‘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, August 2 through Sunday, August 8.
AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (47-35)
The Storm Chasers are clinging to a 1.5 game lead in the Midwest Division over Toledo, splitting their six games this week in Ohio against the Columbus Clippers. I used to go to Clippers games when I lived in Columbus - they played at old Cooper Stadium back then - and the popular tradition was to “ring your bell” with the team song, with the bell being a cowbell. So you’d hear fans ringing their cowbells several times a game, which I’m sure was not annoying at all for players.
Anyway, Kyle Isbel had four multi-hit games for Omaha this week, and is hitting .315/.414/.491 since the start of July. He has also been playing centerfield on a regular basis, which could help his versatility. First baseman Nick Pratto seems to be adjusting to Triple-A well, homering twice this week to give him six in 17 games with the Storm Chasers and 21 overall this year. Pitchers are avoiding him too, he had a three-walk game in Columbus and has a 13.5 percent walk rate in Triple-A.
And of course, there’s Bobby Witt, Jr. You’ve probably heard of him. He homered four times this week, including a big grand slam in a five-RBI performance on Saturday. He was named Triple-A East Player of the Week.
Start your Sunday with a GRAND SLAM breakfast, courtesy of Bobby Witt Jr.@BwittJr | #ChasersFamily | @Royals pic.twitter.com/o1tfBwpMPS— Omaha Storm Chasers (@OMAStormChasers) August 8, 2021
Lefty Marcelo Martinez starred on the hill with one run allowed in 6 1⁄3 innings to lower his ERA to 4.63. Jackson Kowar was a bit wild with five walks, although five strikeouts in four innings against Columbus on Wednesday. Reliever Dylan Coleman struck out six Clippers hitters in 4 1⁄3 innings with no walks, allowing just a home run and an unearned run.
Pitchers Scott Blewett and Jakob Junis also joined the team this week on rehab assignments.
AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (44-40)
The Naturals went 4-3 this week, but still trail Wichita by five games. MJ Melendez continued to make a mockery of Double-A, smacking three home runs in a doubleheader against the Arkansas Travelers, tying Griffin Conine for the home run lead among all minor leaguers with 28, and eventually earning a promotion to Triple-A.
Lefty Austin Cox was named Double-A Central Pitcher of the Week after tossing a seven-inning complete game and allowing just one run with six strikeouts against the Travelers. The former fifth-round pick has a 2.98 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 57 1⁄3 innings in 12 starts with the Naturals. Fellow southpaw Drew Parrish tossed five shutout innings on Wednesday with seven strikeouts and two walks.
First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino has cooled down after a torrid start after being promoted to the Naturals, but he enjoyed a five-RBI day on Sunday, and he has a strikeout rate of just 12.9 percent in 19 games since being moved up to Double-A. Outfielder Brewer Hicklen hit his ninth home run of the year and went 7-for-23 (.304) with four walks and five steals this week.
Pitcher Daniel Tillo also joined the team on a rehab assignment.
Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (56-26)
The Bandits just continue to chug along with a 5-1 record this week, and their 56 wins are tied for the second-most in all of minor league baseball. Slugger Seuly Matias seems to be coming along, homering twice this week to give him 11 in 36 games with the Bandits. He also had a three-hit game on Sunday and is hitting .239/.331/.567, with fewer strikeouts lately.
Here we go: pic.twitter.com/6FrCYK9B8M— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) August 6, 2021
Outfielder John Rave continues to be rave-worthy, falling a home run short of the cycle on Tuesday, finishing with five RBI. He followed that up with a two-home run performance on Thursday, giving him ten for the year and a line of .289/.356/.514.
Infielder Maikel Garcia smacked his first High-A home run since being promoted, and was 10-for-25 (.400) with three walks and four steals this week for the Bandits. Second baseman Michael Massey had a three-hit game on Thursday, and a two-hit game on Sunday, and is second in High-A Central in hits with 83.
Charlie Neuweiler struck out eight in 5 1/3 innings on Wednesday, although he gave up six hits and four runs to bump his ERA to 5.04. Anthony Veneziano gave up just two runs on just three hits in 5 1⁄3 innings on Thursday. Reliever Will Klein struck out ten hitters in a pair of shutout relief outings covering 4 2⁄3 innings, with just one hit allowed.
The Bandits also had a “rain delay standoff” with Cedar Rapids, and things got...weird.
UPDATE:— Quad Cities River Bandits (@QCRiverBandits) August 8, 2021
Bread and peanut butter are now involved… https://t.co/KowKwwfpJD pic.twitter.com/fbbkIdEShl
Single-A Columbia Fireflies (38-45)
It was a tough week for the Fireflies, who dropped all six games this week against Myrtle Beach, including four one-run games.
They did get an impressive performance from Rylan Kaufman on Sunday, as he bounced back from a three-inning start earlier in the week to give up just one run and no walks while striking out six in seven innings. Hard-throwing John McMillon made his debut with the Fireflies and struck out a hitter on three pitches in his debut.
Outfielder Burle Dixon hit his third home run of the year and went 5-for-15 with two steals. Infielder Tyler Tolbert also homered for the third time this year, and went 7-for-21 with three steals.
Yet another homerun from @TylerTolbert12! pic.twitter.com/PfXxHDriGK— Columbia Fireflies (@ColaFireflies) August 7, 2021
C’mon, ring your bell! What’s the coolest or worst tradition you’ve seen at any ballpark?