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TWitM: Northwest Arkansas hunting for first-half title

Soler Power returns to Omaha

Corey Ray’s complete-game shutout was the first by a Natural since July of 2014.
John Owen

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

Today, we’ll cover results from Monday, June 5 through Sunday, June 11.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (32-29)

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We will kick of this week with a career milestone: center fielder Terrance Gore hit the first home run of his professional career. Props to the longtime voice of Chasers, Mark Nasser, for the call here:

Another Gore highlight, because players listed at 5’7” shouldn’t be able to rob home runs like this:

Outfielder Jorge Soler joined the Chasers’ lineup on Monday after a demotion from Kansas City. He only had six hits in seven games this week, but five (!) were home runs and the other was a double. Do you think and .846 slugging percentage is sustainable?

Rounding out the Omaha outfield, Bubba Starling muscled out two doubles and two home runs this week. After a disastrous April, Starling has pulled his season line up to .239/.289/.353.

Shortstop Raul Mondesi continued to be a big contributor for the Storm Chasers, with a homer and three doubles among his eight hits this week. With Omaha, Mondesi is hitting .314/.355/.536.

RHP Miguel Almonte made his first start for Omaha of 2017 on Monday, and struck out eight in five shutout innings. On Thursday, fellow righty Luke Farrell struck out a season-high 10 batters with no walks in 6.2 innings. He allowed a pair of runs on seven hits.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (32-29 | 1st place | 1 game lead)

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Right-handed starting pitcher Corey Ray, 24, threw a complete game shutout on Thursday against divisional rival Arkansas. Ray struck out four and walked zero, and only needed 88 pitches to accomplish this feat.

Lefty Foster Griffin followed that up with an excellent start the next night. Griffin allowed just one run on three hits in seven innings.

First baseman Samir Duenez turned 21 on Sunday, and had a four-hit game to celebrate.

That game was part of a nine-hit week for Duenez, including his team-leading 8th home run of the season.

Catcher Nick Dini is still hitting well after his promotion to the Naturals, adding eight more hits in four games this week. Up in Omaha, Cam Gallagher has returned from the Disabled List, which may trigger Parker Morin being sent back to Northwest Arkansas to be the everyday catcher. It is not clear whether Dini will stay on the roster in favor of Luis Villegas. Zane Evans is no longer in the mix behind the plate, but instead will be converting to pitching.

Center fielder Donnie Dewees had another solid week, going 9-for-23 with a double and two home runs.

A-Adv. Wilmington Blue Rocks (33-29 | 3rd place | 5.5 GB)

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Six Blue Rocks have been named to the Carolina League All-Star team - shortstop Nicky Lopez, outfielder Anderson Miller, and pitchers Cristian Castillo, Yunior Marte, Foster Griffin, and Richard Lovelady.

Chase Vallot is one of the best 20-year-olds in the minors, according to our Shaun Newkirk. And the young catching prospect added three doubles and two home runs this week, plus six walks.

Outfielder Anderson Miller hit three doubles and walked six times this week. Miller has had a good season, hitting .277/.367/.429, and his seven home runs are tied for first on the team with Vallot.

Right fielder Kort Peterson was promoted to Wilmington this week, and has three hits in his first three games with the Blue Rocks.

Lefty Colin Rodgers pitched five shutout innings on Thursday against Buies Creek (HOU). The Astros put three runs up in the following two innings, but then three Wilmington relievers combined for eight shutout frames to hold the fort for a Blue Rocks win in 15. Justin Camp and Richard Lovelady each pitched two innings, then Franco Terrero handled things from the 12th through the 15th. It was Lovelady’s 10th straight scoreless appearance.

Low-A Lexington Legends (30-33 | 5th place | 7.5 GB)

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Shortstop Angelo Castellano drove (conducted?) the singles train this week, with zero of his 11 hits going for extra bases.

Center fielder Khalil Lee hit a pair of dingers this week, his 9th and 10th of the year. Lee is one away from the team lead in homers, trailing only 1B Chris DeVito, who has been promoted to Wilmington. Lee leads the Legends in walks with 26, but is also tops on the team in strikeouts with a jaw-dropping 82. That figure also outpaces everyone in the league.

Third baseman Emmanuel Rivera, 20, hit his 5th homer of the year as part of his 8-for-27 week. Rivera was a 19th round pick in 2015 from Puerto Rico.


Can Jorge Soler’s flash of Triple-A power ever translate back to the Majors? What would you do with the catcher situation at Northwest Arkansas? And as always - have you been to any MiLB games this week?