‘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 1 to Sunday, August 6
AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (12-20 in second half; 50-54 overall)
The Storm Chasers dropped into last place thanks to a sweep at the hands of the Louisville Bats (CIN). The pitching staff is stretched as thin as a team can get, having to use relievers as spot starters multiple times. As of this writing, the team has only four starting pitchers.
Some good news in the bullpen: flamethrower Steven Cruz hasn’t allowed a hit in his last four appearances, totaling 5.1 innings. In that stretch, he has struck out seven and walked two. Lefty Taylor Hearn hasn’t allowed an earned run in three outings since being added to Omaha’s pen.
Right fielder Tyler Gentry continued his hot hitting, going 7-for-16 with a triple and a homer. He only struck out twice in the series.
Love a Tyler Gentry home run on a Sunday afternoon. Or any time, really pic.twitter.com/teLm3a3uer— Minda Haas Kuhlmann (@minda33) August 6, 2023
An editorial aside: If the organization doesn’t send some help for Omaha pitching, I don’t know how to fairly evaluate the guys who are here. They’re getting used in a way that doesn’t reflect best practices or ideal situations, and if they’re left to hold themselves together with duct tape much longer, I worry that it could hurt their development. I am steamed, frankly.
AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals (17-15 in second half; 46-55 overall)
The Naturals split a series on the road against the Springfield Cardinals (STL) and are now in sole possession of first place.
Right-hander Chandler Champlain struck out eight in eight (!) innings on Wednesday. He gave up two runs, both solo homers, and six hits total. This was Champlain’s follow-up to throwing six no-hit innings last week, which itself followed two good six-inning starts.
Andrew Hoffman threw six shutout innings in a win on Saturday, his best start of the season. The right-hander struck out six, walked just one, and surrendered three hits.
First baseman Dillan Shrum drove in 11 runs in the series, on the strength of five (!!) home runs. He had six homers the entire rest of the season, but is suddenly second on the team in that category, behind only outfielder Jorge Bonifcio.
Downtown Dillan Shrum goes DEEP again!— Northwest Arkansas Naturals (@nwanaturals) August 7, 2023
He's homered in five of six games this week, this one to take the lead! pic.twitter.com/7gk03lVfTg
Tyler Tolbert went 9-for-29 with two doubles and a home run while splitting time between shortstop and right field. Center fielder Diego Hernandez doubled and tripled among the seven hits he compiled in the series.
Catcher Luca Tresh doubled three times among his five hits in four starts behind the dish.
Adv-A Quad Cities River Bandits (12-24 in second half; 44-58 overall)
The River Bandits hit the road to play a series against the Peoria Chiefs (STL), and lost all six games.
Despite the sweep, the rotation provided some bright spots. Righty Mason Barnett started the series with seven strong innings, allowing two runs on five hits. He struck out five in the second 7-inning game of his season, but was saddled with the L.
The next game, left-hander Tyson Guerrero gave the team 6.1 shutout innings with six strikeouts and one walk. On Friday, Steven Zobac pitched his best game since being promoted to Advanced-A, with one run allowed in six innings. He got stuck with the L for his efforts, because Ws and Ls are silly and baseball is a goofy game.
Javier Vaz was the best of the bats, with nine hits in the series, and a nine-game hit streak going. Vaz is among a gaggle of players getting promoted:
Cayden Wallace, by the way, turned 22 yesterday. A promotion is a pretty nice birthday present!
Single-A Columbia Fireflies (18-18 in second half; 53-48 overall)
The Fireflies won their road series at the Augusta GreenJackets (ATL) four games to two to pull to .500 in the second half.
Columbia enjoyed some solid starting pitching in the series.
Tuesday: Righty Ben Hernandez fired six shutout innings, with six strikeouts. By Game Score, it was the best start of his pro career.
Wednesday: Shane Panzini struck out seven and allowed one run in five innings, and was awarded the W.
Saturday: for the second start in a row, righty Mauricio Veliz pitched seven innings. Two unearned runs scored after a cluster of errors and a wild pitch with two outs in an inning, but Veliz and the Fireflies righted the ship and won the game, with Veliz picking up his second consecutive W. He struck out six, walked two, and allowed four singles. I don’t believe I’ve seen any other pitcher go seven innings back-to-back in the system this year, and most starters haven’t even done it once.
On offense, Columbia was led by outfielder Jean Ramirez and first baseman Brett Squires. Ramirez piled up nine hits in six games, including a double and a homer. He stole three bases, but got caught twice. Squires went 7-for-21 with a double and three stolen bases.
Did you go to any games this week? What do you think the corresponding moves will be with all the promotions that got announced yesterday?