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TWitM: Bubba Starling is at it again

This Week in the Minors: Bubba Starling’s buncha bombs in the air; Jackson Kowar great in AA; the return of Kyle Isbel

Bubba Starling looking all patriotic on Independence Day.
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, July 1 through Sunday, July 7.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (42-48)

schedule | roster

Omaha finished off their first half with four straight wins at home. From this extremely biased observer’s standpoint, that ruled. The mood around the dugout at the end of the first half is always happy as players look forward to trips home, or even simply relaxing and doing things like going to the zoo.

Bubba Starling is Omaha’s lone all-star, and finished his first half with a solid week at the plate. Starling went 9-for-27 with two homers and a double, plus two walks versus six strikeouts. Both homers came in the same game, and the second one was a grand slam.

Middle infielder Jecksson Flores also clocked in with nine hits this week, including a double and a home run.

Outfielder Brett Phillips leads Omaha in triples, and added two more this week for a total of nine on the season. Utilityman Erick Mejia also tripled twice this week as part of an 8-for-25 effort. Also, Mejia dances in the dugouts before games.

Ryan O’Hearn was 6-for-18 in five games this week, including two homers. He was robbed of an additional homer on Saturday. Catcher Nick Dini hit two dingers and a double in his four games.

Jake Kalish got the start on Independence Day, and put up seven shutout innings with just 97 pitches. He allowed four hits and two walks, and struck out a pair. This was Kalish’s longest outing of the year, either as starting pitcher or following an opener, and the Game Score of 69 was a season high as well.

Kyle Zimmer opened twice this week and came out of the bullpen once, and did not allow any runs in either role. He struck out three in his two-inning open at Round Rock, and was perfect in a one-inning open on Sunday at home.

Reliever Scott Barlow pitched twice since his demotion from Kansas City, and put up two outings of two scoreless innings apiece.

Foster Griffin was pulled from a road start after taking a line drive off his leg in the first inning. My understanding is that the ball hit his extremely upper, inner thigh, but not THERE. But still, ouch. Griffin is now on the 7-day IL.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (39-45)

schedule | roster

Jackson Kowar! That’s it, that’s the update.

Over on the Naturals offe—

Wait no, back to Jackson Kowar. Kowar pitched 6 13 shutout innings on Friday, with seven strikeouts and one walk. He allowed four hits, all singles, in his third start at Double-A.

OK, now some bats. Second baseman Gabriel Cancel was on fire this week. He hit two doubles and a homer among a total of 11 dollars at Taco Bell hits. He also walked three times, was plunked once, and stole a base, but also struck out nine times.

Nick Heath covered so much ground to make this catch, on the same night he hit two home runs.

Catcher Meibrys Viloria went 8-for-20 with three doubles in five games played.

A-Adv. Wilmington Blue Rocks (53-33)

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A couple of higher-round draft picks from 2018 had good showings in a doubleheader on Friday. In the first game, 2nd rounder Jonathan Bowlan struck out 7 and walked none in a six-inning effort. Two runs scored on five hits, including a solo homer.

In game two, 5th rounder Austin Cox, a lefty, threw five shutout innings with four strikeouts. He gave up only three hits, walked two and plunked one. This was his third start since his promotion to Wilmington.

The last time reliever Tad Ratliff gave up a run, it was still May. That is a 12-appearance streak, in which the righty Ratliff has struck out 12 and walked five. Left-hander Josh Dye is on a bit of a streak as well, with four consecutive shutout outings totaling 5 23 innings.

1B/3B Dennicher Carrasco doubled three times among a 9-for-24 week with two walks and five strikeouts. Outfielder Brewer Hicklen also punched in nine hits this week, including three doubles, a triple, and a homer.

In encouraging news, center fielder Kyle Isbel is on a rehab assignment in Arizona. (In keeping with editorial standards, I did not end that sentence with forty exclamation points, but I really wanted to.) Isbel has been out since mid-April, but is returning sans one hamate bone no worse for the wear. His first two at-bats in Arizona were a homer and a double, and he homered again the next night.

Low-A Lexington Legends (43-44)

schedule | roster

Reed Rohlman had exclusively played first base for Lexington all season, except for three games at DH. But this week, he was also moved around to left field for a game, and right field for two. The variety did not slow down Rohlman’s bat, as he drove in eight runs with an 11-for-25 showing. At 24, Rohlman is the oldest of Lexington’s hitters, having been drafted from Clemson University in 2017.

The other 24-year-old in the Legends lineup is catcher Freddy Fermin, who went 6-for-16 this week with two doubles and two homers.

* * * * * * * *

Did you go to any Minor League games this week? Who stood out to you? Any wacky ballpark promotions? Any good fireworks shows? The Independence Day fireworks in Omaha were spectacular, even for this grizzled veteran of one bajillion baseball fireworks shows.