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TWitM: three teams still in first

This Week in the Minors: home runs everywhere and in immaculate inning; 3 of 4 teams remain in first place

A hand clad in a white Franklin brand batting glove with silver accents points up in the air, and is the only thing visible against a distant backdrop of the green grass and brown dirt of a baseball diamond.
“We’re number one!” is a thing 3⁄4 of Kansas City’s affiliates can say.
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, June 1 through Sunday, June 6.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (21-8)

schedule | roster

Omaha won all but one game in this week’s home series against Iowa (CHC), extending their division lead over second-place Indianapolis (PIT) to six games. They won 11 out of 12 in a homestand that wrapped up with a win on Sunday evening.

Third baseman Emmanuel Rivera smacked two homers as part of his 9-for-23 week at the plate. Through his first 27 Triple-A games, the 24-year-old is hitting .282/.328/.555.

Though being demoted cannot be easy on a person, Ryan O’Hearn is on fire in the first full week after being sent down to Omaha. While rotating among first base, right field, and DH duties, O’Hearn smashed five dingers, drove in 11 runs, and went 8-for-24. One of those dongs was of the walkoff variety.

Outfielder Bubba Starling hasn’t gotten to play in many games, but he made them count this week. In three games, he had two two-homer games. For more on Bubba, check out Clint Scoles’ piece from yesterday morning marking 10 years since Starling was drafted.

Alcides Escobar added another 7 hits to his resurgent season this week, but he also struck out 7 times and walked just once in 23 PAs.

On the mound, veteran righty Anthony Swarzak slammed the door on the Cubs Thursday with an immaculate inning - three strikeouts in 9 pitches.

Right-hander Grant Gavin was called upon three times for Omaha, and three times he added to his scorless innings streak. Gavin hasn’t given up an earned run since May 13. But again, that shutout streak was bettered by lefty Gabe Speier, who still has not given up a run all season. Speier also appeared three times this week.

The best starter for Omaha this week was Scott Blewett, who struck out 6 in six shutout innings, with just two singles and no walks allowed. In one last start before his callup, Jackson Kowar threw five scoreless innings with five strikeouts, one walk, and one double surrendered. Those two basereunners were rehabbing big leaguers Jason Heyward and Jake Marisnick, respectively.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (13-14)

schedule | roster

Technically, this week’s series against division rival Tulsa (LAD) has not ended - Sunday’s game was suspended in the 2nd and will be completed on July 20.

Baseball America moved shortstop Bobby Witt, Jr. up in their revised Top 100 rankings yesterday, placing him at #8 in baseball. Witt’s week at the plate: 6-for-21 with a pair of doubles and a home run.

In those same rankings, first baseman Nick Pratto was added, right at #100. Pratto’s bat was absolutely fine this week (4-for-15), plus he did get on base in half of his PAs on the strength of 7 walks drawn, against just 5 strikeouts.

Center fielder Dairon Blanco and left fielder Travis Jones each hit their first homers of the season this week, and also their second.

While this is typically a column reserved for highlighting great performances, occasionally a bad week seems noteworthy enough to include. After a great start to the season, catcher MJ Melendez cooled right off this past week, with just two hits and a walk against nine strikeouts in 21 plate appearances.

Lefty Marcelo Martinez started and ended the week on the bump for NWArk. On Tuesday, he pitched 6 innings, marred by just a solo homer and one single. He tied a season high with 9 strikeouts, and didn’t walk anyone. Martinez was on the mound again on Sunday, and retired four of his first five batters before the game was suspended.

Josh Dye added another scoreless relief appearance on Friday, with 2 13 innings. That extends his scoreless streak to 8 games, totaling 12 23 innings.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (19-10)

schedule | roster

The River Bandits took four out of six games in a home series against the Beloit Snappers (MIA). With their 19-10 record, Quad Cities holds a 4.5 game lead over the next two teams in the division.

First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino found himself a single shy of a cycle on Friday, part of a high-powered week in which he amassed 3 doubles, 2 triples, and a homer.

Also hot at the plate was left fielder Tucker Bradley, whose 9 hits included a double, two triples, and his first homer. Bradley was an undrafted free agent who signed with the Royals a year ago.

Right fielder Tyler Gentry drove in 11 runs, with a trio of dingers among his 7-for-18 week. He also drew five walks.

A trio of left-handed Quad Cities pitchers struck out 7 in their respective outings:

  • Anthony Veneziano allowed one run on one hit in his four innings on Wednesday.
  • Dante Biasi pitched the 5th through the 9th innings on Saturday, and allowed just one run on his way to a W.
  • Angel Zerpa, who has struck out 7 or more in each of his starts, gutted out a W despite allowing three runs on five hits (four doubles).

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (18-11)

schedule | roster

Columbia’s series at Myrtle Beach (CHC) was partially washed out by rain and left them with a record of 18-11 (!!!) and a half-game lead over Charleston for the division.

Right-hander Adrian Alcantara pitched his best game of the year on Wednesday, striking out 9 and allowing just two hits and a walk in 5 shutout innings. Fellow righty Delvin Capellan followed that up the next day with 5 shutout innings of his own, but with just a pair of strikeouts against three walks and one hit.

Ryan Kaufman, a lefty the Royals drafted in the 12th round in 2018, was solid this week, too. He threw four shutout innings with two walks and six strikeouts, and just one hit allowed.

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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?