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) went 3-4 over the last week, bookending a three-game win streak with a pair of losses on either side. Most importantly, the Storm Chasers have lost two of the first three games of their key series against the Memphis Redbirds, their prime competition in the league’s American Northern Division. Omaha still holds a two-game lead over Memphis and has secured the head-to-head tiebreaker should it come into play.
Luis Mendoza had an incredibly eventful night on Monday, no-hitting the Redbirds through eight innings. In the ninth, a controversial play was first ruled a two-base error, giving Mendoza a no-hitter. Memphis then tried to get the play changed to a hit, but Omaha did not go along with the ruling, leaving Mendoza’s no-no intact for the time being. The Redbirds then field a formal appeal with the PCL, who overturned the ruling once and for all, wiping away the no-hitter. Still, Mendoza’s complete-game shutout continued his impressive season, lowering his ERA to 2.30. Offensively, Johnny Giavotella racked up 14 hits in six games last week, raising his batting average to .340.
After two consecutive strong starts, southpaw Mike Montgomery had a pair of rocky outings last week, losing against both New Orleans and Memphis. On Wednesday, Montgomery allowed five runs in five innings and saw some of his control issues return, walking three against two strikeouts. In what was a generally solid offensive week for Omaha, infielder Lance Zawadzki went just 3-for-18 at the plate, striking out seven times.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) pushed themselves right back into the North Divison’s second half race with a 5-2 week that included the team’s first no-hitter and first triple play – in the same game. The Naturals enter Thursday with a chance to sweep the first-place Arkansas Travelers and pull even in the standings.
Tuesday was one of the most historic nights in Naturals’ history, as starter Will Smith and ace reliever Kelvin Herrera combined to face the minimum in the club’s first-ever no-hitter. Smith issued two walks to open the fifth but promptly erased them by inducing a 5-4-3 triple play. Herrera set down all six batters he faced and now has 39 strikeouts against only three walks in Double-A. Jamie Romak is in the midst of an offensive surge, as he has an active eight-game hitting streak that includes four two-hit games in his last five. Romak has also launched seven home runs in his last 13 games.
Southpaw Chris Dwyer is still looking to get back on track. Though he pitched into the sixth inning on July 16 – his deepest outing in his last four – Dwyer still allowed five runs and took the loss. In his last four starts, Dwyer has walked 20 batters and struck out just eight. Returned to Double-A after being unable to find consistent playing time in Omaha, Paulo Orlando has just two hits in his first four games with the Naturals.
A five-game losing streak cost the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) ground in the Northern Division standings last week. The Blue Rocks did stem the tide with Wednesday’s win at Myrtle Beach, but the team went just 1-5 since last week’s report. Wilmington is now in third place, 5.5 games behind both Frederick and Potomac.
Outfielder Nick Van Stratten got off to a scorching start with the Blue Rocks before going into a bit of a slump in early July. But in the last week, Van Stratten has put together a four-game hit streak. Van Stratten enters Thursday’s action with five hits in his last two contests. In a rare shaky week for Wilmington’s starting rotation, Michael Mariot gave up just three runs – one earned – in seven innings on Wednesday, earning his team’s only win of the week. The outing was the longest of the season for Mariot, who has worked out of both the rotation and the ‘pen.
Left-hander Noel Arguelles endured his worst outing of the season on July 15, allowing five runs in just an inning and two thirds. Arguelles also walked four Frederick hitters, a third of his season total of 12 bases on balls allowed. Still, it is a testament to Arguelles’ body of work that his ERA sits at 2.99 despite this last start. Outfielder John Whittleman recorded just two hits in 19 at bats last week, striking out six times in five games.
Like their Advanced-A brethren, the Kane County Cougars also snapped a five-game losing streak within the last few days. The club has now won two straight as they begin a six-game road trip. After posting a 2-4 record, Kane County is now 15-10 in the second half and tied with Quad Cities atop the league’s Western Division.
Another start brought yet another solid stat line for right-hander Greg Billo. Billo allowed one run over five innings against West Michigan on Wednesday, striking out four. Notably, this outing actually raised his ERA from 1.38 to a still-sterling 1.41. Billo continues to lead all qualifying full-season minor leaguers in earned run average. 18-year-old Cheslor Cuthbert continued his recent tear this week, as though his average “fell” to .329, Cuthbert worked four walks last week to maintain an impressive .383 on-base percentage.
Outfielder Brett Eibner has continued to stumble at the plate, as his batting average stayed at .192 through last week’s play. After his late-June home run tear, Eibner has only homered once since June 30 and has just two extra-base hits since July 2. Both Yowill Espinal (.187) and Orlando Calixte (.204) are still looking to get themselves established at the plate as well.
The Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League) went 2-4 last week, allowing at least nine runs in all four of those losses. At 12-17, the Chukars remain in third place in the league’s South Division, seven games behind first-place Ogden. To get back in the race, Idaho Falls will look to improve on its 5.92 team ERA.
Runey Davis compiled another strong week in what is turning into an outstanding campaign for the outfielder. Davis had five hits and drew six walks in his four games since last week’s report, raising his on-base percentage to a remarkable .478, a figure that leads the league. Fellow outfielder Tyler Chism also turned in a great performance on the plate, cracking a pair of home runs as he raised his batting average from .262 to .288.
Arkansas native Jonathan Dooley endured a rough outing in his last start, allowing nine earned runs in 3 2/3 innings against Missoula on July 17. Dooley has now walked 22 batters in 28 innings with a 9.96 ERA. Catcher Tyler Smith was hitless in two games last week and is now just 1-for-20 with the Chukars this season.
The Burlington Royals (Appalachian League) experienced an up-and-down seven day stretch, going 3-4 in the last week. At 11-18, the Royals have work to do to climb back in the league’s East Division. They currently reside in last place, six games behind the first-place Bluefield Blue Jays.
Slugging first baseman Murray Watts continues to crush Appy League pitching. Watts belted another pair of home runs to raise his league-leading total to 11. Watts has also drawn at least one walk in each of his last six games, raising his on-base percentage to a healthy .378. Infielder Justin Trapp has also been a key figure in the Royals’ offense, putting together a five-game hitting streak last week. Trapp’s 25 RBI put him three behind Watts for the team lead. Though he didn’t have a particularly remarkable week, Jovan Pickett’s body of work earned him a promotion to Kane County.
On the mound, Robinson Yambati had another rough outing as he gave up four runs on five hits in just 2 1/3 innings against Bluefield. Yambati is allowing opposing hitters to bat .449 against him through six starts. Catcher Kenny Swab had just two hits in five games last week as he is now hitting just .135 in his first 10 games with Burlington.
Down in Surprise, Ariz., the AZL Royals (Arizona League) matched both Wilmington and Kane County with a five-game losing streak. The club went 1-5 since last week’s report, dropping their overall record to 9-15, 7 ½ games behind the Rangers’ complex league affiliate.
Infielder Nick DelGuidice racked up another three multi-hit games this week as he continues to make a great impression in Arizona. Though his average “plummeted” last week, DelGuidice is still hitting a remarkable .434. Outfielder Anthony Howard hit safely in his first seven games with the AZL Royals and is batting .400 through eight contests with the club. On the mound, reliever Andrew Stueve has allowed just two earned runs in 11 appearances, racking up 29 strikeouts against just two walks.
Left-hander Cesar Ogando had a pair of rocky starts last week, allowing a total of eight runs in just an inning and two thirds. He has now walked more batters (13) than he has struck out (12). The AZL Royals are hitting an impressive .276 as a team, though Alexander Marquez is just 2-for-20 in the seven games in which he has played.
Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization
A change of scenery seems to be suiting Blake Johnson very well. After struggling in Omaha prior to his release from the Kansas City organization, Johnson fired four consecutive scoreless innings to begin his stint with the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs. Johnson did allow two runs in as many innings on Wednesday but still has a solid 3.38 ERA. Fellow PCL reliever Dan Cortes had a solid week for the Tacoma Rainiers, firing three scoreless outings as he tries to get back on track.
At the plate, Corey Smith recorded just three bases hits for Triple-A Albuquerque but did crack his seventh home run as a member of the Isotopes. Over in the International League, Jordan Parraz has a six-game hitting streak for the Yankees’ affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Right-hander Juan Abreu finally saw his scoreless streak come to an end on Tuesday, taking the loss against the Louisville Bats. Abreu had not allowed a run since June 8, a stretch encompassing 14 straight scoreless outings. Abreu still has a rock-solid 2.14 ERA this season.
After his batting average fell to .218, utility man Ed Lucas was sent from Gwinnett to Double-A Mississippi, where he joins other formal Naturals Rowdy Hardy, Ben Swaggerty and Ernesto Mejia. Hardy allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings last week, while Swaggerty has not pitched since June 22. Swaggerty spent time on the disabled list and has yet to appear in a game since being re-activated. At the plate, Mejia had a bit of a slow week as he collected just three hits, with only a double going for extra bases.
Elsewhere, Chris McConnell is batting .214 with four extra-base hits for the Harrisburg Senators, while down in the Florida State League, Jose Duarte notched a pair of multi-hit games last week for the Jupiter Hammerheads. He is now joined in that league by Harold Mozingo, who recently signed with the Blue Jays and was assigned to Advanced-A Dunedin.
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.