‘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, July 13 through Sunday, July 18.
AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (40-24)
Omaha visited Indianapolis (PIT) and came away with a split, in a series that featured one rain-shortened game as well as a rainout followed by a double-header. The Storm Chasers are still in first in their division, but the lead is down to four games.
Prospect Daniel Lynch had two rough starts prior to this week and really needed a good bounceback. Following a rain delay before Thursday’s game, he appeared to be well on his way to a great game, with 6 strikeouts in 3.2 innings. Then the rain came back, and so ended Lynch’s day. He is scheduled to pitch later this morning, as the Chasers have an 11:00 game today. (Listen here.)
Jackson Kowar got back up to his old Triple-A tricks on Sunday, with 8 strikeouts in 5 innings. He allowed just two hits and one walk.
The Royals purchased the contract of righty Brandon Barker from the independent Maryland Stone Crabs the week before last, and he rewarded them Wednesday with 6.1 innings of one-run baseball.
Manager Brian Poldberg called for right-hander Tyler Zuber four (!) times this week, and Zuber responded with four shutout innings, allowing a total of just one single and one walk. That’s now nine consecutive outings since the last time Zuber gave up a run.
2B/3B Jimmy Govern jumped up from High-A Quad Cities this week, and jumped right in with a homer and two doubles in a 7-for-18 offering. (It sounds like Govern might move to Northwest Arkansas now, though.) Kyle Isbel played in all three outfield spots this week, and came up with 7 hits, including a pair of doubles and a homer. He also drew five walks.
Although he only had one hit this week, catcher Meibrys Viloria got on base each day, via walks and one time he was hit by a pitch. Viloria has reached base in all but three of the 45 games he has played for Omaha this season.
AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (34-30)
Northwest Arkansas split their series against Arkansas (SEA), allowing the Travelers to leap them in the standings - but they’re still just two games out in a division that has stayed tight for months.
You may have heard that Bobby Witt, Jr. and Nick Pratto have been promoted to Triple-A Omaha. If you have not heard, please click that link and get the news! Witt mashed three more homers and a double, and his line at Double-A ended up at .292/.367/.564.
Catchers who can hit are tough to find, and the Naturals have two of them on their hands these days. MJ Melendez mashed this week, going 9-for-23 with two doubles and three home runs. In a tandem role, switching between catcher and DH, Freddy Fermin went 8-for-17 with a double, and only struck out 3 times.
Congratulations to #NWANaturals catcher MJ Melendez (@mjmelendez7) on being named the Double-A Central Player of the Week for the week of July 12 to 18!— NW Arkansas Naturals (@nwanaturals) July 19, 2021
He hit .391 (9-for-23), leading the league with 20 total bases and a .870 slugging percentage!
: Tim Campbell pic.twitter.com/tHYlg2DUNs
Outfielder Dairon Blanco piled up 11 hits, including 4 doubles, this week.
Right-handed reliever Carlos Sanabria made two relief appearances this week that totaled three innings, and allowed zero hits.
Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (43-21)
The River Bandits lost just one game this week and now own the best record in the Royals system, along with an 8-game lead atop their division.
Michael Massey had another huge week, after being named the league’s player of the week last time around. The second baseman added 5 (!) home runs, including three in one game, as part of a 9-for-27 attack this week.
First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino had a fantastic week at the plate, with a fascinating set of stats. He went 11-for-19 with two doubles, and he drew five walks. And he struck out zero times!
Lefty Holden Capps pitched on Saturday as part of a rehab assignment, and contributed two perfect innings to the cause, with four strikeouts. Right-hander Peyton Gray picked up saves in both relief appearances this week, and contributed to a shutout streak that stretches back 10.1 innings (5 games). In that time, Gray has 18 (!) strikeouts and six walks.
Righty Noah Murdock started Friday’s game with 5.2 shutout innings, allowing just 3 singles and a pair of walks. The next day, LHP Anthony Veneziano struck out a career-high 9 batters in a career-long six innings, and allowed two runs on a pair of solo dingers.
Single-A Columbia Fireflies (31-32)
Columbia dropped 5 out of 7 games to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (CHC) this week to drop below .500. The good news is, they’re still in 2nd place. The bad news is, they’re now 14.5 games behind the seemingly unstoppable Charleston River Dogs (TBR).
In an encouraging development as he recovers from Tommy John surgery last year, left-hander Foster Griffin moved from the Arizona teams to continue his rehab with Columbia. In a start on Sunday, Griffin pitched four one-hit innings with no runs allowed, and no walks. He struck out three, and faced the minimum. The one opponent who got a hit was quickly erased by a double play.
23-year-old righty Cruz Noriega turned in his best start of the season this week. He threw five shutout innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts - tied for a season-high.
Second baseman Herard Gonzalez earned himself a .481 on-base percentage this week, by drawing 6 walks on top of the 7 hits he piled up.
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Did you go to any minor league games this week? Who stood out to you? If you were GM for a week, what roster moves would you make throughout the Minors - bearing in mind that players can NOT skip Triple-A on the way to the Majors this year?