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TWiTM: Jackson Kowar piles up the Ks

Prospect Kowar is up to 22 Ks on the young season

A pitcher in mid-delivery, throwing toward the left side of the picture. His bottom half is in dark shadows, but his upper half and face are in bright sun. His uniform top and pants are both white, with a blue cap.
Jackson Kowar pitching in Omaha
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 Tuesday, May 11 through Sunday, May 16.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (8-4)

schedule | roster

The Storm Chasers finish the week in first place of the AAA-East’s Midwest Division. (Do we want to talk about the geographical swing Omaha made in the realignment? Their league name went from the “Pacific Coast” to the “East.” Where IS Omaha?!) Their opponent was the Columbus Clippers. Cleveland’s affiliate.

Right-handed starter Jackson Kowar piled up another 8 strikeouts in his Saturday start, bringing his season total to 22 Ks in 15.2 innings.

RHP Eddie Butler has made a solid first impression on his new club, shutting out opposing hitters in four innings across his first three relief appearances. The only baserunners he has allowed came via a walk and a single on Friday.

Another reliever putting up goose eggs this week is lefty Gabe Speier, who actually maintains a 0.00 ERA on the season. Speier has only been called upon twice per week so far, but has allowed only three baserunners in 5.1 total innings. He also picked up a pair of saves this week at Columbus.

Rehabbing with the Storm Chasers this week were pitchers Jesse Hahn and Kyle Zimmer. Hahn has thrown 1.2 scoreless frames split between two games, and Zimmer has struck out four batters in 2.2 frames in his two games. Zimmer also, at long last, faced his brother Bradley in a professional game.

Catcher Meibrys Viloria has split playing time with Freddy Fermin, but the days off in between plate appearances are not slowing him down at all. After going hitless on opening day, Viloria has hit in each of his last seven games. During that streak, Viloria is 11-for-26 with three walks and 10 strikeouts. He also hit one of Omaha’s three homers in a 1-run win on Wednesday.

Also homering in Wednesday’s game was Edward Olivares, whose 9th inning homer gave the Chasers a lead that would hold for the win. Olivares drove in seven runs this week, on his way to a line of .292/.393/.625.

Bubba Starling has not played much this year yet, but he made his Sunday spot in the lineup count with a pair of homers. Shortsop Lucius Fox drew five walks in four games.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (5-6)

schedule | roster

The Naturals won the first two and then dropped four at home against the Tulsa Drillers (LAD affiliate).

While Bobby Witt, Jr. hit his first Double-A homer this week, a dinger I want to highlight is Rudy Martin’s grand slam on Tuesday. He had never visited dongtown with the bases loaded at any level of baseball in his life.

The homer was part of a .375/.524/.688 week for Martin.

First baseman Nick Pratto went 7-for-24, with hits in each of his last five games. Among those hits were a home run, a triple, and two doubles.

In a rehab assignment, Adalberto Mondesi hit a loooong homer to right field.

On Friday, the league honored right-hander Alec Marsh as pitcher of the week for the first week of the season. That night - which was also Marsh’s 23rd birthday - here’s how his first handful of innings went:

  • groundout
  • strikeout swinging
  • strikeout looking
  • lineout
  • strikeout swinging
  • groundout
  • strikeout swinging
  • strikeout swinging
  • strikeout looking
  • strikeout swinging

After that, he ran into some trouble, giving up four runs. But the first 3.1 innings followed his 5 no-hit innings last week. Marsh picked up two more strikeouts after the runs scored against him, giving him 11 on the night and 20 in his first two starts combined.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (8-3)

schedule | roster

Quad Cities won 5 out of 6 against the Cedar Rapids Kernels, affiliate of the Twins, to take first place in their division.

Left-hander Drew Parrish pitched 5.1 shutout innings on Wednesday, allowing just two hits and two walks. He struck out five and induced five ground balls.

Righty reliever Jonah Dipoto added five shutout innings to maintain a 0.00 ERA in four games this season so far. He picked up a save and a win in this week’s appearances. Zach Haake got a W with four shutout innings on Thursday. He struck out 7, and allowed just one walk and one single.

Neat: lefty Angel Zerpa has 7 strikeouts in each of his first three starts.

Here’s Jeison Guzman outfoxing the entire Kernels infield in a rundown:

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (6-6)

schedule | roster

At this time last week, the Fireflies were 3-3, and after a home series against Charleston (Tampa Bay affiliate) they remain .500 with a 6-6 record.

With a team-high 7 hits this week was shortstop Maikel Garcia. Garcia also drew 6 walks, leaving him with an OBP of .565.

A trio of Fireflies came up with six hits:

  • catcher Kale Emshoff tripled once and doubled twice, with 6 RBI
  • RF Juan Carlos Negret drove in 9 (!) runs, with his hits including a pair of homers
  • CF/SS Brady McConnell homered and doubled

Streak alert! Center fielder Diego Hernandez has hit in his last 7 games, with 11 total hits.

Utility man Tyler Tolbert stole 5 bases in 6 games this week, with a 100% success rate.

Left-hander A.J. Block struck out 8 in 4 no-hit innings on Thursday.

From the bullpen, RHP Ismael Aquino is working on a shutout season, but it might be a bit of a highwire act - in 7.1 innings across five appearances, Aquino has struck out 11, but walked 8. But he has allowed only one hit!

Also with a season 0.00 ERA is lefty Walter Pennington, who has struck out 8 in his 3 appearances (4 innings total). He has allowed just one single and one hit batsman.

* * * * * * *

Did you go to any minor league games this week? Who stood out to you? What was the biggest change for you in the ballpark experience since the Before Times?