‘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, May 9 to Sunday, May 14
AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (15-22)
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (NYY) play in neither of those cities. The Storm Chasers traveled to Moosic, PA for a series, and came back with a 3-3 split.
During one at bat by first baseman CJ Alexander, the SWB broadcaster said something like, “this guy again? I feel like he’s always homering against us.” Maybe “always” was an exaggeration, but Alexader did sock three dingers in the series, part of a 7-for-19 effort. He also doubled and tripled once, and on defense logged one game at third base.
That’s 109.9 mph off the bat of CJ Alexander. This week, Alexander now has three hits of 108mph or more. He’s absolutely scorching the baseball right now. pic.twitter.com/pXGsL7BMar— Preston Farr (@preston_b_farr) May 14, 2023
There had been a bit of competition for the team lead in stolen bases, but center fielder Dairon Blanco sprinted (sorry) ahead of Samad Taylor by swiping seven (!) bags in five games. Blanco tripled and homered among his six hits, taking away two chances to steal. All told, Blanco is at 24 on the season, with Taylor at 17.
Daniel Lynch was able to pitch five innings in a rehab start on Friday, with 73 pitches thrown.
Righty Jonathan Heasley struck out six and allowed one run in his start on Thursday, a game the Chasers ended up winning in the 11th. Brand new Storm Chaser James McArthur debuted with Omaha with a two-inning appearance in which he allowed no hits, no runs, and struck out three.
Right-hander Nick Wittgren had his first rough outing in that Thursday game, but the team ended up winning. He was called upon twice more after that, and picked up two more saves, including a 7-pitch inning to slam the door on a win on Sunday.
AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (15-18)
The Naturals were swept at the hands of the Arkansas Travelers (SEA).
Center fielder John Rave had a nice week at the plate, going 7-for-23 with two doubles and a homer. Shortstop Tyler Tolbert piled up eight hits in 27 at bats. In a strange turn of events, Tolbert was caught stealing twice, after going all of last season and the start of this one without getting caught even once.
Left-hander Anthony Veneziano continued his fantastic stretch of starts, with 5 1⁄3 shutout innings. He struck out five, walked one, and allowed just three singles and a hit batter. The 25-year-old left the start with a pitch count of 89, tying a season high. Not to get too editorial in a space that is primarily for recapping, but it is probably about time for a promotion.
LHP Dante Biasi pitched three times in the series, and piled up 10 strikeouts in five shutout innings.
Dante Biasi was my pitcher of the month in April for NWA. He’s been great this season with a 12.18 SO/9 and a 1.86 ERA.— Preston Farr (@preston_b_farr) May 14, 2023
His K/9 is going up after tonight though.
Final line: 3.0 IP, 2H, 0ER, 1BB, 6SO
Offers a really solid sweeper that can lock up RHH. pic.twitter.com/viyHjmrx4W
Fellow lefty T.J. Sikkema is also on a scoreless streak, with 10 straight innings over four long relief appearances since his last run allowed. In that stretch, Sikkema has struck out 14, walked three, and allowed just two hits.
Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (10-16)
Quad Cities hosted the Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) and went 2-5. The series was seven games because they made up a game that was postponed a month ago. What’s fun is, the postponed game at Cedar Rapids, so each player’s game log for the week contains one “road” game even though all the games were physically at Modern Woodmen Park.
Javier Vaz went 9-for-26 with one of each type of extra base hit, while playing his customary mix of second base and left field.
Catcher Carter Jensen continued his absurd season of walks, drawing nine more free passes this week in 28 plate appearances. That brings Jensen to a minors-leading 38 walks on the season. The 19-year-old also hit a homer and two doubles in the series.
Single-A Columbia Fireflies (19-14)
The Fireflies traveled to Salem to play the Red Sox (BOS, obviously) and lost four of the six. They are still in a virtual tie for first in the standings, this week with Kannapolis.
While nobody put up explosive, video-game type numbers at the plate, a few Fireflies showed discipline and baserunning chops in the series. Second baseman Lizandro Rodriguez only hit twice in the series, but drew seven walks and was able to steal a pair of bags. First baseman Brett Squires hit two doubles among four total hits, and also drew six walks and stole three bases (but was caught twice). The team leader in stolen bases is now left fielder Jean Ramirez, who stole four in the series to claim that lead with 14.
Out of the bullpen, lefty Cooper McKeehan pitched twice. Each time, he went one inning and earned a save without giving up any runs. He gave up a single in one game and a walk in the other, and piled up five total strikeouts.
Did you go to any games this week? Who did you see, and how did they look? If you haven’t been to any minor league games lately, what’s stopping you?