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This Week in the Minors: new draftees shine

This Week in the Minors: strong week for several 2023 draftees, Anthony Veneziano’s 10K game, and more

‘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, August 8 to Sunday, August 13

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (12-25 in second half; 50-59 overall)

schedule | roster

In a home series against the Iowa Cubs, the Storm Chasers lost five games and had the sixth one banged on account of a rainy Sunday.

Mostly, I want to pretend this series never happened, but there were some shiny bright spots. For one, this play from John Rave:

Lefty Anthony Veneziano struck out 10 batters in six shutout innings on Thursday, his first time reaching double-digit Ks at the Triple-A level. He accomplished that feat twice in 2022 at Double-A, and once in 2021.

Right-hander Jonathan Bowlan started the next day, and also had his best Triple-A start to date: eight strikeouts in 5.2 innings, with three hits and three walks, and one run allowed.

Jackson Kowar has looked sharp out of the bullpen lately, with no earned runs scoring in his last three outings. In those, he has struck out eight in 7.2 total innings, with just two walks and four hits allowed.

AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (19-19 in second half; 48-59 overall)

schedule | roster

The Naturals had a home series against the Wichita Wind Surge (MIN) and won two out of six. They’re just a half a game out of first place, so we will keep watching the standings as the second half marches on.

Righty Yefri Del Rosario was nearly flawless out of the pen, letting just one runner on via walk in three innings split into two games. He struck out six to continue a really strong August.

Manager Tommy Shields called upon John McMillon for two two-inning appearances, and he did get a save with zero hits allowed on Thursday. However, Sunday’s game went into extra innings and the placed runner scored on McMillon for an unearned run. NWArk didn’t answer in the bottom of the inning, so he got that game’s L. However, his ERA as a Natural remains 0.87.

Tyler Tolbert had four two-hit games in the series, for a total of nine hits that included one of each variety of extra base hit. The superutilityman is hot in August, with a slash line so far this month of .340/.346/.547.

Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (15-27 in second half; 47-61 overall)

schedule | roster

Quad Cities hosted the Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) and split the series 3-3. Their wins on Tuesday and Wednesday were both shutouts.

Righty Eric Cerantola pitched in both the first and last games of the series, first in relief and then as a starter. He came on with the bases loaded in the 4th on Tuesday and struck out the batter to end that threat, and finished with 3.1 no-hit innings. Sunday, the 23-year-old struck out eight in a 4.2-inning start. He allowed just one hit, a solo homer.

From the bullpen, lefty Marlin Willis came into two games for long relief. He struck out 10 (!) batters in 4.1 no-hit (!) innings. He also issued zero (!) walks.

Right fielder Juan Carlos Negret muscled up for four dingers in the series, and drove in 10 runs. He also struck out nine times and didn’t walk, so his average and on-base percentage in the series were both .308.

Utilityman Shervyn Newton went 6-for-18 with two homers and two doubles.

A couple of new draftees with alliterative names showed good results: second baseman Justin Johnson and shortstop Dustin Dickerson. Johnson, the 10th-round pick from Wake Forest, had seven hits and stole three bases. Dickerson went 6-for-25 with a double and a homer. He was drafted in the 8th round from Southern Miss.

Single-A Columbia Fireflies (20-22 in second half; 55-52 overall)

schedule | roster

The Fireflies hosted the first-place Charleston RiverDogs (TBR) and won two of the six-game set.

Second round draftee Carson Roccaforte debuted impressively with Columbia, going 7-for-19 with a double and two triples while playing center field. Roccaforte was the highest draft pick out of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette since 1995.

Henry Williams made his Royals organizational debut after coming over from the Padres in the trade for Scott Barlow. Williams started Tuesday’s game with five shutout innings, allowing two hits and three walks. He struck out four.

First baseman Brett Squires and second baseman Lizandro Rodriguez led the offense in the series with huge weeks. Squires went off with four home runs, having previously homered six times all season. Rodriguez piled up 10 hits, including two doubles, stole two bases and only struck out twice.

Did you go to any games this week? Have you ever traveled for a minor league game?