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Dairon Blanco always on base, always stealing

This Week in the Minors: Omaha OF Dairon Blanco vying for MiLB lead in steals; Carter Jensen still leads Minors in walks

Head-on view of a baseball player in a blue jersey and blue helmet sliding hands-first into third base. Dirt is flying up everywhere and his face is scrunched up from the effort. A defender’s leg juts into the frame, clad in gray pants and white shoes with red accents.
Dairon Blanco stealing third base in a game against the Memphis Redbirds.
Minda Haas Kuhlmann

‘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 30 to Sunday, June 4

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (23-32)

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The Storm Chasers/Runzas hosted the Memphis Redbirds (STL) and won twice.

Outfielder Dairon Blanco briefly topped the minor league leaderboards in stolen bases this week, as he now stands at 37, and trails the league lead by two. But one has to get on base in order to steal them, and Blanco did that, with nine hits. On the season, the 30-year-old is slashing .325/.431/.444.

Nate Eaton played four different positions: center field, right field, second base, and third base. At the plate, he went 8-for-25 with one of each kind of extra base hit and two stolen bases.

For the first time since the Royals signed him in the spring, Johan Camargo got to play a full series. Among his seven hits were a double and a homer, and he also walked six times. He played some first base, third base, and a game at shortstop, plus one turn as DH.

Right fielder Tyler Gentry went 7-for-24 with a double and a homer, and a stolen base. In limited playing time, left fielder Tucker Bradley went 5-for-11 with doubles.

In his third Triple-A start, lefty Anthony Veneziano struck out seven Redbirds and allowed just one run on five hits in five innings. That ties a season high for Veneziano, who donates $2 for every one of his strikeouts to a fundraising campaign that helps single moms finish their college degrees.

Right-hander Jonathan Heasley bounced back from a couple of tougher starts with five innings of one-run ball on Thursday. For reasons I never did find out, Heasley and Drew Parrish swapped days in the rotation this series. For his part, Parrish flew through the first three innings on Friday before running into a series of unfortunate events and getting pulled in the fourth.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (20-31)

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The Naturals hosted the Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU) for a series, and won two games.

In his start on Thursday, righty Andrew Hoffman pitched six innings, allowing just one run on four hits. He struck out six and walked two. In 10 starts this season, Hoffman has never walked more than three batters.

Will Klein pitched four innings in two relief appearances this week, and struck out eight. On the season, KIein has struck out 14 batters per nine innings in 26 13 innings.

Center fielder John Rave walked five times on top of his 6-for-16 showing at the plate, and stole three bases. Also clocking in with six hits was catcher Luca Tresh, who hit three doubles in the series.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (27-24)

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The River Bandits went on the road for a series against the Lake County Captains (CLE), and came back with a 3-3 split. They’re two games out of first place in the Midwest League West division, behind Cedar Rapids. Those two teams don’t go head to head again until July 4.

The Carter Jensen Walk Watch continues apace: with five more free passes this week, Jensen still leads all of the minors.

Javier Vaz homered in the first two games of the series and ended up with nine hits altogether and only struck out three times. Among regulars on the roster, Vaz leads the team in batting average and slugging percentage.

Also hitting two homers this week was center fielder Gavin Cross. Cross went 7-for-22 with five walks drawn and just five strikeouts. Second baseman Herard Gonzalez went 7-for-24 with three doubles.

Left-hander Tyson Guerrero did something not many in the Royals system have done this season: pitched seven innings in one game. In Saturday’s start, Guerrero only needed 78 pitches to strike out seven batters and get through seven innings with just one run (unearned) allowed.

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (29-22)

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The Fireflies dropped all but one game of this week’s series against the Down East Wood Ducks (TEX), but they are still tied with Myrtle Beach for first place in the Carolina League South.

Truthfully, the starting rotation gave the team a chance to win every day. That started with Steven Zobac, who started Tuesday with four shutout innings in which he threw just 39 pitches. It was Zobac’s second consecutive four-inning shutout start.

Wednesday, righty Ben Kudrna struck out a career-high nine while giving up two earned runs (three total) in five innings. To go with the Ks, Kudrna walked just one and allowed four hits.

That game was followed by Frank Mozzicato’s last start before he was injured during practice and placed on the IL. In that game, Mozzicato struck out 10 and allowed two runs (one earned) in five innings.

Shane Panzini fired off five shutout innings in Friday’s game, with seven Ks, one walk, and five hits allowed. It was a good bounce back for the right-hander, who was a little shaky in his previous start.

For the second time this season, David Sandlin hit double digits in strikeouts in Saturday’s start. He allowed three runs on three hits (two homers) in six innings.

In the team’s lone win, Mauricio Veliz somehow weathered 10 hits against him and allowed just two runs in 4 13 innings.