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:
As the regular season enters its final month, the Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) appear to be rounding into form. The club when 6-1 over the last week, carrying an active six-game winning streak into Thursday’s game against Sacramento. The Storm Chasers have outscored their opponents 45-12 in those six games, a sign that the team is firing on all cylinders. Omaha has now opened up a six-game lead in the PCL’s American Northern Division.
Another week brings another standout performance for second baseman Johnny Giavotella, who went 5-for-6 against Oklahoma City on Sunday and followed that performance with a three-hit game two days later. With 33 doubles, a .391 on-base percentage and 72 RBI, Giavotella is beating down the door to Kansas City. Also swinging a hot bat is Lorenzo Cain, who has now hit safely in eight of his last nine games and drawn seven walks in that span. Catcher Salvador Perez has made a strong first impression at Triple-A, as he connected on a grand slam in his third game with Omaha and is hitting .286 through his first week at the level.
It’s hard to find fault with much that the Storm Chasers did last week, but Vin Mazzaro allowed four runs in just 3 2/3 innings of work his last time out. Irving Falu is one of the only Omaha hitters who did not put together a great week, as he is just 4-for-18 in his last five games.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) continue to be one of the streakier teams in the system, as the club followed a stretch of 10 wins in 12 games with five losses in their last seven. Despite going 2-5 last week, the Naturals managed to regain sole possession of first place in the North Division’s second half standings with Wednesday’s win at Tulsa.
Found more often in the “Who’s Not” section this year, left-hander Chris Dwyer has turned his season around over his last three starts. Dwyer has won all three and allowed a total of five runs in those games, as he tossed seven innings of one-run ball on Sunday against Springfield. A reason for his success is improved control, as Dwyer has struck out 19 while walking five in those three games. Outfielder Paulo Orlando has a 10-game hitting streak as of the writing of this report, racking up four hits on July 31. Orlando has tripled in each of his last three games and is hitting .386 through 17 games in his return to Double-A.
Though he turned it around with a quality start and win on Wednesday night, Will Smith could not get out of the fifth inning on July 29, allowing a season-high nine runs on 10 hits against Springfield. Also on the mound, Jeremy Jeffress could not harness his control in Saturday’s start, as he walked five in 3 2/3. Though he did go deep for the first time in over a month on Tuesday, Wil Myers does not have a multi-hit game since July 21 as his batting average has dipped to .246.
After fading in the middle part of July, the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) rebounded last week, going 4-2 in the last seven days. The team still has plenty of work ahead of them, though, as they trail first-place Frederick by 10 games in the second half standings and would need to erase a six-game deficit to snag a potential wild-card spot from the Potomac Nationals.
Though he went 0-4 on Wednesday, outfielder Yem Prades is riding an impressive string at the plate. He had collected hits in nine straight games, including four two-hit games, a pair of three-hit games and a four-hit game. Prades also scored at least one run in every game during his streak, raising his batting average from .255 to .303 in the process. Tim Melville turned in the club’s best pitching performance of the week as he spun seven scoreless innings against Kinston on July 29, striking out five with just one walk.
Melville’s success was not shared by rotation mate Tyler Sample, who has now allowed five or more runs in each of his last four starts. Sample allowed six runs on eight hits and four walks last time out, pitching just 4 1/3 against Winston-Salem on Tuesday. At the plate, outfielder Carlo Testa was just 3-for-19 last week and has not homered since July 9.
The Kane County Cougars have put that mid-July five-game losing streak in the rear view mirror with back-to-back solid weeks. The Cougars went 5-2 since last week’s report, continuing their impressive second-half turnaround. Unfortunately for the club, the Quad Cities is just as hot, as the River Bandits lead Kane County by a game in the Western Division second half standings.
Brett Eibner has showed off his power in stretches this season but may now be starting to harness his ability into overall production. The former Arkansas Razorback has hits in eight of his last nine games, including five hits in his two most recent contests. With impressive plate discipline (29 walks in 50 games), and power (.457 slugging percentage), Eibner’s numbers will look even better if and when he starts hitting better than his current .220 clip. Starter Greg Billo continues to blow away the Midwest League, firing six innings of one-run ball in his last start. Billo now has 97 strikeouts and just 21 walks to go along with his 1.48 ERA.
Catcher Juan Graterol did have two hits on Wednesday night, but that snapped a stretch of six consecutive hitless games, during which Graterol went 0-for-21 at the dish. He has just two extra-base hits in 80 at bats for Kane County. In the rotation, Santiago Garrido has allowed four runs over five innings in each of his last two starts, though he is 1-0 in those games thanks to the Cougars’ offensive output.
The Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League) had lost three straight games heading into last week’s report, then won three straight before losing another three in a row in the early stages of the league’s second half. The 3-3 week puts the Chukars at 18-24 overall and 1-3 in the second half of the season.
Second baseman Michael Liberto may be listed at just 5’7”, 170 lbs, but that hasn’t stopped him from raking in the Pioneer League this year. Liberto has a 10-game hitting streak at the writing of this report and is batting .366 in his first 23 games with the Chukars. Reliever Edwin Carl did allow two runs in as many innings in his last appearance but has still been Idaho Falls’ most effective hurler, boasting a 1.57 ERA through 14 appearances with the club.
Shortstop Adrian Martinez has not swung the bat as well as the other half of Idaho Falls’ double-play combo has. Martinez was just 3-for-16 at the plate last week and is batting .227 for the Chukars with just three extra-base hits. On the mound, a move to the bullpen has not helped right-hander Robert Penny, who has given up 12 runs in a total of four innings over his last three appearances.
The Burlington Royals (Appalachian League) went 2-4 last week, falling further behind in the league’s East Division. At 16-26 overall and eight games out of first, the Royals need an August turnaround if they want to have the postseason in their future.
Justin Trapp has perhaps been the team’s hottest hitter over the past month, and the 20-year-old continued that theme this week. He recorded three two-hit games and clubbed a pair of homers as well. Burlington’s best starting pitcher this season, Matt Ridings, delivered his longest outing of the year as he tossed six innings of one-run ball against Bluefield on July 29.
It was not a good week at the plate for popular slugger Murray Watts. Watts was just 2-for-20 at the plate, though he did draw seven walks to contribute to the club’s offensive effort. After his torrid start to the Appy League season, Watts has just one home run in the last two weeks. Talented prospect Robinson Yambati has not found a rhythm to this point in the season and endured his worst outing of the year on July 28, as was tagged for seven runs and did not get out of the first inning.
Down in the southwest, the AZL Royals (Arizona League) have shared a similar fate to their Short Season and Rookie brethren this season. The club went 3-3 last week but is just 14-21 overall.
Nick DelGuidice has kept up his remarkable pace into August, as he is currently hitting .414 for the club. DelGuidice has recorded at least one hit in nine of his last 10 games and has totaled 13 doubles in 30 contests this season. Fellow outfielder Terrance Gore also has hit well of late, as five hits in the last two games have pushed his batting average to .375. Reliever Sam Runion has given up just one earned run in his first six appearances in complex league play.
Everyday first baseman Brian Gaylord has yet to get his bat going this season and is just 1-for-19 at the dish in his last four games. Reliever Casey Edelbrockallowed seven earned runs over 3 2/3 innings in his first two outings, part of a pitching staff that has an unsightly 6.97 ERA.
Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization
The Major League Baseball trade deadline impacted one former Natural in particular, as Juan Abreu was part of the package that the Atlanta Braves sent to Houston in exchange for outfielder Michael Bourn. Abreu made his debut for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday, allowing a run in two innings of work. He now joins several other former Naturals in the Pacific Coast League, as Blake Johnson fired 3 2/3 scoreless innings for Colorado Springs last week while Corey Smithwas just 2-for-14 at the plate for Albquerque.
Reliever Dan Cortes may be back in the PCL at some point, but for now he is on the Seattle Mariners’ active roster. Called up in just before the deadline, Cortes yielded a run in two innings over two apperances for the Mariners since last week’s report.
Down in the Southern League, Ernesto Mejia led the parade of former Naturals on the Mississippi Braves’ roster with three two-hit games last week. Mejia is now batting .302 with 28 doubles and 17 homers for the M-Braves. Shortstop Ed Lucas has a seven-game hitting streak, and is hitting .255 for the club. In the Mississippi bullpen, Rowdy Hardy worked a pair of scoreless outings in the past week while Ben Swaggerty has not pitched since last week’s report.
Elsewhere across affiliated ball, Chris McConnell picked up a pair of multi-hit games last week for Harrisburg, the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate in the Eastern League. One level below, Jose Duarte is hitting .252 for the Jupiter Hammerheads but was placed on the 7-day disabled list retroactive to July 30. Also in the Florida State League, Harold Mozingo has a 2.25 ERA through five games with the Dunedin Blue Jays.
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.