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TWitM: Naturals offense explodes

The Northwest Arkansas offense came up with 43 runs in six games this week.

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The Northwest Arkansas Naturals celebrate after a 10-9 walkoff win on Saturday.
John Owen

‘This Week in the Minors’ 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, May 7 through Sunday, May 13.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (13-24)

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A bright spot in a down week for Omaha was the Thursday performance by lefty Jonathan Dziedzic (pronounced Jeh-jik, by the way). The 27-year-old shut out Iowa for seven innings, with eight strikeouts and just one walk. It was certainly his best start of 2018, and a welcome sight after he lost much of the 2017 season to injury.

Right-hander Glenn Sparkman was promoted from Northwest Arkansas for Sunday’s game, and provided an immediate lift. Sparkman allowed one run on four hits in six innings at New Orleans, good enough for a win.

Veteran Major Leaguer Kyle Lohse had been pitching with Omaha, trying to prolong a long career. The results were not there in his two starts, so he traded his uniform for a ticket and a beer, apparently announcing retirement with an Instagram post.

At the plate, Hunter Dozier walked six times, struck out six times, and tallied seven hits in the week leading up to his Monday promotion to Kansas City. Dozier’s 24 walks on the season lead the Storm Chasers by a wide margin, and he is near the top of the Pacific Coast League in walks.

Catcher Cam Gallagher was the odd man out for the Royals when Salvador Perez rejoined the team a couple weeks ago, and is hitting well with Omaha. This week, he went 9-for-22 with a double.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (15-20)

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The Naturals went 5-1 this week, and it was almost all thanks to bats. The pitching staff gave up 33 runs over the course of the week, but the offense countered with 43. Second baseman Erick Mejia led the way with 7 RBI on 11 hits. Those hits included two doubles, a triple, and two home runs. Mejia, 23, also walked four times and struck out four times.

Shorstop Nicky Lopez had a neat streak of multi-hit games, with three two-hit games followed by a four-hit game. All told, Lopez tallied 11 hits, including a double and a triple. Lopez has a nice high .316 batting average on the year, buoyed almost entirely by singles. 37 of his 42 hits this year have been for one base. His 19 walks lead the team, and he has only struck out 15 times all year, less by far than any other regular on the Naturals.

Center fielder Donnie Dewees dropped in 10 hits this week, including two doubles. Right fielder Elier Hernandez hit his first home run of 2018 this week as part of an 8-for-21 week. 3B/LF Jecksson Flores has hit in nine straight games, with a dozen hits in that span — all singles.

A-Adv. Wilmington Blue Rocks (15-21)

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Do you want to see a fun batting line? Right fielder Kort Peterson put this one up this week: .542/.577/.875/1.452. He went 13-for-24 with three doubles, a triple, and a home run. He did not walk, but reached base two extra times by getting plunked.

Center fielder Khalil Lee had a good week at the plate in a week that also included being featured in a piece by Rustin Dodd at The Athletic. Lee came up with eight hits and three walks, and struck out just five times.

Bryan Brickhouse added two more scoreless outings, and two saves this week.

Elsewhere in Wilmington relievers putting up zeroes, right-hander Matthew Wynne added another pair of scoreless outings this week. He gave up one run in the first game of the season, but none in ten appearances since then.

Low-A Lexington Legends (17-17)

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Velocity isn’t everything, but the mid-90s fastball of 21-year-old Carlos Hernandez worked well for Lexington on Saturday. Hernandez struck out nine batters in five innings, and the only batter who hit against him was erased on a double play.

The next night, left-hander Garrett Davila turned in a solid seven innings. He struck out five, walked one, and allowed one run on a solo homer, and three other hits. It was the first seven-inning start of 2018 for Davila, and the second of his career.

Daniel Tillo followed up last week’s 10-strikeout performance with another good start. He went seven innings, scattering three runs and seven hits among six strikeouts and no walks. He did give up two dingers, though.

Left fielder Brewer Hicklen was a 7th-round draft pick in the 2017 draft. He played in all six games this week, and had hits in all of them. He totaled nine hits, including two home runs and his first two doubles of the year. Catcher Sebastian Rivero also had nine hits, but he did it in five games. Rivero hit a home run and a pair of doubles, and is batting .333/.365/.526 on the season.

First base prospect Nick Pratto went 7-for-24 this week, with a double and two home runs. That keeps him in second on the team leaderboard in home runs, and the top spot still firmly belongs to Seuly Matias. Matias only had three hits in five games this week, but all three were homers. He also walked five times.