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TWitM: Naturals are first-half champs

The Naturals will be in the playoffs for the third straight year.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals clinched their first-half division title this week, securing a playoff spot.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals

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 12 through Sunday, June 18.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (34-33)

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This was yet another hot week for Raul Mondesi — 11 hits, including a double and a homer. The same goes for Jorge Soler, who hit a pair of dingers and a double among seven hits.

In 29 plate appearances this week, utility man Ruben Sosa was pretty much all or nothing: he had nine hits but also 12 strikeouts. That comes out to a .563 batting average on balls in play, for those keeping score at home. Catcher Cam Gallagher was on a five-game hit streak before missing some time with an injury, but resumed the streak with four more games this week.

Kyle Zimmer is a reliever now, but at least he is a very good one. This week he returned from the disabled list with a pair of two-inning shutout performances.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (37-31)

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The Naturals punched a ticket to the postseason on Saturday behind a strong start from Emilio Ogando. Tulsa scored just one against Ogando in seven innings, with four strikeouts and one walk.

Right-hander Zach Lovvorn pitched a solid game on Friday, allowing just four hits in 6.2 shutout innings. Reliever Tim Hill is on a great run out of the Naturals bullpen. In his last four appearances dating back to June 7, Hill has pitched 9.1 innings with zero runs allowed on just three hits and two walks. He has 13 strikeouts.

Catcher Nick Dini has hit in each of his last eight games, and 12 of the 13 games he has played since his promotion to Northwest Arkansas. Dini, 23, was a 14th-round draft pick in 2015 out of Wagner College in Staten Island. First baseman Samir Duenez socked his team-leading ninth home run this week. LF/2B Corey Toups played in just five games, but cranked out nine hits, including two homers and three doubles. Toups is back in Northwest Arkansas this month after opening the season up at Omaha.

A-Adv. Wilmington Blue Rocks (39-31)

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Despite a good record and a strong week, Wilmington missed out on the first half title. Lynchburg (CLE) claimed those honors. Outfielder Anderson Miller picked up a dozen hits to help fuel the Blue Rocks six-game win streak this week. Miller’s .384 OBP leads the team. Right fielder Kort Peterson went 8-for-22 this week, including his first home run with Wilmington. Peterson, 23, was promoted from Lexington on June 9.

Chris DeVito hit a home run and drove in seven runs this week, part of a 10-hit week. Since his May 11 promotion from Lexington, DeVito is hitting .286/.333/.479.

Five different starting pitchers had starts good enough to feature:

Pitcher Date IP H R ER BB SO GSc
A.J. Puckett 6/14/17 6.1 2 0 0 1 9 77
Cristian Castillo 6/15/17 8.0 3 0 0 1 4 79
Scott Blewett 6/16/17 6.0 2 0 0 3 10 75
Andres Machado 6/18/17 5.0 4 1 1 1 7 61
Jared Ruxer 6/18/17 (2) 5.0 1 0 0 1 6 70

Reliever Richard Lovelady still has not allowed a run in a dozen appearances since May 1. He was called upon twice more this week, pitching 3.1 and 2.0 innings without allowing any hits or walks. He struck out five and three, respectively.

Low-A Lexington Legends (34-35)

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Second baseman John Brontsema found himself touching home plate a lot this week, with 10 runs scored for the Legends. He also led the team with 11 hits, including three doubles and his 2nd homer of the summer. Brontsema was a late-round draftee last summer from UC Irvine, and is hitting .366/.438/.535 in his first three weeks with Lexington.

Outfielder Marten Gasparini drove in an eye-popping 14 runs this week, on the strength of 10 hits, including four doubles, two triples, and a home run. Third baseman Emmanuel Rivera homered twice this week, bringing his season total to seven. The 20-year-old from Puerto Rico is hitting .300/.344/.456 through 60 games.

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Would you promote any of the five Wilmington starters who had great games this week? What do you make of Zimmer’s move to the bullpen? Should those relief appearances be happening with Omaha or Kansas City?

As always: Did you go to any minor league games this week?