‘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 16 to Sunday, May 21
[Ed note: this column will return to its usual Tuesday time slot next week.]
AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (19-24)
Omaha played a home series against the Toledo Mud Hens (DET) and came away with a 4-2 series win.
Rehabbing Drew Waters truly looks ready to return to the big league roster. In the series, Waters went 11-for-26 with three doubles, two triples, and two home runs. He stole two bases and walked four times, with eight strikeouts.
Third baseman Nick Loftin hit in every game, including three multi-hit games, for a total of 11 hits. He also walked four times and struck out just three. So far in May, Loftin is slashing .328/.403/.493.
The two top base stealers on the team kept up their thievery. 2B/LF Samad Taylor stole five, and had an outstanding week as a hitter as well. Taylor went 8-for-23 with two doubles and a home run, plus five walks and two times hit by a pitch. Outfielder Dairon Blanco stole four to maintain the team lead, having reached base via six walks but just one hit.
Right fielder Tyler Gentry went 8-for-22 with a pair of doubles. Backup catcher Jakson Reetz continues to hit well in limited action, with three doubles and a home run in just 13 at bats.
A handful of Storm Chasers relievers kept things in check particularly well:
- Prior to his callup yesterday, righty Nick Wittgren provided three more shutout innings in two appearances.
- In two long relief stints, lefty Walter Pennington put up five scoreless frames, and allowed just two hits and a walk.
- Lefty Evan Sisk added a scoreless inning, giving him a streak of seven innings in his last five outings without a run.
- RHP Dylan Coleman struck out six across three games, totaling four shutout innings.
- Right-hander Andrés Núñez pitched twice, and allowed no runs in two innings.
AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (18-21)
The Naturals hosted the Springfield Cardinals (STL) and split the series 3-3.
Second baseman Peyton Wilson went 7-for-18 with two doubles and a triple in the series, in addition to walking four times and only striking out once. In 150 plate appearances in the season, Wilson has only struck out 28 times.
Among center fielder John Rave’s seven hits in the series were one of each type of extra base hit. Rave has had a really strong month of May, and pulled his season slash line up to .300/.402/.507.
Shortstop Tyler Tolbert doubled three times and hit his team-leading 4th triple of the season.
Reliever Steven Cruz added two innings to his streak of work without an earned run scoring. The streak goes back 8 2⁄3 innings over eight appearances.
Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (18-21)
What a bummer of a week for the home crowds of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL), because they got swept at the hands of the visiting River Bandits. Quad Cities is in fifth out of six place, but faces first-place Beloit this week with 4.5 games separating the two.
The River Bandits’ offense was led by Midwest League Player of the Week Gavin Cross. Cross drove in 11 runs by way of four doubles and five home runs. All of his hits went for extra bases, leading to an OPS of 1.667 in the series. Cross also drew six walks and stole two bases.
When you hit 5 home runs in a week, including one in 4 straight games, Midwest League Player of the Week honors for @GavinCross24 should come as no surprise!— Raising Royals (@KCRoyalsPD) May 22, 2023
Congrats Gavin! #RaisingRoyals @QCRiverBandits pic.twitter.com/bi5zllYq0w
The Carter Jensen walk watch continues, and Jensen still leads the minors in free passes with six more this week. In addition to the walks, Jensen went 5-for-19 with three doubles. Jensen, it can not be said enough, is 19 years old.
Javier Vaz also had a fabulous week at the plate, one that would be the lead item in the offense section in a normal week. Vaz went 9-for-25 with three doubles and a triple, plus four walks and two steals. He has now played as many games at High-A this year as he did at Columbia last year, and is doing substantially better: his 2023 season slash line is .317/.405/.500.
Hottest hitter in the entire #Royals minor leagues is probably Javier Vaz. He deserves a trip to AA soon.— Preston Farr (@preston_b_farr) May 21, 2023
Entering today, he was slashing .324/.397/.515 in the month of May. Adds a 3B here. He has more walks (8) than strikeouts (7) this month also. pic.twitter.com/lrKqvOFZrj
Shortstop Jack Pineda doubled three times as part of a six-hit series, in addition to five walks drawn and three bases stolen. Outfield River Town also ended up with six hits and five walks, and two steals.
On the mound, Noah Cameron set the tone for the series with a dominant start on Tuesday. The lefty struck out 11 batters in six shutout innings, with just one walk and four hits permitted.
On Friday, right-hander Chandler Champlain offered up six shutout innings of his own, with six Ks and two walks. It was the third six-inning start in a row for Champlain, and in those three starts he has only allowed one run total.
Reliever John McMillon came into three games and was spectacular. He struck out all three batters he faced on Tuesday, and all three batters he faced on Friday, before retiring all four batters he faced in 1 1⁄3 on Sunday. Prior to this series, McMillon only had two appearances at the High-A level. Preston Farr interviewed McMillon for a piece that went up last Tuesday morning, so all the nice stats in that piece have only gotten more impressive.
Single-A Columbia Fireflies (23-16)
The Fireflies went on the road to face the Fredericksburg Nationals (WAS), and won four out of the six games. They now hold a 1.5 game lead over second-place Kannapolis,
A trio of 2022 draftees had good starts in the series. The best of them came from left-hander Frank Mozzicato, who pitched six shutout innings on Thursday. He walked two, allowed just one hit, and for the third start in a row, struck out seven.
Back to back punch-outs on the fastball for Frank Mozzicato in the 2nd inning.— Preston Farr (@preston_b_farr) May 18, 2023
He doesn't have epic velocity with it, but manages to get good spin on the pitch which gives it some pretty good life. pic.twitter.com/UX8i9UDqX4
Righty Ben Kudrna had a nice start this week as well, with one run allowed in five innings. Kudrna allowed one run on six hits, struck out four and walked just one.
The baseball gods made it impossible to know what right-hander David Sandlin could have cooked up on Friday, with a rain delay stopping him at four innings and just 58 pitches. In that time, he struck out six, walked one, and allowed one run on four hits. The game was completed the next day, of course with different pitchers taking it home for Columbia.
This also happened on Friday:
Slight delay in the Columbia game because the FredNats 1B Coach, Carmelo Jaime, was ejected and decided to take third base with him. Three Nats coaches were thrown out in this inning now. An absolutely absurd inning here.— Preston Farr (@preston_b_farr) May 20, 2023
Panzini picked off the runner before insanity ensued. pic.twitter.com/GBH1EYeYcl
Reliever Cooper McKeehan pitched three shutout innings in two appearances, with just two hits and a walk allowed, and four strikeouts. The 22-year-old was a 16th round draftee last summer and has only allowed two earned runs this season.
Who would you like to see promoted from any level? Did you go to any games this week?