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Vinnie Pasquantino still mashing for Omaha

This Week in the Minors: Vinnie Pasquantino’s 1.674 OPS; Michael Massey’s 13 hits; great pitching at all levels

A man wearing a jersey that contains a giant face of Star Wars character Darth Maul stands in a baseball dugout holding a small water cup.
Vinnie Pasquantino was in Triple-A on Star Wars night at the beginning of May, and remains in Triple-A.
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?”

This Week in the Minors: Tuesday, May 24 to Sunday, May 29.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (24-23)

schedule | roster

Omaha was on the road at the Louisville Bats (CIN) and split the series 3-3 to wind up above .500. They will come home for two home series starting tonight.

The headliner of the Chasers offense was again first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino. Vineyard had hits in all six games, capped by a 5-hit day on Wednesday. All told, he piled up 11 hits, 4 dingers, a triple, and two doubles.

Nick Pratto played three games in the outfield and three at first base. He went 6-for-23 with two home runs and a double. The second of the homers was 462 feet to dead center.

Shortstop Iván Castillo turned 27 yesterday, a nice punctuation mark on his best series of the season. The switch-hitter came up with nine hits, including three doubles. He also struck out three times, which is actually high for him, as he has only struck out 11 times all season.

Utilityman Angelo Castellano played in four games this week, and went 5-for-13 with three doubles and a homer. Like Castillo, Castellano is tough to strike out - he has only been wrung up eight times in 73 at bats on the year.

Some positive developments on the pitching side of things: Jackson Kowar pitched five shutout innings, with nine strikeouts, two walks, and three hits allowed.

Carlos Hernández went deeper into a game than any Chasers starter had yet this year, with 6 23 strong innings. He struck out six, walked one, and allowed one run on five hits.

The final line on Kris Bubic’s start isn’t the most sparkly - he did permit four runs - but it seems noteworthy that he did not crumple after allowing three in the 2nd inning and one more in the 3rd. After the fourth run, Bubic settled in and retired 10 straight batters to complete his six-inning start, ending up with six strikeouts and one walk.

Left-hander Sam Freeman returned from a month-long IL stint and resumed his season-long streak of no earned runs allowed. Righty Brad Peacock added two more scoreless appearances to his own shutout streak, which covers 12 games going back to April 26.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (22-22)

schedule | roster

The Naturals pulled back up to .500 with a 4-win week at the Midland Rockhounds (OAK). The wins were all higher-scoring affairs, while the Naturals scored just one apiece in both losses.

Leading the offense for the Naturals was second baseman Michael Massey. “Mashey” finished the series with 13 (!) hits that included three doubles and a grand slam. He also walked four times, once intentionally, and stole two bases.

Right fielder Seuly Matias muscled up this week, with three homers, a triple, and two doubles among his 7-for-18 series. He also drew three walks and struck out six times. Infielder Jake Means went 8-for-24 with three doubles and a homer, plus four walks.

Half of catcher Logan Porter’s six hits went for two bases. Porter also drew five walks against just four strikeouts. Left fielder Tucker Bradley went 7-for-20 with a homer, a triple, and two doubles.

Shoutout to Nick Loftin for this over-the-shoulder catch:

Left-hander Drew Parrish threw another gem on Thursday, perhaps making a case for a promotion. Parrish pitched six shutout innings, with only one hit and one walk given up, and four strikeouts. Last year saw Parrish getting promoted in early June, so he now has nearly a full year at Double-A and seems to have mastered the level.

Alec Marsh struck out 10 for the second game in a row. He allowed two runs on four hits, walked one and plunked two.

Lefty Ángel Zerpa went pretty deep in his start, notching 6 23 innings, but wound up with a loss. He did strike out a season-high nine batters, but allowed three runs on eight hits, including a homer.

In a pair of relief appearances, right-hander Jonah Dipoto struck out six and walked just one, with no runs allowed in 3 13 total innings.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (18-27)

schedule | roster

Just like last week, the River Bandits ran into bad weather, with two rain-induced doubleheaders as part of the series against the Fort Wayne TinCaps (SD). But Quad Cities emerged with a series victory, winning four of six.

Part of catcher Luca Tresh’s week included three consecutive two-hit games, and the 22-year-old ended up with seven total hits, including two doubles and a homer. Outfielder Juan Carlos Negret homered three times this week, surpassing his previous total of two on the season.

Left-hander Noah Cameron followed up last week’s 12-strikeout debut with another solid start. This time, Cameron pitched five innings, allowing one run on four hits, with one walk and seven strikeouts.

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (14-31)

schedule | roster

The Fireflies split a road series against the Lynchburg Hillcats (CLE) this week but remain well under .500, and in last place in the Carolina League.

I don’t want to sit here and bash a team, but rather to contextualize the W-L total they’re sitting at. According to Baseball Reference, the Fireflies have scored 168 runs (last in the league) but allowed a league-worst 275 runs. Columbia’s bats are dead last in hits, RBI, walks, total bases, average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage (and naturally, OPS).

That set of stats would be tough for any pitching staff to overcome. And at this juncture, Columbia pitchers have given up more hits and runs than any other team.

With that said, the Fireflies got some encouraging performances on the mound this week. Righty Shane Panzini made his pro debut, and struck out four in four shutout innings. The 20-year-old was drafted in the 4th round last summer.

Ben Kudrna was impressive again in his second pro game, this time going four full innings with just one hit and zero runs allowed, and five strikeouts. Kudrna just turned 19 in January, making him 2.9 years younger than average Carolina League pitchers.

20-year-old right Luinder Avila pitched six shutout innings on Thursday, with four strikeouts, one walk, and two hits allowed. It was the longest outing of Avila’s career, which stretches back to 2018, and his best game by Game Score.

Lefty Ben Wereski made a long relief appearance on Saturday. In four innings, Wereski struck out six and walked one. An unearned run scored following an infield throwing error, but otherwise no Hillcats crossed the plate.

Up for discussion: Did you go to any games this week? If you get to be GM for a day, would you call up either of the P’s from Omaha? And if so - who first?