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TWitM: Brewer Hicklen is the man

This Week in the Minors: Omaha hitters smash everything; Marcelo Martinez took a perfecto deep; Tyler Tolbert among league leaders in steals

Two baseball players jumping high in the air together in celebration.
Brewer Hicklen (left) and Nate Eaton (24) celebrate Omaha’s walkoff win on Wednesday, July 6.
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: Monday, July 4 to Sunday, July 10.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (42-41)

schedule | roster

The Storm Chasers went 5-2 in a series against the visiting Toledo Mud Hens (DET). The teams had lost a game to a rainout earlier in the season and had to cram a makeup game into this series, so that’s why it was seven.

SO many Chasers knocked Toledo’s pitching around all week, so this section is going to be hefty. Let’s get to it:

Brewer Hicklen did some of everything. You may have seen his highlight-reel catch, his walkoff hit on Wednesday, or his 493-foot home run on Sunday. All told, Hicklen piled up 11 hits, including a triple and three homers. He also stole two bases, and still has not been caught.

Another Chaser with 11 hits on the week was Nate Eaton, who bookended the series with a pair of two-homer games. Through 39 games at Triple-A, Eaton has maintained a slash line of .329/.388/.591.

Michael Massey got the day off on Sunday, but in the remaining six games of the series, he went 10-for-23 with two doubles and a homer. Shortstop Iván Castillo also put up 10 hits, including five (!) doubles and a homer.

Party P spent the week showing off power and patience. Among Nick Pratto’s nine hits were four (!) dongs, and he also drew eight walks. Pratto was named to MLB Pipeline’s prospect team of the week, in addition to being selected to play in the Futures Game.

Catcher Freddy Fermin muscled up for two doubles and two homers in his five games. Center fielder Dairon Blanco hit in all seven games, which puts him at a 10-game hit streak as the team heads to Rochester for their last series before the All-Star break.

Marcelo Martinez was unbelievable on Thursday, taking a perfect game into the 7th inning. The Mud Hens ultimately got to him for a run in the 8th, but up until then Toledo only made weak contact and had no answer for Martinez’s offerings.

It has been a fortnight since we’ve looked at reliever scoreless streaks, and somehow Andrés Núñez is still on his! Núñez is now up to 20.1 innings (!) without a run allowed, with 23 strikeouts (!) and two walks.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (36-44 overall; 5-7 in second half)

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Northwest Arkansas played at home against the Tulsa Drillers (LAD), and split the series 3-3.

As a team, the Naturals are second in the Texas League in stolen bases with 116, trailing the San Antonio Missions (SD) by just one. A couple of Naturals helped pad the team total in this series, led by shortstop Maikel Garcia’s four. Garcia, of course, was promoted to the Majors in the wake of Whit Merrifield’s toe injury.

John Rave made SportsCenter!

Left fielder Tucker Bradley went 8-for-20 this week, and struck out only once. He walked twice, was hit by a pitch, and stole three bases in four attempts. Outfielder Tyler Gentry swiped two bags, after reaching base a bunch via seven hits and three walks.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (31-50 overall; 5-10 in second half)

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The River Bandits visited the Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN), and dropped the series 2-4.

Catcher Luca Tresh was hot at the plate in the series, with two homers and a double among his eight hits. The homers brought Tresh’s season total to 9 dingers in 62 games. The team leader in home runs is Juan Carlos Negret, who has hit 13 in 52 games. Negret went 6-for-22 this week with two homers and a double.

Shortstop Tyler Tolbert stole two bases this week, giving him 35 (!) on the season without getting caught yet (!!). The steal total is 3rd in the Midwest League and just two off the lead - and the thieves ahead of him have been caught three and ten times. Across all of the Minors, Tolbert has by far the most steals of anyone with a 100% success rate. The next-highest perfect base stealer is Omaha’s Brewer Hicklen, with 18.

A few Quad Cities relievers are on hot streaks right now. RHP Kasey Kalich has shut out opponents for the last five appearances, totaling 5 13 innings. In longer relief, lefty Emilio Marquez has piled up 9 23 innings in his last three games pitched, with 11 strikeouts, one walk, and three hits allowed. Across parts of the last four series, lefty Patrick Smith has compiled 6 23 shutout innings in six appearances.

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (29-52 overall; 11-4 in second half)

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The Fireflies split a home series 3-3 against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (CHC).

20-year-old right hander Luinder Avila followed up last week’s stellar start with another solid one. Avila started Friday’s game with five innings, allowing one run on six hits, with two strikeouts and no walks.

The next day, righty Ben Kudrna earned his first professional W when he threw five innings, with one run allowed on four hits. He struck out three and did not walk any batters.

The batters with the most hits for the Fireflies also drew tons of walks this week. The leader among them was catcher Carter Jensen, who went 7-for-15 with two doubles and a homer, and seven walks. Jensen was named the MLB Pipeline prospect team of the week.

Left fielder River Town came up with six hits and five walks on the week, and was hit by a pitch once. He also stole three bases, giving him a baker’s dozen steals on the season, tied for the team lead.

Just like Town, first baseman Guillermo Quintana walked five times, hit six times, and was plunked once. Outfielder Jean Ramirez went 7-for-25 with a double, and drew six walks. He also stole four bases and was caught twice.


Up for discussion: did you go to any games this week? As we head toward the All-Star break, the draft, and just generally the deeper part of the season, who should get promoted next?