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This Week in the Minors: Eibner and Bubba hit, Naturals struggle on defense

Some poor defense is hurting some of the lower levels.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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 (62-48)

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Omaha has dropped three in a row as they chase the Oklahoma City 89ers in the divisional standings. Brett Eibner kept up his torrid hitting, with a seven-game hitting streak hitting 10-for-27 over that time. Over the last month, Eibner is hitting .386 with eight home runs, and overall he is hitting .309/.371/.542 with 16 HR in 319 plate appearances.

First baseman Casey Kotchman drilled a grand slam (his 7th home run of the year) on Sunday, one of three home runs hit by Storm Chasers along with Francisco Pena (11th) and Paulo Orlando (3rd). Orlando has hit 6-for-24 with 5 RBI since his demotion.

Outfielder Reymond Fuentes continues to hit well, going 8-for-his-last-27, joining Whit Merrifield in the "20 stolen bases club." Outfielder Jose Martinez continues to rake, with a four-hit game on Friday. He's hitting .485 in his last ten games, and the 27-year old is hitting .383/.451/.572 in 256 plate appearances overall.

The Stormchasers have had to juggle their rotation with all the recent trades. Miguel Almonte gave up just one hit in five scoreless innings with six strikeouts on Tuesday, but was hammered for five runs in less than four innings of work on Sunday. J.C. Sulbaran was promoted to Omaha and was outstanding in his debut, tossing 6 2/3 innings and striking out nine while allowing just two hits and one run. Andy Ferguson also tossed three scoreless innings in his return from injury. The club also picked up former Astros pitcher Paul Clemens for some bullpen depth.

Injuries: Yohan Pino (shoulder), Dusty Coleman (broken nose), Balbino Fuenmayor (knee)

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (14-23)

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The Naturals have struggled in the second half of the Texas League season with the defense allowing for some lopsided scores. Errors by catcher Zane Evans and third baseman Hunter Dozier allowed four unearned runs to cross in a 12-9 loss to Arkansas. An error by Sam Selman opened the door to five unearned runs in relief in an 11-1 loss to Springfield. Selman can hardly blame his defense however, as he has been hammered lately, allowing 18 runs in his last 4 2/3 innings of relief.

One bright spot in the pitching staff has been Jonathan Dziedzic. The left-hander allowed just two runs over two starts and ten innings last week and has a 3.45 ERA in 104.1 innings for the Naturals this year. Kyle Zimmer has also looked sharp this week, striking out eight in seven innings of work and he finally got his first start of the year.

On the hitting side, Hunter Dozier is heating up, going 9-for-30 with three home runs last week, pushing his season total to eleven. On the year he is still hitting just .221/.286/.381. Bubba Starling is showing no ill-effects from his knee injury, hitting .333 over his last ten games with a four-hit game on Tuesday that included a home run.

Raul Mondesi is slumping, going 6-for-29 this week with 10 strikeouts. Jorge Bonifacio has gone into a home run drought, with the last of his team-leading fifteen home runs coming on July 6.

Injuries: Terrance Gore (ankle), Reid Redman (Tommy John surgery), Glenn Sparkman (Tommy John surgery)

A-Adv. Wilmington Blue Rocks (14-23)

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The Blue Rocks have dropped eight in a row, and predictably, have had trouble with offense, scoring just five runs in their last five games. Third baseman Mauricio Ramos is mired in an 0-for-18 slump after a three-hit performance on Wednesday. Catcher Cam Gallagher is hitting just .194 over his last 30 games. Outfielder Dominique Taylor is just 5-for-39 over his last ten games. Even slugger Ryan O'Hearn is in a 4-for-29 slump.

Infielder Ramon Torres is one of the few bright spots lately with a three-hit game on Wednesday and a three-walk game on Friday. He's hitting .10-for-35 with five walks over his last ten games and but overall is hitting .257/.287/.323 in Wilmington. Blue Springs kid Logan Moon is 4-for-10 in his last four games, getting on base all four times he was up on Saturday. Outfielder Elier Hernandez has struggled since his promotion to Wilmington, but he has finally begun to hit a bit, with his first home run in the Carolina League coming on Thursday.

Right-hander Pedro Fernandez gave up five runs, four earned, with four strikeouts in four innings of work in his debut after being promoted from Lexington. Maple Woods Community College product Ashton Goudeau tossed 5 1/3 innings on Friday, allowing just one run. Evan Beal tossed six scoreless innings over the last week, and has pitched well since his promotion with a 1.64 ERA in eleven relief innings.

Injuries: Alec Mills (finger), Erik Skoglund (elbow)

A Lexington Legends (14-20)

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The Legends lost a wild one last night 16-14, giving up eight unearned runs on three errors, while walking seven Augusta hitters. It was their fourth loss in a row and eighth in nine tries. Catcher Chad Johnson had three hits in the Augusta game and is riding a nine-game hitting streak, hitting .342 over that time with four walks. Johnson leads the team with a .329 batting average and .425 on-base percentage in 47 games. Chase Vallot was 3-for-6 in the Augusta game with a home run and 4 RBI and is also riding a nine-game hitting streak, with a .314 average over that time. 2015 draft pick Anderson Miller also went 3-for-6 with a home run, but the outfielder is hitting .255/.316/.333 in 13 games since being promoted to Lexington.

Left-hander Colin Rodgers was hit around in that Augusta game, giving up seven runs, although just three were earned, on 12 hits in less than four innings of work. Former 2014 supplemental round pick Foster Griffin pitched better last week after some rough outings, giving up two runs in five innings on Saturday, striking out six. Scott Blewitt has given up just seven hits and four runs in ten innings over his last two starts, and has a 4.26 ERA in 12 starts this year. Yunior Marte struck out ten hitters in just 4 2/3 innings, allowing no runs on Sunday - he didn't strike out a single hitter in his previous outing on Tuesday over 3 2/3 innings.

Injuries: None.

Advanced Rookie Idaho Falls Chukars (5-1)


The Chukars are riding a five-game winning streak in the second half of the Pioneer League season, scoring 41 runs over that time. The team is hitting .296 overall, which is just third in the offensively-charged league. Former TCU outfielder Cody Jones had a four-hit game on Tuesday and a three-hit game on Thursday to push his line to .303/.395/.364. Outfielder Amalani Fukofuka had four multi-hit games last week and smacked his first home run of the season. Infielder Luis Valenzuela has a seven-game hitting streak and each of the last five have been multi-hit games. The 21-year old Dominican is hitting .486/.472/.600 in his first eight games with the Chukars.

Pitching is more of a challenge in the altitude. Lefty Cruz Guevara had a streak of four scoreless outings covering 11 2/3 innings snapped on Saturday when he gave up four runs in less than two innings of work. Mexico, Missouri product Hunter Haynes gave up just one run in four innings on Wednesday but has a 8.40 ERA in 30 innings for the year. Alex Gordon's brother Derek, a 24-year old right-hander signed out of independent baseball, tossed a pair of solid games for the Chukars. He gave up just three runs over 13 innings in the week, striking out seven.

Injuries: None.

Rookie Burlington Royals (18-21)


Catcher Xavier Fernandez had three hits on Sunday and is 12-for-35 with a home run in his last ten games, hitting .367/.420/.519 overall. Outfielder Brandon Thommason had two hits and three RBI on Sunday and is hitting .267/.346/.489. Third baseman Brian Bien went 10-for-19 over the last week with 8 RBI, not bad for a 31st round pick out of Bowling Green.

Royals 2015 first-round pick Ashe Russell gave up just one run in four innings on Wednesday, although he did not strike out or walk a hitter. In 17 innings with Burlington, Russell has a 4.76 ERA with eight walks and just six strikeouts. Fellow first-round pick Nolan Watson also pitched well, giving up one run in four innings on Friday. Watson has a 4.41 ERA with eight strikeouts and seven walks in 16 1/3 innings.

Injuries: None.