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TWitM: MJ Melendez - new position, same hot bat

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This Week in the Minors: MJ Melendez trying out 3B while hitting 35th homer; Bobby Witt, Jr. angling to be player of the month twice in row; Quad Cities hits 70 wins

MJ Melendez is congratulated in the dugout after hitting home run #35 on the season.
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, August 31 through Sunday, September 5.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (61-47)

schedule | roster

Omaha went 4-3 in a crucial series against the Toledo Mud Hens (DET) with first place on the line. Omaha closed a 2-game deficit and even tied the Mud Hens for first with a Saturday win, but lost a heartbreaker on Sunday to fall back to a game behind.

MJ Melendez split time between catcher and third base, debuting at the latter on Tuesday. As a batter, he had a great week, going 8-for-21 with two home runs and a triple. Melendez also drew seven walks, is on a 9-game hit streak, and his 35 home runs on the season are 2nd in all of MiLB.

Bobby Witt, Jr. started September off hot, following his award as Triple-A East player of the month for August. He piled up 9 hits in 7 games this week, including 5 doubles and 3 walks drawn. And he did THIS:

Ryan McBroom made waves on Tuesday when he broke his bat on a home run swing, and then (accidentally, I think) carried his neon yellow bat handle all the way around the bases. That homer was one of three on the week for the first baseman-turned-corner OF/DH.

Also socking three dingers this week was outfielder Kyle Isbel, who now has 15 on the season. Catcher Nick Dini was the odd man out when Melendez was promoted to Omaha, so he hadn’t seen game action in about a month. He returned to the lineup on Sunday with two hits, and he was also hit by a pitch.

First baseman Nick Pratto may have only amassed a .200 batting average (4-for-20), but he drew 9 (!) walks and ended up scoring six runs. Also, he got robbed of a hit by Tigers prospect Riley Greene. (I’m not usually in the business of posting other teams’ highlights here, but the collection of Top 100 prospects on the field in Omaha this week felt like having seven Futures Games.)

Brandon Barker started the second game of a doubleheader on Wednesday, and threw four shutout innings with six strikeouts, one walk, and just two singles allowed.

Ronald Bolaños made a rehab start on Friday, and gave up just one run in five innings, with five strikeouts and one walk.

The lone lefty in Omaha’s pen, Gabe Speier, gave up one run on Friday. That run is significant because it was the first run Speier had surrendered after 8 scoreless appearances. In those 6.1 innings, Speier struck out 10, walked one, and allowed just four hits.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (57-50)

schedule | roster

The Naturals won 4 of 6 against the Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU).

Righty Jon Heasley started the week off with a strong 5-inning start on Tuesday. In that game, Heasley struck out 7 and allowed just one run on two hits. The start capped off a great August for Heasley, who struck out 34 and walked just five in his five August starts (27 IP). Opponents hit just .216/.262/.258 against him.

Left-hander Drew Parrish started Wednesday with four shutout innings, with six strikeouts and no walks, and five hits allowed.

RHP Jose Cuas added three scoreless appearances this week, one inning apiece. He allowed just one hit and one walk, and the scoreless streak for Cuas is now up to 7.1 innings in six outing dating back to August 20.

Second baseman Clay Dungan led the Northwest Arkansas bats this week, going 10-for-25 with two doubles, four walks, and two stolen bases. Outfielder Brewer Hicklen stole 4 bases in 4 attempts this week, in addition to piling up 8 hits that included one of each type of extra base hit.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (70-36)

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The River Bandits split a series at Cedar Rapids, including a win Sunday to hit the 70-win mark.

In 24 plate appearances, left fielder Eric Cole didn’t strike out at all, and came up with 9 hits and a pair of walks.

Nathan Eaton drove in eight runs in a 6-for-22 week that included two doubles and two homers. Catcher Kale Emshoff made was promoted to Quad Cities this week, and collected his first hit - an RBI double - on Sunday.

Righty reliever Will Klein added another six strikeouts in 3.1 innings this week, bringing his season total to 109 (!) in 63.1 innings. That’s 15.5 (!!!) strikeouts per nine innings.

Christian Cosby threw six shutout innings on Wednesday, with six strikeouts, no walks, and just two hits allowed. That’s the best start of the season for the 24-year-old right-hander, and he was named High-A Central pitcher of the week for his efforts.

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (47-61)

schedule | roster

Columbia suffered a series sweep (six games) at the hand of the Charleston RiverDogs (TBR). The Fireflies are in 3rd place, and 30 (not a typo) games out of first place.

Second baseman Peyton Wilson was drafted in the 2nd round this summer, and debuted in Columbia this week. Wilson went 6-for-20 with two doubles and a triple.

Outfielder Burle Dixon got a hit in each of his four games this week, so we’ll keep an eye out to see if a longer streak develops.


Did you go to any minor league games this week? Who stood out to you? How is attendance where you are, now that school is getting started?