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TWitM: Gabriel Cancel on XBH binge

This Week in the Minors: Gabriel Cancel piles up extra bases for Omaha, Vinnie Pasquantino with 12 hits, an instant classic game for QC, and Columbia’s first walk-off homer is a grand one.

‘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, June 22 through Sunday, June 27.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (32-15)

schedule | roster

The Storm Chasers were slightly stymied this week by the last place Iowa Cubs, settling for a series split. But! The Chasers were still the first team in all of the Minors to reach the 30-win threshold, and they hold a 7-game division lead heading into the second half of their two-week road trip.

Marcelo Martinez pitched well in his second Triple-A start, allowing just one run via solo homer in five innings, with six strikeouts and one walk. Daniel Lynch followed that the next day with five shutout innings. Lynch allowed four hits and three walks, but kept them off the board thanks to seven strikeouts and eight well-timed groundouts.

In relief, Jake Kalish had an outstanding week. In two outings, Kalish totaled 4 13 perfect innings, with nine (!) strikeouts. Speaking of great relief, Richard Lovelady added a no-hit outing of 1 13 innings to his ledger. Lovelady has not allowed a hit in his last five appearances.

Each of the above-named pitchers is left-handed, which is a neat coincidence.

Outfielder Edward Olivares has not lost a step despite being juggled back and forth from the Royals to the Chasers. This week, he piled up 9 hits which included a double and two homers. He also stole three bases in four attempts.

Fellow outfielder Anderson Miller powered up for three home runs this week, including a grand slam.

First baseman Ryan McBroom drew five walks to supplement his six-hit week, but this was his first week without a home run all season for Omaha. Second baseman Gabriel Cancel drove in 10 runs while going 6-for-24. Those hits were almost all for extra bases: three doubles, his first triple of the season, and his 11th home run.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (22-23)

schedule | roster

The Naturals seem perpetually stuck at a game under .500. Some other teams in the division have started to pull away, so the Naturals will have to start catching fire in order to hang in the standings. Remember, the season is not split into halves as it typically is, due to the pandemic-shortened schedule. This week’s series was a 3-3 split with the Arkansas Travelers (SEA).

Center fielder Dairon Blanco led the way for the Naturals at the plate, going 8-for-17 with two doubles and four stolen bases. RF Rudy Martin drove in six runs with his six hits, and also walked five times, scored seven runs, and stole three bases.

MJ Melendez split his games evenly between catcher and DH as usual, and went 6-for-23 with two homers and a double. He struck out 7 times and walked twice. Shortstop Bobby Witt, Jr. also finished the week with six hits, and timed them all well enough to wind up with 8 RBI. We have two Witt highlights this week, because he does it all. First up:

And then, this looooong home run:

First baseman Nick Pratto hit his 13th homer of the season, along with a triple and a pair of doubles. Pratto’s slash line on the season is .283/.414/.616.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (31-15)

schedule | roster

The River Bandits went 4-and-2 over the Beloit Snappers (MIA) this week, and maintained their six-game lead in the division.

First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino* hit absolutely everything this week, with 12 (!) hits that included three doubles, a triple, and two home runs. You may have heard all of this when Pasquantino got a shoutout on last night’s Royals broadcast.

*spell check always suggests “Quantitation” here. Close!

Nick Loftin was also excellent at the plate, going 8-for-26 with two doubles and two triples. Loftin mainly plays shortstop, but also mixes in time at 2nd base and has even played a pair of games at the hot corner.

Center fielder John Rave rejoined the team this week, and one of his 7 total hits was the spark that the team needed to avoid falling victim to a perfect game.

Third baseman Jake Means kept up the solid hitting in week two at his new level, smacking two more homers as well as a pair of doubles, and two singles to round all that out.

Right-hander Zach Haake followed up last week’s no-hit six innings with a solid five innings of shutout ball. Haake struck out five, walked one, and gave up four singles. Prospect Asa Lacy tied a season high with 9 strikeouts in his Sunday start, with just one run allowed on one hit and three walks.

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (25-19)

schedule | roster

The Fireflies split a home series against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (CHC) this week. Meanwhile, first-place Charleston (TBR) has only lost twice in the past two series, so the gap between first and second place is now five games.

A 5-for-20 week is perfectly fine, but would not always get mentioned in this space. That’s how outfielder Darryl Collins fared this week. But Collins had one hit in particular that counted big-time:

Shortstop Maikel Garcia may have only had three hits in 24 plate appearances this week, but he still came away with a .417 OBP thanks to the 7 walks and one intentional walk that he drew. And in all that time he spent on base, he was a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts.

Herard Gonzalez doubled twice and hit his first triple of the season this week, part of a 7-hit effort in five games. The second baseman’s slugging percentage of .442 leads the team, now that Jake Means is up in Quad Cities.

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Did you go to any minor league games this week? Who stood out to you? With the draft coming up, who would you promote - bearing in mind that players can NOT skip Triple-A on the way to the Majors this year?