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TWitM: Omaha win streak up to 8

This Week in the Minors, reliever Gabe Speier maintains a spotless ERA; MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto keep up their hot hitting, and more.

A baseball player in a white uniform that reads “Storm Chasers #35” is standing, bending forward at the waist, looking intently off-camera with one hand behind his back and one hand wearing his baseball glove.
Lefty reliever Gabe Speier hasn’t allowed a run all season for 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 25 through Sunday, May 30.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (16-7)

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Omaha put up six Ws in six games this week, building up an 8-game winning streak and a 3.5-game lead over the next team in their division. The Indianapolis Indians (PIT) were the opponent.

Third baseman Emmanuel Rivera stepped up to lead the Omaha bats this week. His 10 hits included 4 doubles, a triple, and 2 homers. Second baseman Gabriel Cancel also powered up this week, coming up with 4 home runs as part of an 8-for-21 effort.

Outfielder Kyle Isbel reached base 11 times, and while he was there he went 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts. He also hit his first Triple-A home run. Isbel also drove in the winning run in Thursday night’s walkoff win.

After an 0-3 in his first game of the week, shortstop Alcides Escobar caught fire, going 10 for his next 14 with three doubles and two home runs.

Daniel Lynch pitched twice this week, with good results each time. On Tuesday, he gave up one run on five hits and a walk, with six strikeouts, in 5 23 innings. Lynch took the mound against Indy again on Sunday, throwing a high-effort five innings of shutout ball. It took him 91 pitches to get there, but he did strike 7 batters out. He walked two and allowed two singles.

Right-hander Ronald Bolaños did not get a decision in his 5 13 innings on Thursday, in which he struck out 8 and limited Indianapolis hitters to one run (a solo homer) on three hits.

Fellow prospect Jackson Kowar pitched on Friday amidst a flurry of speculation that he would be called up. He gutted his way through five innings, admitting in postgame comments that he didn’t have his best stuff. But he came up with a shutout, improving his record to 5-0.

RHP Jake Newberry had a great week out of the ‘pen, contributing a scoreless inning in each of his three appearances. Righty Grant Gavin was similarly solid, though one unearned run did score during one of his outings. Gavin struck out 7 in a total of 3 23 innings in three games.

But among relievers, no one on the Omaha staff is having quite the season that Gabe Speier is. Speier allowed a hit on Saturday, which is notable because he hadn’t given up one of those since his first outing back on May 6. Only four total batters have reached against him all season, and nobody has scored in any of his 10 outings. He has struck out 17, walked 1, and plunked two batters. That’s it.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (10-11)

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The Naturals won just two games against San Antonio (SD) this week, falling to below .500 for the season.

Catcher MJ Melendez picked up hits in each of his four games to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. In that streak, Melendez is hitting .381/.480/.690 with four homers, and as many walks as strikeouts (8 apiece).

Nick Pratto is almost maintaining the 1:1 ratio of strikeouts and walks, which seems to be fueling a successful 2021 so far. This week, Pratto hit two home runs and two doubles as part of a 7-for-17 effort. He drew four walks against six strikeouts, for season totals of 19 and 21, respectively.

Bobby Witt, Jr. hit three home runs this week - and three of them were on Sunday.

Former first rounder Nolan Watson had Tommy John surgery in 2019, and has returned to the mound this season. This week, he was promoted to Double-A and threw a pair of long relief outings.

Righty Jon Heasley threw 6 23 shutout innings in a 7-inning game on Friday. He had a no-hitter going until the last batter he faced. LHP Robert Garcia finished out that 6-0 win for the Naturals, his third scoreless appearance out of three total games this season.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (15-8)

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The River Bandits had a tough week on the road against the Dayton Dragons (CIN). Despite their four losses, Quad Cities is still in first place in their division.

LHP Angel Zerpa threw another gem on Saturday, striking out seven and walking just one in five shutout innings. He allowed just three hits, all singles, and picked up a W.

Leading the QC offense was Michael Massey, the 2nd baseman the Royals drafted in the 4th round in 2019. Massey went 9-for-21 this week with 3 doubles and his first homer of the season.

Nathan Eaton, who has been splitting his playing time between 3B and LF, homered twice and doubled twice as part of his 8-hit week. Third baseman Jimmy Govern hit his first dinger of the season as part of a 5-for-12 effort in four games.

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (15-9)

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The Fireflies played their second series of the year against the Augusta GreenJackets (ATL) this week, and went 4-2 to maintain a tie for first place in the division.

Checking in with a truly pleasing batting line of .400/.500/.600 this week was shortstop Maikel Garcia, who drew 4 walks in addition to his 8 hits. His partner in the middle infield, Herard Gonzalez, also had a productive week at the plate. Gonzalez went 5-for-13, plus two walks, and a pair of stolen bases.

Center fielder Diego Hernandez stole 4 bases this week. Third baseman Jake Means drew six walks this week, to give him a team-leading 17 on the season.

Catcher Kale Emshoff hit the first homer of his pro career on Tuesday.

19-year-old LF Darryl Collins went 6-for-20 this week, and also got hit by two pitches. Collins is hitting .310/.410/.394 on the season.

Left-hander Rylan Kaufman contributed four shutout innings to Wednesday’s win, allowing just one hit and zero walks, while striking out six. Adrian Alcantara matched those four scoreless frames in the next day’s start, allowing no hits and one walk, with two strikeouts.

In the lower minors, pitchers don’t always have a defined role. Take Emilio Marquez, for example. The lefty started on Wednesday, and struck out five in four shutout innings. On Sunday, he was called upon out of the bullpen to stop the bleeding with two outs in a 9th inning where Augusta had already scored 3 runs.

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Did you go to any minor league games this week? Who stood out to you? Did you get any cool giveaway items or meet any mascots?