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This Week in the Minors: Naturals score 60 runs

This Week in the Minors: Massey homers thrice; Naturals explode for 60 runs at Amarillo; Fireflies sweep GreenJackets

MLB: Kansas City Royals-Media Day
Nick Loftin hit four home runs as part of a 60-run outburst for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals this week.

‘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 28 to Sunday, July 3.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (37-39)

schedule | roster

The Storm Chasers were on the road at St. Paul, home of the Saints (MIN), and come home with a series split to show for it.

Nate Eaton played right field all six games, and led the Chasers’ offensive output with eight hits. Sunday’s 0fer snapped an 8-game hit streak, part of Eaton’s solid .319/.388/.546 hitting performance in 32 games at Triple-A.

Outfielder Dairon Blanco stole three bases to take over the team lead with 18 on the season. Blanco went 7-for-19 with a double and a homer. Utilityman Clay Dungan also finished the week with seven hits, including two dingers.

Michael Massey started two games at third base, a first for him in his pro career. In a radio interview with Jake Eisenberg, Massey said he used his regular mitt, rather than switching to (by borrowing) a slightly longer third baseman’s mitt. At the plate, Massey went 6-for-23 with three homers.

Nick Pratto homered twice and is back to playing first base full time in the absence of Vinnie Pasquantino. Pratto has shown pretty extreme home/road splits this year, per Baseball Reference. On the road, he’s hitting just .188/.312/.410. At home, by contrast, his slash line is .261/.396/.478.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (33-41 overall; 2-4 in second half)

schedule | roster

Northwest Arkansas put up SIXTY runs in a bonkers six game set at the Amarillo Sod Poodles (ARI). However, the Sod Poodles took four games despite being held to “only” 49 runs. HODGETOWN, the ballpark in Amarillo, is a notorious hitters’ paradise.

The absurd offensive numbers on both sides make Ángel Zerpa’s Thursday start more impressive: seven shutout innings with just two hits and one walk allowed, and nine strikeouts. The game score of 81 was the highest of Zerpa’s career, according to Baseball Reference.

Fellow left-hander Dante Biasi also struck out nine in his start this week, in 4 23 innings. Amarillo scored just one run on five hits and one walk. Righty Jonah Dipoto came out of the pen twice, and pitched 1 23 no-hit, shutout innings each time. However, he did plunk three batters in the second outing.

Nicholas Badders, the voice of the Naturals, summarized the offense’s best performers in some tweets. If you’ll permit me this holiday rest, I will defer to his work to summarize the absurd offense this week:

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (29-46 overall; 3-6 in second half)

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Quad Cities split a series 3-3 with the Peoria Chiefs (STL).

On the mound, the best start came from righty Charlie Neuweiler, who allowed one run on six hits in seven innings on Thursday’s win. It was Neuweiler’s first seven-inning start since August of 2019. In that season, he went at least seven innings deep seven times, so he has displayed the ability to go long.

Reliever Emilio Marquez dominated in two long outings, striking out seven batters in 6.2 innings. Righty Zach Haake pitched three scoreless innings with five strikeouts in his third rehab start with Quad Cities.

Infielder Herard Gonzalez ended the week with six hits and four walks in four games played, and only struck out once. Fellow infielder Morgan McCullough also totaled six hits on the week, including a triple and a homer, and four walks. Also in the six-hit club was outfielder Parker Bates, who tallied one of each type of extra base hits.

Right fielder Juan Carlos Negret and catcher Kale Emshoff each homered this week, to stay tied with each other for the team lead at 11 dingers.

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (26-49 overall; 8-1 in second half)

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The Fireflies SWEPT the Augusta GreenJackets (ATL) in this week’s 6-game series to sprint into first place in their division. Tons of Columbia batters must have been seeing the ball really well, because they either piled up lots of hits, or drew lots of walks, or both.

Third baseman Enrique Valdez went 11-for-21 with three doubles and a dinger. The 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic has held down the hot corner in almost every game this season, and seems to be heating up at the plate: he’s slashing .317/.406/.550 in the last 28 days.

Outfielder Jean Ramirez hit his first homer of the season, part of an 8-for-26 week during which he also stole 5 (!) bases in 7 attempts. Another prolific thief was second baseman Omar Florentino, who swiped four bases in as many games.

Right fielder David Hollie had a two-dinger day in a seven-inning game on Wednesday. First baseman Guillermo Quintana had six hits in his four games played, including two doubles. He also stole a pair of bases.

Outfielder River Town drew seven walks to give himself a .478 OBP for the week, and stole two bases as well.

The best pitching performance of the week came from 20-year-old righty Luinder Avila on Friday. Avila came up with a season-high nine strikeouts in six innings, allowing just one hit and one walk. Two unearned runs scored on an error by Jensen, but Columbia held on for a 10-inning win that day.