Omaha has served as a minor league affiliate for the Royals since their inaugural season in 1969, making up the third-longest active affiliation in baseball. They no longer play in the thin air of the Pacific Coast League since the great reshuffling of minor leagues in 2021. But their new home, the International League, was still a high-offensive league with teams scoring an average of 5.5 runs per game. The league’s hitters as a whole put up a line of .261/.356/.438 with an 11.8 percent walk rate compared to 8.6 percent in MLB.
The Storm Chasers had some hitting standouts, but overall were in the bottom half of the league in almost every important offensive category. They did lead the league with 223 steals, setting a club record, with nine different players in double digits.
Omaha Storm Chasers
Finish: 9th (out of 10 teams), West Division of the International League (Triple-A)
Manager: Mike Jirschele
Runs scored-per-game: 5.26 (16th out of 20 teams)
Runs allowed-per-game: 5.66 (16th out of 20 teams)
Dairon Blanco (47 steals) and Samad Taylor (43) were each in the top six in the league in stolen bases. Those two hitters also had the best OPS on the team for anyone with at least 200 plate appearances. Blanco spent just 49 games with Omaha, but hit .347/.444/.451. Taylor played 89 games for Omaha and hit .302/.418/.466 before he joined the Royals.
With Taylor at second, the Storm Chasers had a strong offensive double-play combo with Angelo Castellano enjoying a breakout season at age 28 while playing shortstop for Omaha. The longtime Royals farmhand hit .281/.384/.489 with a career-high 15 home runs in 107 games. Nick Loftin spent the most time at third base, hitting .270/.344/.444 with 14 home runs before his promotion.
Nick Loftin, HR11 on the season. Omaha has a season-high 5 homers today. It’s the fifth inning. pic.twitter.com/vyljDTYQIp— Preston Farr (@royalsminors) July 30, 2023
At first base, CJ Alexander smacked 13 home runs in 86 games, but hit just .220. Logan Porter’s numbers regressed a bit from his terrific 2022 season, but the catcher still earned a ticket to the big leagues to make his MLB debut. Clay Dungan and MLB veteran Adeiny Hechavarria filled in as utility infielders.
In the outfield, Tyler Gentry led the team with 16 home runs and 81 walks as one of the top hitting prospects in the organization, but hit overall line of .253/.370/.421 was a bit underwhelming. Brewer Hicklen came back from an elbow injury to hit .233/.338/.452 in 61 games before he was traded to the Phillies organization.
Tyler Gentry’s 13th HR is hit to exact same place as Nick Loftin’s HR just before him. pic.twitter.com/rxKmqDJ4UN— Preston Farr (@royalsminors) August 12, 2023
Tucker Bradley hit .267/.366/.433 in 69 games, but was bumped down to Double-A late in the year. John Rave came up from Double-A to hit .236/.326/.376 in 70 games with Omaha. Bubba Thompson and Devin Mann filled in the outfield after they were acquired late in the year. Nate Eaton served as a utility player and managed to smack 15 home runs and steal 22 bases in between stints at the big league level.
Omaha pitchers were the third-youngest in the league, but had some struggles, with the seventh-most walks and the fifth-most home runs allowed. Twenty-three different pitchers made a start, with Max Castillo leading the team in innings at 116 with a 4.58 ERA. Austin Cox was a bright spot, tossing a 3.61 ERA in 47 1/3 innings before being sent to the big leagues. Lefty Anthony Veneziano pitched well after a promotion from Double-A, posting a 4.22 ERA, but a sharp decline in strikeout rate to 7.9 per-nine-innings. Jonathan Bowlan had mixed results after coming back from Tommy John surgery, and Drew Parrish and Jonathan Heasley each put up some ugly numbers in their ERA.
The Storm Chasers struggled to get consistency out of the bullpen with Evan Sisk, Collin Snider, Christian Chamberlain, and Jackson Kowar all putting up ugly numbers as relievers. Will Klein had a high ERA (5.66), but had high strikeout rates (12.6 per-nine-innings) after being promoted from Double-A. Dylan Coleman had eye-popping strikeout rates (14.1 per-nine) but gob-smacking walk rates (9.4 per-nine) as well. Righty Jonah Dipoto and lefty Walter Pennington had solid seasons with terrific strikeout rates and James McArthur put up good numbers after being acquired from the Phillies.