‘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, September 14 through Sunday, September 19.
AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (66-54)
While Sunday was the regular season finale, the Storm Chasers will now enter the “final stretch,” a league-wide 10-game...thing? It’s not a tournament, and it exists in a weird liminal space between regular and postseason play. My understanding is that individual stats will count toward players’ regular season stats, but the regular season is over. Whatever team performs the best over the next 10 games gets...again, I apologize, but it’s really not clear what made-up stakes are up for grabs here. Even the league announcement just says “a prize.” But it’s bonus baseball, and anyone in Omaha or Des Moines should consider hitting up a game or five.
Anyway, I mentioned individual counting stats because a handful of Chasers are building toward milestones and league leads. Bobby Witt, Jr. sits at 26 stolen bases on the season, and could wind up in the 30/30/30 club, having already surpassed 30 homers and doubles.
Third baseman Emmanuel Rivera mashed this week, going 9-for-27 with three homers and a double. Ryan McBroom also powered up, with three doubles and two homers. The latter home run was his 31st, a record tally in the Storm Chasers era (2011-present). McBroom also drew five walks this week.
MJ Melendez hit his MiLB-leading 38th homer this week, a grand slam in a 4-homer game for Omaha. The first long ball of that game was one of Nick Pratto’s pair of dingers this week, and was the Storm Chasers’s MiLB-leading 200th home run of the season.
⏪ Home Series Rewind ⏪— Omaha Storm Chasers (@OMAStormChasers) September 21, 2021
Dingers, record breaking and MORE!
Join us on Wednesday for our final five games at Werner Park! Get to all five games for just $25 with our Final Stretch Five Pack.
️: https://t.co/bRZlXmVZQp | #ChasersFamily pic.twitter.com/BEN93xmIDg
Infielder Gabriel Cancel returned from an early-July oblique injury on Sunday.
Righty Brandon Barker pitched his best game of the year on Friday, throwing six shutout innings with five strikeouts and only three singles and a walk allowed. Before his callup, right-handed reliever Dylan Coleman pitched two more scoreless innings for Omaha, capping a 7.2 innings shutout streak stretching over his last six appearances. In that time, the flamethrower has struck out 14 batters and walked just three, with just two singles allowed.
AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (64-55, in playoffs)
The Naturals will host games one and two of a five-game playoff series against Wichita tonight. This week, they finished the regular season with four wins in six games over the Springfield Cardinals, and punched their postseason ticket on the last day of the season:
FINAL | #NWANaturals 9 Springfield 4— NW Arkansas Naturals (@nwanaturals) September 19, 2021
THE NORTHWEST ARKANSAS NATURALS ARE HEADED TO THE DOUBLE-A CENTRAL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES!!
Seven runs over the final two innings push the Naturals over the Cardinals! pic.twitter.com/XxO1GE5woF
Right fielder Seuly Matias socked four dingers this week, in addition to hitting two doubles and two singles. Infielder Clay Dungan went 9-for-24 this week with a pair of doubles.
Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (77-41, in playoffs)
The River Bandits finished the regular season with an 11-game margin atop the Advanced-A Central West division and will begin a 5-game playoff series at Cedar Rapids tonight. They went 4-2 in their final regular season series, against the South Bend Cubs.
Leading the way at the plate was left fielder Eric Cole, who went 8-for-17 with a double and two homers. The second of those homers gave him a new career high, with 12 on the season compared with 11 for Lexington in 2019 and just one in a partial season with Burlington the year prior.
Infielder Rubendy Jaquez, 22, stole four bases in four attempts this week, giving him 20 total between Columbia and Quad Cities. Center fielder John Rave went 5-for-13 with a triple and a homer, plus 3 walks and a steal.
RHP Zach Haake returned from the Injured List with 3.1 innings on Friday, giving up just one run on two hits. The next day, righty reliever Mitchell Ellis was tabbed for a start, and provided four innings of shoutout ball in a game QC would go on to win.
Will Klein finished the regular season by adding five strikeouts in three innings (two appearances), bringing his season total of Ks to 121 (!) in 70.1 innings (!!). That’s a season rate of 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Single-A Columbia Fireflies (48-71)
The Fireflies season ended with a rough week against the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (CHI), losing all the games that got played, and having one canceled entirely by rain. Their final place in the division standings is last place.
A handful of relievers got to end their season with shutout appearances. Righty Adrian Alcantara, 22, got roughed up in his first game of the week but finished with a great two-inning appearance. The leadoff walk he allowed in the 8th was erased in a double play, and the struck out the side in the 9th. Alcantara finished the season with 9.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 96.1 total innings.
Fellow righty Dario Peralta, 20, shut out Kannapolis in four no-hit innings across two games this week.
Columbus’s best chance to win came on Sunday, when Kannapolis only scored two, but they were kept off the board. Contributing to the low opponent score was LHP Rylan Kaufman, a 12th-rounder from the 2018 draft. Kaufman pitched three relief innings withe three strikeouts and just one hit allowed.