The fine folks at the Northwest Arkansas Naturals provide us with a brief rundown of the Royals farm system every week. The details are listed below:
Royals Farm Report: April 21st
A look at the Royals farm system after the season’s first two weeks
After beginning the season just 2-5, the Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) righted the ship this week, going 5-2 in the past seven days to climb back to the .500 mark. Thanks to an offense powered by top Royals prospects, the Storm Chasers sit just a half game back of first-place Iowa (7-6) in the PCL’s American North division.
Eric Hosmer hit well in the season’s first week but has turned it up even more of late, riding a nine-game hitting streak that has raised his average to .425. Clint Robinson has continued to mash everything in sight as he is batting .404 and leads the team with five doubles, four home runs and 11 RBI. After a somewhat slow start to the season, David Lough notched four two-hit games in the past week while Mike Moustakas has a hit in eight straight games. On the mound, Danny Duffy allowed just a lone hit over 4.2 innings in his last start while Mike Montgomery gave up only an unearned run over six frames in his most recent outing.
The Storm Chasers have not received much production from the team’s catchers, as Lucas May has just one hit in 19 at bats while Manny Pina is batting just .130. Shortstop Lance Zawadzki is also off to a slow start, carrying just a .119 average through the season’s first two weeks. Starter Vin Mazarro (9.82 ERA) and reliever Steven Shell (9.35) have both struggled in the early going.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) were swept by the San Antonio Missions in their first road series of the season but recovered to take two of three from the Hooks in Corpus Christi. Despite the 2-4 week, the Naturals (7-5) remain in first place of the Texas League’s North Division, one game ahead of the Arkansas Travelers (6-6) entering Thursday’s action.
Jeff Bianchi has torn the cover off the ball of late as he carries a 10-game hitting streak that includes eight extra-base hits. Catcher Salvador Perez’ bat has started to come around, as the 20-year-old picked up six hits between the last two games of the road trip. Though he hit for a decent average in the season’s first week, Wil Myers found his power stroke last week as he hit his first two Double-A homers. Starter Chris Dwyer turned in his best outing of the season last week, allowing just one run over six innings at Corpus Christi, and reliever Blake Johnson, who now is in possession of the Naturals’ franchise record for appearances, has now opened the year with 12 consecutive scoreless innings.
Shortstop Christian Colon struggled at the plate this week as his average has dipped to .205, though he does still have more walks (8) than strikeouts (5). Kurt Mertins had just two hits in the five games he appeared in as well. The entire Naturals pitching staff had a rough day in a 26-5 loss to San Antonio, as starter Will Smith will look to rebound after giving up six runs in one inning in that game.
The Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) matched their opening-week record of 4-2 in the past seven days, and at 8-4 have opened up a two-and-a-half game lead on second place Frederick (5-6). The Blue Rocks’ hot start is largely due to a pitching staff that has put up an overall 2.94 ERA through 12 games.
Last week’s offensive star, Rey Navarro, has continued his torrid start to the season with 21 hits in his 46 at bats this year, good for a .457 average. Navarro leads the Blue Rocks with seven extra-base hits, including three triples. Whit Merrifield had three two-hit games this past week and his current seven-game hit streak has him up to .310. Perhaps the biggest standout on the Blue Rocks’ dominant pitching staff has been Noel Arguelles, who in his professional debut has yet to give up a run in eight innings over two starts. Tyler Sample took the loss in his last start but boasts a 2.03 ERA through 13 1/3 innings, while reliever Michael Mariot is holding opposing hitters to just a .077 average.
The Blue Rocks’ raised their team batting average from .208 to .231 this past week, but several players are still finding their way offensively, including Alex McClure (.119), Deivy Batista (.138), Tim Ferguson (.154) and Jose Bonilla (.168). Starter Tim Melville was roughed up by the Kinston Indians in his last start as he allowed four runs on 12 hits in just 4 1/3 innings.
After a 2-5 opening week, the Class-A Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) put up a 3-4 mark in the past seven games. Managed by former Natural Vance Wilson, at 5-9 the Cougars are 5.5 games out of first place behind the 10-3 Burlington Bees.
Ryan Stovall paced the Cougars’ offense this week as he has seven hits in his last four games, a burst that has raised his batting average to .417. Alex Llanos also picked up multiple hits in three different games last week, as he checks in at .333 with a team-best two home runs. In part time duty, Ryan Jenkins has a .364 average through 22 at bats. The Cougars’ best starting pitcher has been Leondy Perez, who despite an 0-2 record checks in with a 2.00 ERA and 12 strikeouts through three outings.
Geulin Beltre has played in all 14 games but has yet to see much offensive success as he is hitting .191 through two weeks. Other Kane County players struggling offensively include Yowill Espinal (.146), Angel Franco (.156) and Lane Adams (.219). Reliever Chaz Byrne will look to bounce back from his last appearance in which he yielded four runs in one inning against Burlington.
Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization
A number of former Naturals have found new homes in the Atlanta Braves organization, including reliever Juan Abreu, who has yet to allow a run through seven innings this season for Triple-A Gwinnett. One of Abreu’s teammates is infielder Ed Lucas, who is hitting .214 as a member of Gwinnett’s everyday lineup. Joining Abreu and Lucas in Atlanta’s system are first baseman Ernesto Mejia (.354, 2 HR, 6 RBI) and left-hander Rowdy Hardy, (0-2, 3.86), both of whom are on the roster of Double-A Mississippi.
Competing against Mejia and Hardy in the Southern League is Corey Smith, who is off to a .313 start through two weeks with the Chattanooga Lookouts, the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate. Reliever Dan Cortes is in the Mariners’ system, where he has a 3.86 ERA through five appearances for Triple-A Tacoma, while infielder Chris McConnell his hitting .219 for the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse. The first batter in Naturals team history, Jose Duarte has struggled in the early going, hitting just .185 for the Marlins’ Florida State League affiliate in Jupiter.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.