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Minors watch: nearing the halfway point

This Week in the Minors: Hicklen socked some dingers; Eaton still on a tear; Greinke rehabbing; Massey and Gentry impress at new levels

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A baseball player in a white jersey top and blue helmet sticks his tongue out as he gives a teammate a high five.
Brewer Hicklen in the dugout for the Omaha Storm Chasers
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, June 14 to Sunday, June 19.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (31-33)

schedule | roster

The Storm Chasers dropped four games in a frustrating series in Des Moines against the Iowa Cubs, capped by a 6-5 loss wherein they let a 5-0 lead slip away.

Nate Eaton continued his phenomenal hitting, adding a homer and a double among seven hits this week. He was also hit by three pitches. Eaton is also on a 10-game hit streak. Fellow outfielder Brewer Hicklen mashed some taters with three homers and two doubles, and 10 RBI.

Second baseman Michael Massey did well for himself in his first week at Triple-A. The 24-year-old went 5-for-19 with a double, a dinger, and four walks.

Vinnie Pasquantino: 5-for-24, all singles. Three standard walks, one intentional one, and only two strikeouts. One of the singles, though, was this 107 mph laser:

Two starting pitchers offered up 7-inning performances: Austin Cox and some guy you have perhaps heard of before, Zack Greinke. Cox was awarded the win, with just two runs surrendered on three hits. The runs were both solo homers. Greinke’s second rehab start saw him get a second W. He gave up three runs on six hits, with four strikeouts and one walk.

Lefty Drew Parrish made his second career Triple-A start, with one run allowed on four hits in five innings. He struck out two and walked two.

Streak watch! Brad Peacock added one shutout inning; Colten Brewer pitched 2.1 more zeroes in two outings; Andrés Núñez came out of the ‘pen twice and added 1.1 innings to his own shutout streak.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (31-31)

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Northwest Arkansas split a home series against the Arkansas Travelers (SEA) to remain at .500.

Shortstop Maikel Garcia stole three bases this week to bring his season total to a team-leading 20. This was on top of his 8-for-20 hitting performance that included three doubles and a homer.

In his first series since being promoted to Double-A, right fielder Tyler Gentry doubled twice and homered twice. Both Garcia and Gentry were just featured among players to watch by Alec Lewis at The Athletic.

And some defense!

The Naturals finished out the week with two shutout wins, both started by left-handers. The first was started by Ángel Zerpa, who pitched 4.1 innings and allowed just two hits. He also struck out six. Anthony Veneziano topped that in Sunday’s win, going six innings with six strikeouts and two walks.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (25-38)

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The River Bandits took four out of six games from the South Bend Cubs (CHI, obviously).

Second baseman Herard Gonzalez went 6-for-18 with a triple and four walks, plus a stolen base. Outfielder Parker Bates also clocked in with six hits, including one of each type of extra base hit.

Catchers Luca Tresh and Kale Emshoff were both solid at the plate. Tresh went 6-for-20 with a double and three walks. In 16 plate appearances, Emshoff walked five times and came up with four hits, including a double and a homer.

Right fielder Juan Carlos Negret socked three dingers this week, giving him nine on the season. It’s a welcome sight for the righty, who just turned 23 on Sunday, as his batting line is pretty light overall on the season. Maybe the second half will feature more production.

How’s this for a walkoff? I’m sure it’s just like they drew it up.

Two right-handed starters had strong starts to cap off the series. On Friday, Charlie Neuweiler pitched six innings, with one run allowed on four hits. He struck out five and walked two. The following day, Patrick Halligan went 5 23 shutout innings, with no walks and four strikeouts, and six hits allowed. It was the longest start of the season for Halligan, and Neuweiler’s performance tied a season high.

Left-handed reliever Emilio Marquez has been brilliant in recent weeks. In five appearances since June 5, Marquez has pitched nine innings, with 11 strikeouts and (but five walks), and allowed just three hits. No runs have scored in that time frame.

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (18-45)

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Another two-win week for the Fireflies, this time at the hands of the Carolina Mudcats (MIL).

Two super encouraging pitching performances from the top two 2021 draftees:

Frank Mozzicato (1st round pick) pitched four shutout innings, a season high, with a season-best five strikeouts. The lefty allowed four hits, all singles, and walked two.

Righty Ben Kudrna (2nd round pick) had his longest start so far, going 4 13 innings on Wednesday. He also struck out a season-high six, while allowing zero runs on three singles and two walks.

Outfielder River Town drew eight (!) walks, and also went 5-for-15 with a home run on the week. The rest of the offense...we will hopefully talk about them next week!