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TWitM: Kyle Zimmer becomes an opener

This Week in the Minors: a new role for Zimmer? Strong outings from all three 1st round draftees of 2018 in Wilmington.

The Storm Chasers have toyed with the “opener” role for pitchers, including Kyle Zimmer.
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 29 through Sunday, May 5.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (13-17)

schedule | roster

Kyle Zimmer pitched well in two roles this week: on Thursday, he came out of the bullpen for 1 23 scoreless, hitless innings. Sunday, he was used as Omaha’s “opener,” and pitched two scoreless, hitless innings.

We have noted in previous TWitM installments how rarely Nicky Lopez strikes out. This week, he struck out zero times, hit five singles, and walked eight (!) times in 26 plate appearances. Lopez also continued his campaign of absolute wizardry on defense:

Utility man Erick Mejia reached via hit eight times this week. Mejia, 24, has quietly assembled a .309/.414/.415 line this season while playing defense at 2B, SS, 3B, and CF.

Fellow utility infielder Humberto Arteaga is on another hit streak, this one for nine games.

A note about the offense in the Pacific Coast League: after the league switched to the same baseballs as MLB, PCL hitters have combined for 668 (!!!!) home runs in 30ish games so far this season. Everyone is socking dingers left and right - except Omaha. The Storm Chasers are last in the PCL in home runs, with 21. The El Paso Chihuahuas lead the league with 71.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (11-18)

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Northwest Arkansas’s lone win this week came on the strength of a fantastic start from right-hander Jace Vines. Vines pitched seven innings, with one run surrendered on two hits and two hit batters. He struck out five and walked none.

Two Naturals relievers are on some stellar streaks: Lefty Gabe Speier has not given up a run in his last seven appearances, totaling eight innings. In that time, Speier has struck out 10, walked three, and surrendered just four singles and a HBP. Right-hander Franco Terrero has put up 6 13 shutout innings in his last five appearances.

The offense was led by 3B Emmanuel Rivera’s 7-for-19 week, which included one of each kind of extra base hit. Middle infielder Gabriel Cancel also had seven hits, including two doubles.

A-Adv. Wilmington Blue Rocks (18-12)

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Let’s talk about some 2018 first round draft picks:

  • Daniel Lynch picked up a W in seven shutout innings on Thursday, with five strikeouts and no walks. He allowed one earned run by way of a solo home run. This was the longest start of Lynch’s pro career so far.
  • Brady Singer was solid the next night. Singer went five innings, with seven strikeouts and one walk. He allowed two runs on three hits. By Game Score, it the best game of Singer’s young career.
  • Jackson Kowar worked around seven hits to come up with 6 23 shutout innings on Saturday. All seven hits were singles. Kowar struck out seven and walked one.

In the Blue Rocks bullpen, right-handers Tad Ratliff and Tyler Zuber were excellent this week. Ratliff picked up his 7th and 8th saves, which leads the Carolina League and is one shy of the leader of all minor leagues. Zuber pitched a pair of two-inning, no-hit appearances.

Left fielder Brewer Hicklen had six hits in six games, with six walks and six strikeouts. Six everything! He also stole four bases and was caught stealing twice.

Low-A Lexington Legends (14-15)

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Righty Charlie Neuweiler struck out nine and did not walk anyone in his seven-inning start on Thursday. He gave up three earned runs on six hits, which did include a home run. The nine strikeouts tied a career high for the 20-year-old Neuweiler.

Do you want to see a funky slash line? Don’t answer out loud; we all know the answer is yes. Third baseman Nathan Eaton compiled this beauty this week: .250/.429/.688. He only had four hits, but two of those were homers, and one was a double. And then he walked five times. Eaton also stole two bases this week.

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Did you go to any Minor League games this week? Who stood out to you? Any wacky ballpark promotions?