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This Week in the Minors: O’Hearn mashing taters

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First baseman Ryan O’Hearn has picked up at Triple-A right where he left off at Double-A - hitting like crazy.

First baseman Ryan O’Hearn hit three home runs for the Storm Chasers this week
Minda Haas Kuhlmann

This is our weekly look at notable performances from all over the system, from big-name prospects and less heralded guys alike. The mission to answer this simple question: “Who had a good week?”

Today, we’ll cover results from Monday, April 17 through Sunday, April 23.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (10-7)
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First baseman Ryan O’Hearn still has not missed a step in his first month at Triple-A. O’Hearn, 23, doubled twice and hit three homers this week. Additionally, he only struck out twice in those 27 plate appearances. His season line is now .317/.369/.650.

Shortsop Ramon Torres, 24, is playing his first full season with Omaha. His season has been all about putting the ball in play - in 17 games, he has struck out just three times, and walked once. That has given him a nice-looking .304 batting average, largely singles-driven. (He does already have three homers, though.)

Veteran minor leaguer Dean Anna, 30, is hitting .366/.422/.488 in 12 games, splitting games among DH, 2B and 3B. Second baseman Corey Toups homered twice this week, his first at the Triple-A level. On a rehab assignment, Jorge Soler is 3-for-10 in his first three games. He DH’d one game and played right field in the other two.

LHP Jonathan Dziedzic had another strong start on Friday, holding Round Rock to one run on seven hits in 7.1 innings. He struck out seven and did not issue any walks. Righty Jakob Junis returned to Omaha from the Majors with a nice five innings: five hits, two runs, no walks, six strikeouts.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (8-8)

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Outfielder Alfredo Escalera tripled twice and doubled twice among 11 hits this week. He also walked three times (once intentionally). The 22-year-old is hitting .317/.368/.413 through 15 games.

The Naturals switch off first base and DH duties between Frank Schwindel and Samir Duenez. Both had excellent weeks at the plate. Schwindel piled up 10 hits, including three doubles. Duenez “only” had seven hits, but they were all well-timed and he ended up with 13 RBI on the week.

Duenez is only 20, and has always been young for his league at every level. Third baseman Mauricio Ramos hit his first and second homers of 2017 this week.

RHP Miguel Almonte started on Thursday, and delivered six solid innings. He allowed one run on five hits, with seven Ks and no walks. 22-year-old right-hander Zach Lovvorn turned in another good start on Sunday, giving up just a run on five hits in six innings. Lovvorn has a 1.90 ERA in four starts (23.2 IP) with 20 strikeouts and four walks.

In a column formatted like this one, it is often hard to know when exactly to feature relievers. The nature of relief pitching does not lend itself well to the “who had a good week?” format. Other times, it’s easy. Example: Jake Newberry hasn’t given up a run yet this season. In nine innings across five outings, he has allowed only eight base runners.

A-Adv. Wilmington Blue Rocks (7-10)

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Wilmington only won two games this week, but three starting pitchers offered solid starts to the cause:

Scott Blewett: 6.0 IP | 6 H | 0 R | 0 ER | 3 BB | 5 K | Game Score: 62
Foster Griffin: 6.0 IP | 2 H | 0 R | 0 ER | 3 BB | 4 K | Game Score: 69
A.J. Puckett: 7.0 IP | 3 H | 0 R | 0 ER | 1 BB | 8 K | Game Score: 78

Here’s Puckett on that game, from MiLB.com:

"My main goal was to attack the zone and force contact. So when you do that, some hits are going to happen. I think, at the end of the day, if I give up a couple of hits and no runs and no walks, I'll be happy with that. When you walk guys and give up free bases, I think that's what hurts you most as a pitcher. Let the guys swing the bat and let them get themselves out.”

Two standouts in the Blue Rocks lineup this week were outfielder Elier Hernandez and shortstop Nicky Lopez. Hernandez chipped in 10 hits, including a homer, three doubles, and his first triple of the year. The 22-year-old is in his third stint with Wilmington. He played 50 games for the Blue Rocks in 2015, and then all of 2016. Lopez doubled twice as part of an 8-for-24 week at the plate. He was drafted in the fifth round last summer out of Creighton University.

Low-A Lexington Legends (7-11)

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First baseman Chris DeVito was drafted in the eighth round in 2016 from the University of New Mexico. He reported to Burlington for the summer, and was promoted to Lexington to start this season. This week, his 11 hits led the Legends. He hit three home runs and three doubles, driving in nine runs.

Like Wilmington, the Legends starting rotation produced three great starts this week:
Jace Vines: 6.0 IP | 3 H | 0 R | 0 ER | 1 BB | 4 K | Game Score: 69
Gerson Garabito: 6.0 IP | 2 H | 0 R | 0 ER | 2 BB | 6 K | Game Score: 72
Andre Davis: 7.0 IP | 3 H | 0 R | 0 ER | 0 BB | 8 K | Game Score: 79

The Royals drafted Davis, a left-hander, in the 8th round in 2015 from Arkansas-Pine Bluff.