Bret Saberhagen 1989 Bob Hamelin 1994
David Cone 1994 Carlos Beltran 1999
Angel Berroa 2003
Manager of the Year Rawlings Gold Glove Silver Slugger
Tony Pena 2003 Amos Otis, OF 1971 Willie Wilson, OF 1980
Amos Otis, OF 1973 George Brett, 3B 1980
Amos Otis, OF 1974 Hal McRae, DH 1982
Frank White, 2B 1977 Willie Wilson, OF 1982
Al Cowens, OF 1977 George Brett, 3B 1985
Frank White, 2B 1978 Frank White 1986
Frank White, 2B 1979 George Brett, 1B 1988
Frank White, 2B 1980 Gary Gaetti, 3B 1995
Willie Wilson, OF 1980 Dean Palmer, 3B 1998
This Year in Baseball Frank White, 2B 1981
Zack Greinke (Starting Pitcher) 2009 Frank White, 2B 1982
George Brett, 3B 1985
Frank White, 2B 1986
Frank White, 2B 1987
Bret Saberhagen, P 1989
Bob Boone, C 1989
Jermaine Dye, OF 2000
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B 2006
Alex Gordon, OF 2011
Local Awards
Player of the Year Pitcher of the Year
Amos Otis, Fred Patek 1971 Dick Drago 1971
John Mayberry 1972 Roger Nelson 1972
Amos Otis 1973 Paul Splittorff 1973
Hal McRae 1974 Steve Busby 1974
George Brett 1975 Dennis Leonard 1975
George Brett 1976 Mark Littell 1976
Al Cowens 1977 Dennis Leonard 1977
Amos Otis 1978 Larry Gura 1978
George Brett 1979 Dennis Leonard 1979
George Brett 1980 Dan Quisenberry 1980
Willie Wilson 1981 Larry Gura 1981
Hal McRae 1982 Dan Quisenberry 1982
Frank White 1983 Dan Quisenberry 1983
Willie Wilson 1984 Dan Quisenberry 1984
George Brett 1985 Bret Saberhagen 1985
Frank White 1986 Mark Gubicza 1986
Danny Tartabull 1987 Bret Saberhagen 1987
George Brett 1988 Mark Gubicza 1988
Jim Eisenreich 1989 Bret Saberhagen 1989
George Brett 1990 Steve Farr 1990
Danny Tartabull 1991 Bret Saberhagen 1991
George Brett 1992 Kevin Appier 1992
Greg Gagne 1993 Kevin Appier 1993
Bob Hamelin 1994 David Cone 1994
Gary Gaetti 1995 Kevin Appier 1995
Tom Goodwin 1996 Tim Belcher 1996
Jay Bell 1997 Tim Belcher 1997
Dean Palmer 1998 Jeff Montgomery 1998
Jermaine Dye 1999 Jose Rosado 1999
Mike Sweeney 2000 Jeff Suppan 2000
Carlos Beltran 2001 Jeff Suppan 2001
Mike Sweeney 2002 Paul Byrd 2002
Carlos Beltran 2003 Darrell May 2003
David DeJesus 2004 Zack Greinke 2004
Mike Sweeney 2005 Mike MacDougal 2005
Mark Teahen 2006 Mark Redman 2006
Mark Grudzielanek 2007 Gil Meche 2007
Mike Aviles 2008 Joakim Soria 2008
Billy Butler 2009 Zack Greinke 2009
Billy Butler 2010 Joakim Soria 2010
Alex Gordon 2011 Bruce Chen 2011

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.