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John Rave is an XBH machine for Omaha

This Week in the Minors: John Rave got promoted to Omaha and hit like mad; Tyler Tolbert stole 8 bags.

‘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 13 to Sunday, June 18

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (34-32)

schedule | roster

The Storm Chasers hosted the Columbus Clippers (CLE) for a six-game series, and won all six. This came on the heels of a five-game sweep the week prior, and the 11-game streak put the Chasers a couple games above .500.

Outfielder John Rave came in hot immediately upon his promotion from Northwest Arkansas. Rave hit in every game, including a four-hit day on Sunday, and ended up with 10 total hits that included four doubles, a triple, and an inside-the-park home run.

Brewer Hicklen was used exclusively as the DH in the series, and he went 8-for-19 with two doubles and a home run. Hicklen also stole two bases.

Before getting the call to the Majors, Samad Taylor was doing everything well as a Storm Chaser, including homers in back-to-back games, and four steals in his three games played. He also recorded a delightful episode of Chasers Chat with broadcaster Nick Badders just hours before getting called up.

Lefty Anthony Veneziano had the best start of the Chasers staff with his 6 13 shutout innings on Friday. He only struck out two and walked three, but inducing three double plays kept his pitch count low and kept runs off the board.

Right-handed reliever James McArthur is relatively new to the Royals organization, as he was traded from the Phillies organization in mid-May. In his last five games, McArthur has piled up 9 13 innings, allowed zero runs, and struck out 14.

Prior to his callup to the Royals, righty Brooks Kriske was on a streak of seven appearances with no runs allowed, with 13 Ks and three walks.

The first inning of the triple-A debut of reliever Will Klein went like this: strikeout looking, strikeout swinging, strikeout swinging. He came back on for that game’s final inning and struck out two more, stranding a batter who walked and one who singled. The other out was a popout.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (24-39)

schedule | roster

The Naturals split a home series against the Frisco Rough Riders (TEX), and are now heading to Tulsa, where they could act as spoilers to the Drillers, who are in a tie for first as the first half of the season comes to a close.

Veteran right fielder Jorge Bonifacio mashed in the series, socking three dingers and driving in 10 runs as part of a 9-for-24 performance. It feels like Bonifacio has been around for a lifetime, but he just turned 30 at the beginning of June. He has spent all of 2023 with the Naturals, and has slugged .559 on the season.

Center fielder Tyler Tolbert went ham on the bases, with eight (!) steals in six games. He was on base a whole bunch, courtesy of eight hits and six walks, and being hit by a pitch once.

Infielder Morgan McCullough piled up seven hits that included a double and a home run, and also drew six walks and stole two bases. First baseman Dillan Shrum put up an on base percentage of .667 this week, thanks to the eight (!) walks he took in 18 plate appearances.

Bullpen bullets:

  • RHP Steven Cruz has not allowed a run in his last seven games (9.0 IP). In that time, Cruz has struck out 12, walked six, and also celebrated his 24th birthday.
  • Also streaking is lefty Christian Chamberlain. In a stretch of games going back to May 31, no earned runs have scored in 8 23 innings (five games). He has hit a batter and walked six, but also struck out 12 in the streak.
  • Righty Yefri Del Rosario is also on a roll, with no runs scoring in his last 7 23 innings across six games. In that time, the 23-year-old has struck out eight and walked four, and allowed three hits.

Ángel Zerpa is rehabbing the the Naturals, and started off his assignment with four shutout innings in two appearances. He pitched one inning on Thursday and then three on Sunday.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (31-32)

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In a road series against the Beloit Sky Carp (MIA), the River Bandits came home with a split. With their record at 31-32, the Bandits are six games out of first place, while Cedar Rapids (MIN) won the first-half championship.

The best starting pitching performance in the series was by Chandler Champlain, who pitched seven shutout innings on Friday with four strikeouts and five hits allowed. It was the first time in his pro career that the tall righty has pitched that deep into a game.

Left-hander Tyson Guerrero struck out eight batters and didn’t walk anyone in a six-inning start on Saturday. Right-hander William Fleming started Sunday’s game with four shutout innings with just three singles allowed.

In addition to going 6-for-20 with two doubles and a triple in the series, center fielder Gavin Cross also walked six times and stole three bases.

The Carter Jensen Walk Watch: Jensen did not walk this week, but still holds a tie for most walks in all of the minors, with 56. The co-leader is 31-year-old Niko Goodrum playing for Triple-A Toledo.

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (34-29)

schedule | roster

The Fireflies went on the road for a series against the Fayetteville Woodpeckers (HOU) and won two of the six games, which was not enough to keep their place in the standings as the first half came to a close. Myrtle Beach won four in their series to clinch the first-half championship.

In both of the team wins, the W went to reliever Cooper McKeehan. The 22-year-old lefty pitched the 10th and 11th without a run allowed on Tuesday, then gave the team 2 23 shutout innings on Saturday.

Right-hander Chase Wallace pitched three innings in two games without giving up a hit. This is part of a season-long trend for Wallace, who has only given up hits in one of his seven appearances.

No earned runs scored in Steven Zobac’s five-inning start on Tuesday, although one unearned one did. He struck out three batters and walked two, and allowed three singles. Since moving to the rotation, Zobac’s previously prodigious strikeout rate has dropped to just 6.1 per nine innings, after he started the season out of the pen with a dazzling rate of 18.8. With that said, his ERA as a starter is 2.28 in six starts.

Second baseman Lizandro Rodriguez went 7-for-22 with four walks and two doubles, and a stolen base. Catcher Omar Hernandez hit a home run as part of a six-hit effort in five games, and he also stole four bases in four attempts. Hernandez now leads the Fireflies with 20 steals.

Five pitchers were promoted yesterday: RHP Jonathan Bowlan and LHP Christian Chamberlain to Omaha, righties Chandler Champlain and John McMillon to Northwest Arkansas, and RHP David Sandlin to Quad Cities. Notably, lefty Drew Parrish was the odd man out in the Omaha rotation to make space for Bowlan.

Did you go to any games this week? Who stood out to you?