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This Week in the Minors: more pitching showoffs; O'Hearn mashes

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Andy Ferguson, Cody Reed, and Alec Mills all put up double-digit strikeouts; Ryan O'Hearn took his place atop the HR leaderboard; Kratz rehabbed.

This is our weekly look at notable performances from all over the system, from big-name prospects and less heralded guys alike.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (21-23)

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Catcher Erik Kratz began his rehab assignment with Omaha this week, with a hit in each of his three games. He hit one of Omaha's five (!) home runs on Friday night.

On Thursday night, outfielder Reymond Fuentes stole three bases. Fuentes is a nice outfielder who plays all three positions, and has spent time in the Majors with San Diego. There's an impending roster crunch looming when Alex Rios returns, which may send Paulo Orlando back to Omaha. By putting up the good numbers he has, Fuentes might be making himself an attractive trade piece in the coming months. (BUT, he's an incredibly nice person, so selfishly I'd hate to see him leave.)

I don't think I've checked in on Buddy Baumann in this space yet this year, but he is in the midst of another fine season. Through 19.2 innings (13 appearances), he's got an ERA of 1.37 and 18 strikeouts against 4 walks.

Andy Ferguson struck out ten in six innings against Reno on Saturday. It was Ferguson's second start since being promoted to Triple-A. I got the impression from a scout that the club wanted him to start the season with Omaha, but he was a little hurt in Spring Training so that's the only reason he was sent to NWArk to start the year.

Brandon Finnegan made one whole appearance with Omaha before going back to the Majors yesterday. His line shows that he gave up two runs on Friday night, but both of those were actually let in by Louis Coleman after Finny's exit with two down in the ninth.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (29-13)

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Balbino Watch 2015 continues: Balbino Fuenmayor added three doubles and a home run this week.

Jorge Bonifacio tripled and homered on Friday night, following a three-hit game on Thursday. His season line is .242./.316/.439.

After struggling with his assignment with the Storm Chasers, Christian Binford is back to not walking anyone, but in Double-A. Last Monday, he took exactly 100 pitches to get through seven innings, allowing two runs. On Saturday, the hits piled up on him a little more - he gave up ten of them in 6 1/3 innings, so he let in six runs, four earned.

Luke Farrell, who we've featured here before for his high strikeout rate, was promoted to AA this week. He continued his whiff-inducing ways with his first start (2nd appearance), with seven strikeouts in four innings on Friday. He and Matt Murray combined for a shutout win over Tulsa.

Glenn Sparkman, a favorite of mine from last season, is still on the disabled list and could apparently be there until July.

Left-hander Daniel Stumpf, who the Royals drafted in the ninth round in 2012, has done nicely in his first quarter of a season at the Double-A level, with a 2.22 ERA and a 10.4 K/9.

A-Adv. Wilmington Blue Rocks (24-18)

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Left- and center fielder Dominique Taylor had eight hits, all singles, in five games played this week.  Through 40 total games with Wilmington, he's hitting .248/.287/.305. Yes, that .305 is slugging. Taylor is another in the long line of speedy center fielders the Royals love so dearly.

Second baseman Ramon Torres has hit in six straight games through Sunday, and has hits in 16 of his last 20 games. During his streak, he's hit .393/ .414/.607 thanks to two doubles and two triples among his 11 total hits.

Cameron Gallagher, a catcher drafted out of high school in 2011, doubled three times in one nine-inning game on Sunday.

Right-handed reliever Matt Alvarez piled up five strikeouts in 2.2 scoreless innings across two games. That is right in line with his 2.54 ERA and K/9 of 11.7 on the season, his first at Wilmington.

Ashton Goudeau was promoted from Lexington to Wilmington, and threw three shutout innings of relief in his Adv-A debut. Goudeau was drafted in 2012 out of Maple Woods Community College.

On Wednesday, left-hander Cody Reed struck out 11 (!) in 6.2 shutout innings, with just one walk and two hits allowed. It was the second great start in a row for Reed, who the Royals drafted in the second round in 2013.

Righty Alec Mills struck out ten hitters in five innings on Thursday, with no walks. He gave up two runs, both earned, on five hits.

Eric Skoglund added another solid start of his own on Saturday, striking out 8 with no walks in seven shutout innings. This staff is killing it lately, no two ways about it.

A Lexington Legends (19-24)

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Young right fielder Elier Hernandez had five extra-base hits in his six games this week: four doubles and his fourth home run of the season. The 20-year-old is repeating this level, and is still a year and a half younger than the average Sally Leaguer. He's batting .274/.327/.425.

Ryan O'Hearn homered three times this week to pull into the league lead in that category. He also leads current SAL players in slugging percentage. His line stands at .266/.345/.519.

Also hitting multiple home runs this week was outfielder Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado. He's another extremely young player, having just turned 20 in February, and this is his second year in Lexington.

Evan Beal is a right-handed reliever taken in the late rounds of last year's draft, from the University of South Carolina. He's done great in his first full season of pro ball, in strictly late-inning relief appearances. Last Tuesday may have been his best outing, with five strikeouts in three shutout innings. Beal's ERA is at just 0.98 through 18.1 IP (10 games).

Tripp Davis made his season debut, after some time in Extended. He threw three innings, allowing just one hit, but three walks.

Which high-strikeout performance is the best preview of things to come? Who are you worried about?