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 5-2 last week, continuing to solidify a playoff berth that is not yet locked up. Since the PCL does not have any wild card postseason berths, Omaha must win the league’s American Northern division to play deep into September. As of this week’s report, Omaha holds a four-game lead over the Memphis Redbirds, putting their magic number at nine.
Slugging first baseman Clint Robinson elevated his game last week, hitting safely in six of Omaha’s seven games and clubbing three doubles and a pair of home runs. After a quiet July (.245, 1 HR), Robinson is hitting .385 with a .462 on-base percentage in the month of August. On the mound, Luis Mendoza continues to lead the way for the Storm Chasers, as he allowed just one unearned run over seven innings in his last start. Improbably, the win was Mendoza’s first home victory of the season. The righty lowered his league-best ERA to 2.18 in the process.
Yamaico Navarro had another slow week at the plate, collecting just four singles in 18 trips to the plate. Since joining the organization at the trade deadline, Navarro has just two extra-base hits in 57 at bats. Lance Zawadzki has also struggled since last week’s report, and his on-base percentage has now fallen to .296. Mostly everything has gone right for Omaha’s pitching staff of late, though Mike Montgomery has yielded four or more runs in each of his last three starts.
It seems as though the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) are heating up at just the right time. As of Wednesday’s action, the club had won 10 of its last 12 games to take command of the circuit’s North Division. The Naturals lead each of their division rivals by at least six games in the second half standings, and with 12 games left in the regular season the team’s magic number rests at seven.
Derrick Robinson had a day to remember on Wednesday night at Springfield. Robinson collected four hits and stole four bases, matching a franchise record for individual steals in a game. He now has 52 thefts in 2011, breaking his own mark of 50 set last season. Overall, Robinson racked up nine hits and seven stolen bases in the past seven days. Outfield prospect Wil Myers also had a productive stretch, notching three doubles and a pair of multi-hit games. Myers is batting .299 with a .390 on-base percentage and nine extra-base hits in August. Reliever Blaine Hardy continues to shred Texas League opposition, as his four scoreless innings this past week lowered his ERA to 1.11.
Though he has been one of the team’s best run producers this season, Jamie Romak is working through a bit of a slump. The Naturals’ cleanup hitter has gone hitless in three straight games and is 2-for-19 in his last five. Also having a rough go at the plate is catcher Ryan Eigsti, who has not recorded a hit since Aug. 11, a span of 11 at bats.
The Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) put together a bit of a charge last week, sweeping the Salem Red Sox in four games over a two-day span. Unfortunately, the club then dropped two consecutive games at Potomac just before this week’s report. In order to make the postseason, Wilmington would need to erase an eight-and-a-half game deficit – while jumping over Lynchburg – in just 11 contests. Though not a mathematical impossibility, all signs point to an early end to the Blue Rocks’ campaign.
Right-hander Tim Melville put together a strong start in his last outing, striking out seven over six innings in a win over Salem. Melville allowed just one earned run on six hits in what was his second straight quality start. One day later, Elisaul Pimentel fired six scoreless innings to beat the Red Sox as well. At the plate, Yem Prades has hit safely in four straight games, including a three-hit performance with a double and a triple in his most recent ballgame.
Tyler Sample could not match the output of Melville and Pimentel against Potomac on Tuesday night. The 22-year-old was tagged for nine runs – five earned – in just three innings of work. The outing sent Sample’s ERA up to 5.66. At the plate, outfielder Tim Ferguson had just one hit in five games last week and does not have an extra-base hit since Aug. 6. First baseman Ryan Stovall also had a slow week, collecting two hits in 17 at bats while fanning seven times.
The Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) see-sawed last week, at one point enduring a three-game losing streak in going 3-4 since last week’s report. The Cougars have fallen into a tie with Clinton for second place in their division’s second half standings, one game behind first-place Quad Cities. Because the River Bandits won the first-half title, however, Kane County is almost guaranteed a wild card playoff berth.
Yet again, Brian Fletcher led the offensive charge for Kane County last week. Though he hit safely in only three games, all three were multi-hit performances. Fletcher cranked a pair of homers against Beloit on Aug. 19. Despite playing in just 80 of 127 team games, Fletcher leads the club with 30 doubles and 13 home runs this season. On the mound, 20-year-old Jason Adam threw five innings of one-run ball on Wednesday to pick up his first win in three weeks. Fellow starter Leondy Perez blanked Clinton over five three-hit frames in his last start.
Brett Eibner launched his 12th home run of the season last week, but that long ball was one of just two hits for the outfielder since last week’s report. Eibner also struck out 12 times last week and has now fanned 78 times in 65 games. Almost always found in the ‘Who’s Hot’ section, Greg Billo did not make it out of the third inning, allowing eight runs – though just three were earned – on nine hits.
The Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League) went 3-4 for a second consecutive week, never winning or losing more than two consecutive games. Now in fourth place in their division’s second half standings, there is a good chance that the Chukars do not make the postseason. Still, there is a pair of phenomenal individual performances worth tracking through the end of the regular season.
Heading into this past week, it seemed impossible for Edwin Carl to improve upon his incredible campaign. But Carl did just that, firing four scoreless innings in which he allowed just one hit and struck out 10 of the 13 batters he faced. In 31 innings with the Chukars, Carl has racked up 68 strikeouts while walking just three batters, an unbelievable K/BB rate of 22.7. At the plate, Nick DelGuidice has three multi-hit games in his last five contests and is now hitting .457 with five doubles in his first 10 games since a promotion from the Arizona League.
A recent addition to the Chukars’ rotation, Eric Diaz gave up nine runs in just three innings his last time out, walking five while allowing seven hits. Diaz has now yielded 12 earned runs in seven frames over his first two starts. Recently moved into the bullpen, Willian Avinazar allowed three runs in each of his last two appearances, though he did fan seven over four innings the last time he pitched.
The Burlington Royals (Appalachian League) went just 1-6 last week and are 3-11 in the last 14 days. Officially eliminated from playoff contention, Burlington will look to end their season on a high note in the final week of the regular season.
Murray Watts had just two hits last week, but they were a pair of home runs in the same contest. Hitting just .230, Watts has nonetheless paced the team with 14 homers, a figure that ranks fourth in the league. Right-handed reliever Andrea Pizziconi tossed 2 1/3 solid innings against Kingsport on Sunday, earning the club’s only win last week.
Reliever Malcolm Culver allowed a total of eight runs in two appearances last week, yielded six in just an inning and a third the last time he took the mound. Starter Matt Ridings has also struggled of late, getting tagged for four or more runs in each of his last three starts.
Like Burlington, the AZL Royals (Arizona League) will see their season end at some point in this upcoming week. The club has won three of its last four games but rests well out of playoff contention. After their Aug. 29 finale, the focus at Kansas City’s complex in Surprise will shift to instructs, as the team’s most recent waves of draft picks get their feet wet in the organization’s methods and philosophies.
Terrance Gore continues to make a strong impression down in Arizona. Though he had just two hits in four games last week, he also collected one walk in each contest. Gore now boasts a .443 on-base percentage, has walked 14 times against 18 strikeouts and is a perfect 16-for-16 in stolen base attempts. On the mound, reliever Andrew Steuve put together a solid week, allowing just one run while racking up a pair of saves in three appearances.
Cesar Ogando gave up a total of eight runs in six innings spread over two appearances last week, while Julio Morales blew a save and took the loss in his lone outing. At the plate, catchers Cameron Gallagher and Alexander Marquez are hitting .129 and .184, respectively.
Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization
Backstop Jeff Howell is off to a scorching start with the Red Sox organization. In his first four games with Double-A Portland, Howell is 7-for-15 with two doubles, a triple and a pair of home runs. Howell’s last two games came against the Harrisburg Senators, for whom Chris McConnell has gone hitless in his last four games, dropping his batting average to .220.
Over in the Southern League, Ernesto Mejia continues to both hit and strike out at prolific rates for the Mississippi Braves. Mejia has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games and has racked up 35 doubles and 21 home runs despite fanning 138 times in 126 contests. Mejia shares the M-Braves’ clubhouse with Ed Lucas (.270, 5 2B, 3 HR in 32 games) and Rowdy Hardy (3.14 ERA, 40 K, 19 BB). In Chattanooga, Corey Smith is now hitting .262 for the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate.
Up in Triple-A, Ben Swaggerty has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances with Gwinnett. Also in the International League is Jordan Parraz, notched four hits last week for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, keeping his batting average at a solid .290.
On the other side of the country, Juan Abreu lowered his ERA to 1.86 and has racked up saves in each of his last two appearances for Oklahoma City. Also in the PCL is Blake Johnson, who was tagged for four runs in two innings his last time out – though he was pitching on a second consecutive day.
Reliever Dan Cortes was placed on the 15-day DL with a bruised ankle. Also out of commission is Jose Duarte, who has not played for the Jupiter Hammerheads since Jul. 29. Rounding out this week’s report is Harold Mozingo, who has fired four straight scoreless outings for 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.