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) stumbled a bit over the last week, posting a 3-4 record that has seen the club alternate wins and losses over the past six days. With that said, the 65-53 Storm Chasers still hold a five-game lead in the PCL’s American Northern Division, putting them in good shape for postseason play.
Catcher Salvador Perez bashed his way through the Pacific Coast League in less than two weeks. The 21-year-old hit safely in his final seven games with Omaha before earning a promotion to Kansas City after Tuesday night’s action. Perez cranked five doubles and a home run in 12 games in the Pacific Coast League. Though he has yet to earn a look from the big club, David Lough continues to put together a strong season, as he owns a seven-game hitting streak at the time of this week’s report. Finally, after struggling as a starter in Double-A, Zach Miner has delivered out of the bullpen for Omaha, tossing 10 2/3 scoreless innings over his last four appearances. Miner now has a 1.46 ERA in five games with the Storm Chasers.
Infielder Lance Zawadzki was just 2-for-16 at the plate over the last week, dropping his season batting average to .242. Though he has hit for power at times this season, Zawadzki has just two extra-base hits in his last 11 games. Though he ended up with a win on Wednesday, Mike Montgomery allowed five runs on eight hits in six innings of work, raising his ERA to 5.31.
With a 3-3 record over the last week, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) were unable to pad their lead in the North Division second-half standings. But thanks to the parity within the division, the Naturals didn’t lose much ground, either. With 25 games remaining, the Naturals are two games up on each of the other three teams in the North, setting up what could be a dramatic finish over the season’s final month.
Over the last three weeks, left-hander Chris Dwyer has looked like a completely different pitcher than the one who struggled to a 2-9 record to begin the year. On Aug. 5, Dwyer became the third Natural – and first since 2008 – to strike out 10 batters in one game as he earned his fourth straight win. In those four starts, Dwyer has allowed just six runs in 27 innings while fanning 29. Three days later, Will Smith fired eight scoreless innings against the Arkansas Travelers, striking out six against one walk. Though the Naturals eventually lost that game in extra innings, it was Smith’s sixth quality start in his last eight games.
Unlike Dwyer and Smith, Jake Odorizzi had a rough outing against the Travelers his last time out. Odorizzi allowed a pair of two-run homers, giving up a total of six runs in 4 2/3 innings of work. The right-hander will look to snap a two-start losing streak when he takes the mound on Friday night. Outfielder Derrick Robinson is one of the most dynamic players in the league on the basepaths but has struggled to reach base in recent games. Robinson has just three hits in his last eight games as his batting average has fallen from .273 to .254.
Time may be running out for the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ playoff chances. The Carolina League club went 2-5 last week to drop to 53-61 overall and 17-28 in the second half. With the team now 10 games out of first and seven back of Potomac in a potential wild-card scenario, the Blue Rocks may need a historic run to reach the postseason in 2011.
Justin Marks turned in one of his best outings of the season on Monday in earning one of his team’s two wins last week. Making the start against Winston-Salem, Marks tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts, allowing just three hits. Acquired from the Red Sox at the trade deadline, reliever Kendal Volz has yielded just two hits in his first two outings with the Kansas City organization. At the plate, outfielder Yem Prades carries a five-game hitting streak into the writing of this week’s report.
Though he bounced back with a strong showing on Wednesday, lefty Noel Arguelles endured his roughest outing of the season on Aug. 5. In that game, Arguelles allowed six runs on seven hits in just 2 2/3 innings, raising his ERA to a high water mark of 3.36. Tim Melville also struggled in two starts last week as he did not get out of the third inning on either occasion, allowing a total of 10 runs.
The Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) were not able to establish any momentum in either direction last week, as the team has alternated wins and losses since Aug. 4. Now 27-18 in the second half, Kane County remains one game behind the Quad Cities River Bandits in the circuit’s Western Division. The two teams to not meet again in the regular season, so the Cougars must finish strong and hope for a little bit of help.
Though it may sound repetitive at this point, Greg Billo put together a pair of dominant outings this week. After a no-decision on Aug. 5, Billo yielded just one hit in six innings on Wednesday, earning his fourth win of the year and lowering his ERA to a microscopic 1.40. Antonio Cruz is another trade acquisition who is off to a strong start in the Royals organization. Cruz tossed five scoreless innings between two games last week and has not allowed a run in 13 1/3 frames since joining Kane County. Outfielder Brian Fletcher continues to impress, as he had a four hit game and two three-hit games last week, blasting a pair of home runs as well.
Kane County catcher Juan Graterol is mired in a slump, as the 22-year-old is just 1-for-16 in his last five games. This stretch has dropped his batting average to .177 and on-base percentage to .233. Fellow catcher Kevin David had three hits last week but has now drawn a walk since Jul. 28. On the mound, Santiago Garridoyielded six runs in 8 1/3 innings over two starts last week.
The Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League) rallied from a four-game losing streak to win each of their last two games last week, but a 3-4 mark over the last seven days dropped them to 21-28 overall. Though the Chukars are currently four games back in the South Division’s second-half standings, there is still time for the team to turn their season around and get back into the race.
Reliever Edwin Carl continues to be one of the most consistent hurlers on the Idaho Falls staff. Carl gave up just one run in four innings last week and is now a perfect three-for-three in save opportunities this season. Starter Aaron Brooks turned a dominant outing against Casper on Tuesday, striking out 10 while walking just one in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. At the plate, Runey Davis is now 5-for-12 in his last three games, raising his batting average to .328.
Recently moved into the bullpen, Robert Penny followed his first scoreless outing of the season by allowing three runs in just an inning and a third on Aug. 7. Though he has struck out better than a batter per inning with Idaho Falls, Penny’s ERA now stands at 10.86. Outfielder Darian Sanford has hit a bit of a rough patch over the last few days, as he is just 2-for-15 in his last four games.
Like Idaho Falls, the Burlington Royals (Appalachian League) lost four games in a row at one point last week. In going 2-5 over the last seven days, the club is now 18-31 and in the basement of the East Division. Barring an incredible stretch run, Burlington is likely to be on the outside looking in when the postseason begins.
Right fielder Jorge Bonifacio found a bit of a groove last week, as the 18-year-old racked up three multi-hit games and hit his fifth home run of the Appy League season. Though his plate discipline needs to improve (43 strikeouts, seven walks), Bonifacio is hitting at an impressive .298 clip. Right-hander Matt Ridings had a bit of a rough start on Tuesday but fired six scoreless innings the previous Thursday, and continues to pace the Burlington rotation with a 3.16 ERA.
Reliever Abel Gonzalez was tagged for four runs in each of his last two appearances, the first of which encompassed just one inning. Gonzalez now has a 10.80 ERA through six games with Burlington. Utilityman Derek Hamblen went hitless in six at bats last week and is now just 3-for-45 this season without an extra-base hit.
In complex league play, the AZL Royals (Arizona League) went 2-4 last week to drop their overall record to 16-25. A lack of pitching has been the story of late, as the team has lost its last two games by scores of 16-14 and 11-10.
Though he is not a member of the club’s regular roster, southpaw Buddy Baumann made a pair of rehab starts for the AZL Royals over the last ten days. He excelled on Aug. 7, allowing just one hit with four strikeouts in three innings of work. Baumann has now been activated from the disabled list and has re-joined Double-A Northwest Arkansas. At the plate, Nick DelGuidice is still hitting over .400 and has shown impressive strike zone judgment, striking out just 10 times in 34 games in the Arizona League.
Christian Witt had a day to forget on Tuesday, as he yielded 8 runs in a relief appearance in that 16-14 loss against the Giants’ complex league club. 2011 draftee Cameron Gallagher is hitting just .179 through seven professional games, but should dramatically improve as he adjusts to a much higher level of competition.
Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization
Right-hander Dan Cortes remains in the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen, though his last big-league outing was one to forget, as Cortes gave up hits to both batters he faced and was tagged with the loss on Aug. 5 against the Angels. The next former Natural to make a major league bullpen could be Juan Abreu, as the right-hander allowed just one run in three appearances for Houston’s Triple-A squad in Oklahoma City this past week.
Elsewhere in Triple-A, Blake Johnson had his roughest outing since joining the Colorado organization, allowing seven runs – six earned – on eight hits last Thursday. But since then, the right-hander has bounced back to allow just an unearned run over his last two appearances. In the International League, Jordan Parraz notched a pair of multi-hit games last week and is hitting .298 for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
Down in the Southern League, Ernesto Mejia homered on Wednesday night for the Mississippi Braves, his 18th long ball of the season. Though he has struck out 124 times in 114 games, Mejia has put together a solid season with 29 doubles and a .375 on-base percentage. Also on the M-Braves roster are Ed Lucas (.271, 3 HR in 20 games), Rowdy Hardy (3.19 ERA, 39 K:18 BB) and Ben Swaggerty (4.26 ERA, 32 K in 19 IP).
Also in the Southern League is Corey Smith, who has hit safely in each of his six games with the Chattanooga Lookouts since being sent down from Triple-A Albuquerque. In the Eastern League, Chris McConnell has doubled in two straight games for the Harrisburg Senators. Finally, in the Florida State League, Jose Duarte is currently on the disabled list for Jupiter while Harold Mozingo is carrying a 4.09 ERA through eight 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.