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TWitM: Nicky Lopez rests his case

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This Week in the Minors: Nicky Lopez did all he could to convince the Royals to call him up - which happened!

What has two thumbs and got a promotion? THIS GUY
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, May 6 through Sunday, May 12.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (16-21)

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Middle infielder Nicky Lopez put the finishing touches on his case for promotion to the Majors this week, going 10-for-21 with two doubles and a home run, plus five walks. He stole four bases but was caught once. Lopez did strike out twice, which is a good week for most hitters but uncharacteristic for him as those were just his fourth and fifth strikeouts of the season.

Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio started this season on a prolonged cold streak, but his bat has returned. This week, Boni piled up nine hits, which included two doubles and four (!) homers. Cheslor Cuthbert has been mostly used as a first baseman and DH this season, as opposed to his old home at third base. He hit a pair of dingers and two doubles this week, as part of an 8-for-26 effort.

First baseman Samir Dueñez was promoted to Omaha this week. He only has one hit in his first four games, but it was a mighty dinger, over 400 feet.

And now the time has come for a ridiculous Bubba Starling defensive highlight:

By the way, Bubba is batting .347/.387/.455.

Righty Josh Staumont was used as an “opener” twice this week. In the first, a pair of unearned runs scored following a fielding error on the infield and a subsequent error of Staumont’s own as he tried to pick that runner off. In the second, Staumont went two scoreless innings at Iowa and allowed just one baserunner, on a walk.

Sidearm reliever Tim Hill was excellent in three relief appearances, allowing no runs on two hits in a total of 2 23 innings.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (13-22)

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Lefty J.C. Cloney was promoted to Northwest Arkansas this week, and opened his Naturals career with six shutout innings. He struck out three, allowed three hits, and walked nobody.

Left fielder Kort Peterson went 7-for-21 this week. Of those hits, one was a double and two left the park. Center fielder Nick Heath returned from the Injured List, and stole five bases in his first two games back.

A-Adv. Wilmington Blue Rocks (20-15)

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Left-hander Daniel Tillo set a new career best in his start this week, going for eight innings in a win at Salem. He did allow five hits, plunk two batters and walk one, but limited the damage to two runs.

Tillo left that game with Wilmington holding a one run lead, which was held in the 9th by lefty Marcelo Martinez. He struck out three of the four batters he faced, while one reached on a fielding error behind him. Martinez then made a solid six-inning start on Saturday, allowing just one run (by way of solo homer) on six hits in six innings. He struck out three and issued no walks.

Only tangentially baseball related: Do you know Mr. Celery, the Blue Rocks run-celebration tradition? He makes an appearance in this highlight of Cristian Perez causing chaos on the basepaths.

While we do typically highlight good performances in this space and leave struggling players alone, I have such concern about the offense of right fielder Seuly Matias. Through 33 games this season, Matias is batting just .164/.279/.400. More alarming is the fact that he has struck out a league-leading 59 times, against 15 walks.

Low-A Lexington Legends (17-18)

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On Sunday, left-hander Austin Cox, 22, went a career-best seven innings. He allowed zero runs, zero walks, and struck out eight, while allowing just a trio of singles. By game score, it was by far the best start of Cox’s pro career, which began after the Royals drafted him in the 5th round in 2018.

Righty Charlie Neuweiler also pitched a great game this week, with an eight-inning, nine-strikeout performance on Wednesday. He allowed to earned runs on three hits - all doubles - and walked one batter. Neuweiler just turned 20 in February, making him the youngest Lexington pitcher.

Relief appearances of note: Left-handed pitcher Josh Dye pitched three perfect innings on Saturday, with five strikeouts. Righty Kyle Hinton pitched two perfect innings with three Ks on Monday, followed by a perfect inning with one strikeout on Friday.

Here’s a fun clip of a walkoff hit by shortstop Jeison Guzman:

Injury note: Righty Zach Haake has not pitched since his 95-pitch, 12-strikeout game back on April 27. His next probable turn in the rotation would have been roughly May 5, but did not make that start and was placed on the 7-day IL effective May 6.

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Did you go to any Minor League games this week? Who stood out to you? Any wacky ballpark promotions? After the Nicky Lopez promotion, who will be the next to get the call?