‘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, April 18 to Sunday, April 23
AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (8-11)
The Chasers hosted the Gwinnett Stripers (ATL) for the first time, and unfortunately lost the first five games of the series to drop to 8-11.
Samad Taylor continued his good season on offense, going 5-for-17 with five walks and three stolen bases. Taylor played three games in center and two at second base, and had his first day off of the season on Sunday.
Another Chaser who showed a lot of patience in the series was Maikel Garcia, who drew six walks to go with his four hits and only three strikeouts in 22 plate appearances. He played third base in all five games he played, with one day off after taking a baserunner’s knee to his ankle on Tuesday.
Here we go! Maikel Garcia doubles on a sharp line drive to left to score Dairon Blanco.— Omaha Storm Chasers (@OMAStormChasers) April 23, 2023
BOT 3 | GWN 3, OMA 2 pic.twitter.com/q2AAWhd4hi
Though he has gotten off to a sluggish start overall, the bat of Nick Pratto may be coming back into form. He went 5-for-21 with a double and two homers, and hit the ball hard overall, just didn’t always have good luck. Pratto played two games in left field this week, and the remaining four at his usual first base.
Right-hander Jonathan Heasley went deep into Wednesday’s game, heaving seven innings with three runs allowed on seven hits. He struck out seven, the last of which came after he took a little timeout to barf on the field behind the mound, as is tradition for him.
Nick Wittgren continued his excellent relief pitching, throwing perfect 9th innings on Thursday and Sunday.
AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (7-8)
A series split at home against the Amarillo Sod Poodles (ARI) kept the Naturals at one game under .500.
Outfielder John Rave went off this week, with three home runs. He scored seven and drove in seven, with seven hits (and also seven strikeouts). Through 14 games, Rave’s slash line is .302/.413/.585.
Jeison Guzmán smacked a homer and two doubles as part of his 6-for-13 series. Guzmán was playing against his former team; he was briefly a Sod Poodle in the 2022 season. First baseman Robbie Glendinning drew seven walks to go along with three hits in 17 plate appearances to boost his OBP to .588 on the series.
Jeison Guzman hits one TO THE to pad the lead! pic.twitter.com/vBhydWSjGl— Northwest Arkansas Naturals (@nwanaturals) April 23, 2023
Tyler Tolbert has split playing time between shortstop and center field this season. He went 7-for-25 in the series, with two doubles, three walks, and two steals.
A couple of right-handed starting pitchers showed up with good starts for the weekend crowds at Arvest Ballpark. Andrew Hoffman took the mound Friday and pitched five shutout innings, with five strikeouts, one walk, and four hits. Alec Marsh followed that on Saturday with five scoreless innings of his own, with four strikeouts, two hits, and one walk.
From the bullpen, righty Yefri Del Rosario and lefty Walter Pennington were both brought in three times, and both finished the week with no runs allowed.
Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (7-7)
The River Bandits pulled up to .500 with a 4-2 series win against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL).
Third baseman Cayden Wallace was on base a bunch, with seven hits and four walks. He hit a double, a triple, and a homer, though not all in the same game. Outfielder River Town drove in seven runs in his 5-for-17 series with a double and three walks. He struck out only four times, and stole a base.
Cayden Wallace: good defender. pic.twitter.com/LAhJVnhoBL— Preston Farr (@preston_b_farr) April 23, 2023
Shortstop Jack Pineda stole three bases, having reached base by way of five walks and five hits. Pineda, 23, was a 12th-round draftee last summer out of Baylor.
Tyson Guerrero had the best start of any River Bandit, throwing six no-hit, shutout innings on Wednesday. The 24-year-old lefty struck out a career-high eight batters, with just one baserunner allowed. That batter walked, and was promptly erased on a double play.
Right-hander Mason Barnett was the Tuesday and Sunday starter, and was solid both times. Tuesday, he weathered four walks by allowing only one hit, and struck out seven, to ultimately end up with five shutout innings. He allowed one run on Sunday, but got the walks down to one while striking out six. Barnett’s three starts this year have earned game scores of 65, 68, and 64.
Might be time to talk a little bit more about Mason Barnett. The #Royals 3rd round pick in 2022 is off to a strong start to the season, with a 1.20 ERA over his first three starts.— Preston Farr (@preston_b_farr) April 23, 2023
He was perfect into the 4th today. Current line on the day: 4.0 IP, 1H, 1ER, 1BB, 5SO pic.twitter.com/NY09ZBeCPU
Two standout bullpen performances from right-handers: Brandon Johnson threw four shutout innings across three games, with five Ks and two walks. Anderson Paulino picked up two saves, with three shutout innings in three games.
Single-A Columbia Fireflies (7-6)
The Fireflies hosted the Fayetteville Woodpeckers (HOU) this week, and won the series 4-2.
Following his six-batter, six-strikeout debut last week, RHP Steven Zobac struck out eight (!) more hitters in his three-inning appearance this week. The other out was a flyout, and he permitted just one hit. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten to say that someone’s strikeouts per nine innings went DOWN to 25.2, but here we are.
Frankie Mozzicato made two starts this week, one to start the series and one to end it. The second one was solid enough to merit a mention, with just one run allowed on one hit in four innings, and six strikeouts. But it was the Tuesday one that stands out: In six shutout innings, Mozzicato struck out 13 (!), and allowed just three singles along with three walks.
Royals LHP prospect Frank Mozzicato posted his best outing of his young pro career last night.— Aram Leighton (@AramLeighton8) April 19, 2023
6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 13 K
Fastball sat 90-92 mph, touching 93 mph with 20+ inches of IVB (!!). 17 swinging strikes: 8 fastballs, 7 curveballs, 2 changeups.
( : @ColaFireflies) pic.twitter.com/Dh3rFr2qt2
Righty John McMillon was called upon three times in the series, and each time he turned in a hitless, scoreless inning. Only one batter reached, via a walk. Lefty Ryan Ramsey made a nice start on Friday, throwing four shutout innings with just two hits allowed, no walks, and four strikeouts. Ramsey was a 13th-round pick last summer, from the University of Maryland.
Shortstop Daniel Vazquez is now the team leader in stolen bases with eight total - and five of them came just this week. He has yet to be caught stealing. At the plate, Vazquez went 5-for-22, all singles, and walked three times.
Outfielder Levi Usher is off to a solid start in his first full pro season, after being drafted last summer out of the University of Louisville in the 10th round. This week, Usher went 4-for-14 with two doubles, four walks, and four stolen bases. He was also hit by a pitch.
While the central thesis of this column, for all these years, has been to make a note when players are doing cool things, it occasionally becomes newsworthy when someone is doing uncool things. Erick Peña struck out another 14 (!) times in 20 plate appearances this week, giving him a total of 32 strikeouts in 45 PA on the season. It’s a stunning set of numbers for the 20-year-old in his second season at the level.
Did you go to any games this week? What teams did you see, and who stood out to you? Any cool promotional giveaway items or theme nights the ballpark?