This is our weekly look at notable performances from all over the system, from big-name prospects and less heralded guys alike. Opening Day was on Thursday around the minors, so we're dealing with a four-game sample here. Consider this your umbrella small sample size alert.
AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (2-2)
Omaha opened the season with a home series against New Orleans, and came away with a series split. Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert is off to a hot start at the plate, with 8 hits including a double and a homer, totaling 8 RBI. He has also walked twice. However, he has committed three errors.
First baseman Cody Decker homered twice on Saturday in his first start as a Chaser. The first of those was one of the longest in Werner Park history, and reduced his teammates to a collection of stammering "holy [poop]"s and "oh my god"s in the dugout. He also drew a crucial ninth-inning walk in a pinch hitting appearance as part of a comeback win on Friday night. On the negative side of the ledger, he struck out five times in Sunday's game.
Whit Merrifield doubled twice as part of his 5-hit series, and stole two bases. Both steals were of third base.
And @WhitMerrifield steals third for the second time this season. He's 16 for his last 16 in attempts to steal third.— Tony Boone (@BooneOWH) April 9, 2016
Jonathan Dziedzic's 2016 debut went pretty well. He struck out eight and gave up only a two-run home run in five innings, and elicited some good swings and misses. Unfortunately for Dziedzic, one of the Cuthbert errors mentioned above happened with two outs, right before that home run.
The Opening Day starter for the team was Miguel Almonte, but unfortunately nothing went right for him. He was tagged for five runs (four earned), walked four batters, and gave up a grand slam before getting pulled after just a third of an inning. All of that happened in 35 pitches (11 strikes). Right-hander Brooks Pounders made his Triple-A debut that night, striking out three in two perfect innings. Brian Duensing threw two perfect innings in relief on Friday.
Jarrod Dyson joined the team on Saturday for his rehab assignment. In two games, he walked twice, singled once, and scored a run all the way from first on a Merrifield double, a good test of his oblique. He has not attempted to steal any bases yet.
AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (1-3)
The Naturals opened at home with a four-game set against Frisco, but lost the first three games. Bubba Starling hit two homers in the Naturals' 16-2 win on Sunday. They were his first two hits of the season, in two games played.
Top prospect Raul Mondesi, who at 20 years old is 3.9 years younger than his Double-A peers, has already hit two home runs and scored four runs. He made a start at second base, which could help him add to his versatility. Righty Alec Mills took a hard-luck loss in the first game. He only gave up one run, while striking out seven batters in five innings, but the Naturals were shut out. Left-hander Matt Strahm threw five shutout innings on Friday. He struck out four, with no walks and just two hits given up.
A-Adv. Wilmington Blue Rocks (0-3)
The Blue Rocks also opened their season at home, but had one game postponed to April 21 due to snow and rain. First baseman Ryan O'Hearn, who was promoted to Wilmington partway through last season, leads the Blue Rocks bats so far, with five hits. One of those hits was a double, which is the only extra base hit any Wilmington player has so far.
Catcher Chad Johnson hit safely in each of his first three games at the high-A level. The right throwing/left hitting 21-year-old played the last two full seasons with Lexington. Shortstop Humberto Arteaga hit four singles, and has already stolen two bases. The 22-year-old from Venezuela was promoted to Wilmington last summer, but struggled somewhat with the promotion. In this week's edition of "Fun With Small Samples," Josh Staumont, who can hit triple digits on the radar gun, currently has a strikeout-to-nine-innings rate of 23.6. Staumont made his Wilmington debut on Friday, striking out 7 (but also walking 4) in 2.2 innings.
A Lexington Legends (3-1)
No batter in Omaha, Northwest Arkansas, nor Wilmington has hit a triple in 2016. But three different players for Lexington have tripled - first baseman Brandon Dulin, and outfielders Ben Johnson and Anderson Miller. Both Dulin and Johnson are new to full-season baseball. Miller split time last season between Lexington and Burlington Johnson also leads the Legends with seven RBI, and has also doubled once and walked three times.
Only one Legends player has hit a home run - outfielder Amalani Fukofuka hit a 3-run shot on Thursday. 19-year-old catcher Chase Vallot, still 2.2 years younger than his league peers, already has seven hits, including three doubles. He has also walked four times.
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Have any of you gone to minor league games yet? Who made an impression on you?
Feel free to share any pics of your own in the comments if you went to any games!