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TWitM: Nicky Lopez won’t stop hitting

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This Week in the Minors, Nicky Lopez hitting like crazy, lots of great pitching in Lexington, lots more.

After a sluggish start to 2019, Nicky Lopez has hit a whole bunch, while playing slick defense up the middle.
Minda Haas Kuhlmann

‘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, April 15 through Sunday, April 21.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (9-8)

schedule | roster

Nicky Lopez started the season with zero hits in the first four games. In the 11 games since then, he is hitting like his hair is on fire, with a .396/.420/.625 line and a 1.045 OPS. Another fun Nicky Lopez fact is that he has only struck out two times all season.

ALSO, defense:

Another Omaha bat on fire this week was Cheslor Cuthbert, who went 10-for-26 with two doubles and two homers. Also checking in with a pair of doubles and homers was outfielder Bubba Starling, who was 8-for-23 this week. Starling also walked thrice and struck out eight times.

Utilityman Erick Mejia did not strike out at all in 30 plate appearances this week, and drew six walks. Third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez has reached base in all 15 games he has played at Triple-A.

The Storm Chasers got a very nice game out of Scott Blewett on Saturday: 6 23 innings with two runs allowed on three hits and a walk. He also struck out 10 batters and amassed a game score of 69 per Baseball-Reference.

Lefty Jake Kalish started the season with Northwest Arkansas, but joined the Storm Chasers during their New Orleans road trip this week. In his first game back at Triple-A, Kalish struck out five and walked one in 3 23 scoreless innings. He allowed three hits but since they all stayed off the board, Kalish was awarded the save in that Omaha win.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (8-9)

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Right-hander Ofreidy Gomez had the best start among Naturals pitchers this week, when he threw seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts, one walk, and just two hits allowed. Gomez, 23, hails from Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic and has been with the Royals since he was signed in 2013.

This might be more of a Major League update than a Minors one, but Danny Duffy made a rehab start in Springdale on Saturday. Duffy struck out seven and issued no walks in 5 1/3 innings, with no earned runs allowed. He departed the game with a runner on first, and that runner scored later in the inning on an error. He threw 74 pitches, 49 for strikes.

Righty Connor Greene worked around five walks and three hits to put up six scoreless innings in his Friday start.

A bit of three-base trivia from NWA:

A-Adv. Wilmington Blue Rocks (11-7)

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Rough news for the Blue Rocks this week as center fielder Kyle Isbel hit the 7-day Injured List after leaving partway through the game on Wednesday. Isbel had been off to a great start, batting .348/.423/.630 in his first 13 games. Shaun Newkirk ranked Isbel as the #5 prospect in the Royals system in his most recent rankings.

Marten Gasparini is back in the middle infield after taking most of the last two seasons in the outfield. At second base on Saturday, he made this nifty play:

This is typically a space to highlight great accomplishments in the arbitrarily chosen confines of each week, but Seuly Matias striking out in 13 (!) of his 28 plate appearances this week merits a mention on outlandishness alone. That baker’s dozen strikeouts was accompanied by three hits: a double, a triple, and a homer.

Last week, we noted that right-handed reliever Tad Ratliff had recorded three saves in three chances. This time around, Ratliff added two more saves in two more tries. Do you think a 1:1 save to game ratio is sustainable?

Low-A Lexington Legends (10-6)

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Four Lexington starting pitchers had excellent games this week:

  1. RHP Zach Haake gave up one run on two hits in six innings, with no walks and eight strikeouts.
  2. LHP Kris Bubic followed up his dozen-strikeout game from last week with five shutout innings. He allowed one hit and two walks, and struck out eight.
  3. LHP Austin Cox allowed six hits but no earned runs in six innings. He struck out six and did not walk anyone.
  4. RHP Charlie Neuweiler threw six shutout innings, with six hits and one walk allowed. He struck out four.

The Legends’ bats this week were led by first baseman Reed Rohlmann, who went 11-for-25 with six doubles and a dinger. Rohlman was a late-round pick out of Clemson in the 2017 draft, and is playing in his first full-season action after spells with both Idaho Falls and Burlington.

Catcher Nick Hutchins collected six hits in his four games — and five of them were doubles. That was good for a .688 slugging percentage, in case you are curious.

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Have you been to any Minor League games yet this season? Who stood out to you?