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:
The Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) endured their first rainout in a month in the midst of a key series against their division rival Memphis Redbirds. Omaha split that four-game series and went 3-3 during the last week, remaining atop the PCL’s American Northern division by a game and a half.
One of the unheralded but valuable arms on Omaha’s roster is Luis Mendoza, who has gotten into a groove of late. After beginning the season in the bullpen, Mendoza moved to the rotation and has allowed just two runs in his last three starts combined. His 2.75 ERA tops all PCL qualifiers and he was recently named to the league’s All-Star team. Joining Mendoza on the All-Star team is Johnny Giavotella, who had three multi-hit games last week to raise his average to .323. Somewhat lost in the Royals’ logjam at first base, Kila Ka’aihue punctuated a solid week with a walk-off grand slam on Tuesday.
Joaquin Arias finds himself in a rough stretch. While it is tough for any utility player to get into a consistent rhythm, Arias has just one hit in the last five games he has started and his batting average has fallen to .194 with a .215 on-base percentage. Former Natural Paulo Orlando is also in a bit of a slide at the plate, as he also has just one hit in his last five games. Infielder Lance Zawadski has gone hitless since June 23rd and is 0 for his last 10.
The Texas League All-Star break came at a good time for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, who could use the time off to recharge their bats after last week’s series against the Arkansas Travelers. The Naturals were shut out in three of those four games and have not won since last week’s farm report, falling to 1-5 in the second half of the season.
Southpaw Chris Dwyer has been a tough-luck loser in his last two starts. Against the Travelers this past Saturday, Dwyer allowed just a run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings and did not issue a walk. It was Dwyer’s first walk-less outing this year and could be a sign of things to come. One player whose bat did not go cold is Wil Myers, who had three doubles last week. In the bullpen, Kelvin Herrera (1.61 ERA, 28 K/1 BB) and Kevin Chapman (0.77 ERA, 13 K/4 BB) continue to mow down opposing batters.
Anthony Seratelli had an absolutely torrid June that tapered off a bit toward the end of the month, as the switch hitter went 1-for-15 in his last four games before the All-Star break. Tim Smith is in the midst of a 1-for-13 slump since his 12-game hitting streak, though both Smith and Seratelli should be able to get their bats going again in short order. Edgar Osuna had a rough outing in his most recent start, allowing six runs in just four innings against the Tulsa Drillers.
The Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) started the 2011 season on a roll but faded toward the end of the first half. Though the team is just 3-4 in the second half, they find themselves in a three-way tie for first in what is a jumbled Northern Division. The Blue Rocks have lost four of their last five games and will look to turn things around this week.
Outfielder Nick Francis continues to deliver for Wilmington. Francis hit safely in all but one game last week and had four multi-hit games in that span. Despite spending nearly a month in Double-A, Francis is one off the team lead with seven home runs. Right-hander Tim Melville has pitched well of late, as he allowed just one run and struck out six in his last start. Noel Arguelles was a tough-luck loser on Wednesday as he tossed 6 2/3 innings and gave up just two runs while striking out four. Arguelles has impressed with his control, only walking five batters this season.
Whit Merrifield has just one hit since last Thursday, going 1-for-22 in that span. Also struggling at the plate is catcher Jose Bonilla, who does not have a hit in his last three contests and is now batting .222. By and large, Wilmington’s pitching staff had a solid week, though reliever Glenn Gibson allowed three runs in one inning during his most recent appearance.
The Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) are off to a scorching start in the second half of the season. Despite beginning the half on the road, Kane County went 5-1 last week, tying them with Beloit for first place in the league’s Western Division in the early stages of the second half.
Brett Eibner had a pair of three-hit games last week and hit four home runs in that span as he continues to put his early-season thumb injury behind him. Eibner is still hitting just .206 this season but is certainly trending upward. Brian Fletcher matched Eibner with four home runs last week and had a seven-game hitting streak that earned him Midwest League Player of the Week honors. Right-hander Leondy Perez allowed just an unearned run over seven innings in earning his second win of the season.
Kane County’s 3.60 team ERA is in the top third of the league, though reliever Mitch Hodge has allowed at least two runs in his last three appearances. Offensively,Yowill Espinal has yet to see his batting average climb above .200 since late April, while Alex Llanos is just two for his last 15.
The Idaho Falls Chukars’ (Pioneer League) 2011 season got off to an inauspicious start, as the team lost 20-0 on opening day and 12-4 one day later. Since then, though, the Chukars are 5-3 and sit at .500 through the first week and a half of their season.
Infielder Daniel Mateo has hit in each of the seven games in which he has played, carring a .407 average and a .448 on-base percentage into Thursday’s action.Runey Davis has a six-game hitting streak of his own and has hit one of the team’s three home runs. On the mound, Brian Peacock fired four scoreless innings to earn the save against Orem on Monday.
Henry Moreno is one of the few Chukars who is off to a slow start with the bat, as the first baseman is hitting .211 and has struck out 16 times without drawing a walk. On the mound, Jose Sanchez and Brian Penny have both had a pair of rough starts, as the two players have yielded seven or more runs in each of their first two starts this season.
The Appalachian League has not been kind to the Burlington Royals this season, as the club is 1-8 through the first week and a half of play. In particular, the Royals have struggled away from home, going 0-6 on the road to this point in the year.
Though he has yet to homer, right fielder Jovan Pickett leads all of his Burlington teammates with a .353 batting average through nine games. Much of the team’s power has come from slugging first baseman Murray Watts, who has four of the team’s 10 home runs. The team’s lone win was earned by right-hander Jason Mitchell, who tossed five scoreless innings against Pulaski on Tuesday.
Angel Baez retired just one batter in his first start of the season and has allowed four runs in both of his outings. The 20-year-old Dominican native did pitch into the fourth inning his last time out and will look to build from there. The Royals’ left fielder, Cameron Conner, is hitting just .185 in the early going while infielder Justin Trapp is at .206.
Playing under the lights to escape the sweltering Arizona heat, the AZL Royals (Arizona League) are just 2-6 in the early stages of complex league play and are looking to stem a four-game losing streak entering Thursday’s action.
A few young players are off to strong starts with the bat, as 19-year-old Jerico Blanco is hitting .480 while Travis Lane (.450) Nicholas Cuckovich (.424) and Nick DelGuidice (.400) all at or above the .400 mark. On the mound, reliever Parker Bangs has a team-high nine strikeouts through his first three outings.
The AZL Royals have an unsightly 8.23 team ERA to this point, as Christian Witt (2.1 IP, 13 ER), Fernando Cruz (3.2 IP, 8 ER) and Brian Edelen (6.1 IP, 10 ER) will look to shake off slow starts. Offensively, Kevin David has just two hits through his first 16 at bats, while Rainier Bello (.154) and Carlos Garcia (.172) have also struggled early on.
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.