Tag Archive | "Lance Zawadzki"

CHASERS ARE CHAMPS!

CHASERS ARE CHAMPS!
Omaha sweeps Sacramento, brings home first league championship since 1990

Mike Feigen / Omaha Storm Chasers

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Omaha Storm Chasers began the 2011 season with the anticipation of opening up brand-new Werner Park, the excitement of a new nickname and the promise of a youthful roster packed with up-and-coming stars. They’ll finish it with the satisfaction of being Pacific Coast League Champions.

Left-hander Mike Montgomery – the man who was handed the ball by manager Mike Jirschele on Opening Day – closed out the season with one of the finest performances of his young career, throwing five shutout innings in the Chasers’ 11-6 victory over the Sacramento River Cats Friday night at Raley Field. The win gives Omaha its first league title since 1990, its first-ever PCL Championship since joining the league in 1998 and its first playoff series sweep in franchise history.

Montgomery (1-0 postseason) allowed three hits and three walks in his five innings of work, striking out six batters. He snapped a personal five-game losing streak, doing so in front of family and friends who were there to witness his first-career professional start in the state of California. Montgomery’s teammates also made him feel right at home with an explosive effort at the plate, scoring runs against the vaunted River Cats’ pitching staff early and often.

With two down and nobody aboard in the top of the second, shortstop Irving Falu dropped a single into left-field off Sacramento starter Travis Banwart (0-1). Catcher Manny Pina followed with an RBI double to make it 1-0, and second baseman Lance Zawadzki ripped an RBI double of his own, making it 2-0 Storm Chasers.

In the fifth, another two-out rally gave Omaha its biggest inning of the night. With David Lough on third following a Grant Green error, Banwart and the River Cats elected to intentionally-walk Clint Robinson to get to Kila Ka’aihue, who had struck out in seven of his previous eight at-bats. The Chasers’ first baseman singled home Lough to make it 3-0, then moved from first to third on an RBI double by Falu. Pina drew a walk to load the bases, and Zawadzki came through yet again with a two-run single to make it 6-0. Zawadzki finished the game 4-for-5 with three RBI and the series 6-for-14 with five runs batted in.

The top of the sixth provided more scoring for the Storm Chasers, this time on the club’s only longball of the night. Jarrod Dyson walked to lead off the inning against reliever Justin Souza, and Lough followed with a blast above the wall in right-center, giving Omaha a seemingly insurmountable 8-0 advantage.

The River Cats did make things interesting, scoring three times in the sixth to make it 8-3, then answering two Omaha runs with two of their own in the seventh, bringing the score to 10-5. Back-to-back doubles by Robinson and Ka’aihue upped the Chasers’ lead to 11-5 in the eighth, taking a lot of the wind out of the Sacramento sails.

Reliever Kelvin Herrera, the Kansas City Royals’ Paul Splittorff Minor League Pitcher of the Year, allowed a Chris Carter homer to lead off the ninth, but the River Cats could not muster any further damage. Herrera got Andy LaRoche to hit a slow comebacker to the mound for the final out, setting off a huge celebration on the field as well as back in Omaha at Brewsky’s, where more than 100 fans turned out for a team watch party.

Luis Mendoza was named PCL Playoff Most Valuable Player, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two excellent Game 1 starts this postseason. He beat the Round Rock Express 4-0 on September 7 and knocked off Sacramento 3-2 on September 13.

With the PCL Championship in tow, the Chasers will face the International League winner and defending Triple-A Champion Columbus Clippers (Triple-A, Cleveland) in a one-game, winner-take-all playoff on Tuesday in Albuquerque, N.M. First pitch of that contest is at 7:05 p.m., with the game broadcast nationally on VERSUS. The Chasers will host a viewing party at the Fire Barn Sports Bar & Grill at 96th Street & Highway 370, just east of Werner Park.

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Royals Farm Report: September 8th

Royals Farm Report: September 8th
Taking a season-long perspective as playoffs begin

Triple-A

Omaha

In the postseason for the first time in 12 years, the Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) won Wednesday’s first game of their opening-round playoff series against the Round Rock Express. The Storm Chasers are now just five wins away from capturing a PCL championship and a berth in the Triple-A National Championship Game.

Stock Rising

Outfielder Lorenzo Cain showed that he has nothing left to prove at the Triple-A level. After exhausting his big-league rookie eligibility with Milwaukee in 2010, Cain spent all of 2011 with the Storm Chasers and hit .312 with a .380 on-base percentage, and cracked 28 doubles and 16 home runs. Right there with Cain is Clint Robinson, who hit .326 and led the club with 26 homers and 100 RBI. On the mound, right-hander Luis Mendoza posted a 2.18 ERA, a phenomenal figure in the hitter-friendly environs of the PCL as he seeks another shot in the major leagues. Finally, reliever Kelvin Herrera began the season without any experience above Class-A but excelled at three levels, striking out 18 in 17 innings with the Storm Chasers. He appears nearly ready to uncork his blazing arsenal against big league hitters and should get every opportunity to do just that in 2012.

Stock Falling

Kila Ka’aihue put together another solid performance with Omaha, hitting .272 with a .379 on-base percentage in 95 games. But after struggling with Kansas City in the first month of the season, he may have fallen behind Robinson on the organizaton’s depth chart. After beginning spring training on the Royals’ 40-man roster, Lance Zawadzki spent significant time at both second base and shortstop but struggled at the plate, hitting just .233.

Incomplete

Mike Montgomery had an inconsistent campaign with the Storm Chasers, his first taste of the Triple-A level. Though his basic numbers (5-11, 5.32 ERA) do not impress, the southpaw did strike out a team-high 129 batters this season and showed glimpses of why he is considered one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball.

NWArkansas

Double-A

A late-season charge put the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) into the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The team opened the first round by losing to the in-state rival Arkansas Travelers, 2-1, in 11 innings on Wednesday.

Stock Rising

In his first season in the Royals’ organization, right-hander Jake Odorizzi took a big step forward in his development, spending just a half-season at Advanced-A Wilmington before joining the Naturals. Though Odorizzi struggled with the home run ball in the Texas League, he fired seven one-hit innings in his final start of the regular season and posted a 54/22 strikeout/walk rate with the Naturals. Left-hander Will Smith was a solid presence in the rotation who improved as the season progressed. Smith led the Texas League with 13 wins and 161 1/3 innings pitched, earning Naturals Pitcher of the Year honors.

Stock Falling

Challenged with an aggressive assignment to Double-A, Christian Colon was a steady presence near the top of the Naturals’ lineup, but hit a middling .257 with just 24 extra-base hits in 127 games. Toward the end of the season, Colon spent a bit more time at second base, where some think his future could reside. Reliever Patrick Keating was crucial to the Naturals’ bullpen during the 2010 championship run but battled injuries and ineffectiveness this season, allowing nine home runs in just 38 innings.

Incomplete

Wil Myers battled through a pair of freak knee injuries in the early part of the season and did not have a chance to truly establish himself until the second half. Still, at just 20 years old, Myers displayed an impressive eye at the plate (a .353 on-base percentage despite a .254 batting average) and hit for more power in the season’s final month. In some ways, it was a tale of two seasons for Chris Dwyer. The 23-year-old southpaw struggled to harness his stuff in the first half of the season but went 6-1 in his final nine starts. Most importantly, Dwyer stayed healthy all season after his 2010 was cut short due to a back injury. John Lamb appeared on his way to a solid season before going down with Tommy John surgery in early June. After rehab and recovery, Lamb probably won’t be ready for action until mid-season next year at the earliest, but with his arsenal and pitchability, there’s no reason to believe the southpaw won’t succeed upon his return.

Class-A Advanced

Blue Rocks

The lone full-season Royals affiliate to miss the postseason, the Wilmington Blue Rocks finished the 2011 season at 66-72. The club did finish the year on a high note, entertaining the Frawley Stadium crowd with a sweep of the Frederick Keys on the final three days of the season.

Stock Rising

Many of the team’s top early-season performers – Odorizzi, infielder Rey Navarro and southpaw reliever Kevin Chapman in particular – ended the season with Northwest Arkansas. Among those to spend the second half with the Blue Rocks, Yem Prades hit .289 in his first taste of baseball in the United States. The 23-year-old Cuban defector still needs to work on his plate discipline (10 walks against 66 strikeouts). On the mound, Elisaul Pimentel’s brief stint at Double-A didn’t go as planned, but that should not take away from a strong season that saw him walk only 31 batters in 133 innings of work. He’s likely to get a full-season taste of the Double-A level next season.

Stock Falling

Nick Van Stratten began the season at Double-A before being dropped a level right around the midway point. Though his .271 average is respectable, at 26, Van Stratten’s odds of establishing himself as a future big-leaguer have grown slim. Wilmington’s home ballpark is a noted pitcher-friendly environment, but Tyler Sample posed a 5.25 ERA in his first season in the Carolina League.

Incomplete

Taken at face value, Tim Melville’s statistics (11-10, 4.32 ERA, 108 K/53 BB) are those of a player who put together a solidly-average season. But since this was the right-hander’s second full season at Wilmington, they don’t reveal much about his growth as a player. A shot at Double-A in what will be his age 22 season should give the Royals a better sense of what the former fourth-round pick’s future may hold.

Class-A

Kane County

In a twist of fate, the Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) played themselves into a first-round playoff matchup with the Burlington Bees, the club which had been the Royals’ affiliate prior to this season. Kane County shut out Burlington in the first game of their series and needs just one win to advance to the next round.

Stock Rising

Perhaps no player in the Midwest League burst onto the scene in quite the same way as third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert did. In his first taste of full-season ball, the 18-year-old native of Nicaragua hit .328 from his first game with the club until the end of July. Though fatigue led him into a prolonged slump at the end of the season, Cuthbert’s full-season debut fully established him as a prospect to watch going forward. Though his velocity only reaches the mid-80s, right-hander Greg Billo befuddled Midwest League batters all season long, as the 20-year-old posted a 1.93 ERA in the regular season and fired seven innings of shutout ball in the opening game of the playoffs.

Stock Falling

A player with prodigious power, Murray Watts hit just .211 with five extra-base hits in 35 games with Kane County before going on the disabled list. Though Watts returned to action and led the lower-level Burlington Royals in home runs, the season was certainly a disappointment for the Arkansas native.

Incomplete

Former Arkansas Razorback Brett Eibner epitomizes the “incomplete category.” A two-way player in college, Eibner opened the 2011 season with the opportunity to get a full season’s worth of at bats under his belt. But in the second game of the year, Eibner injured his thumb when diving for a ball in the outfield. After missing two months, he returned to belt 12 home runs and draw 48 walks in 76 games – but also hit just .215 and whiffed 90 times. An injury-free 2012, likely to be spent at Wilimington, should allow Eibner to harness his impressive talent and make serious strides in his development as a prospect.

Short Season/Rookie

AZL Burlington IdahoFalls

Both the Burlington Royals and AZL Royals wrapped up their seasons before the calendar flipped to September, so the Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League) remain the only of Kansas City’s short-season clubs still in action. At 33-42 overall, the Chukars have fallen short of postseason play and will wrap up their season on Sep. 8 against the Orem Owlz.

Stock Rising

Though technically no longer a Chukar, Edwin Carl had the most statistically-impressive season of any Royals farmhand. Advanced for the level at the age of 22, Carl faced 122 Pioneer League hitters – and fanned 71 of them. He only issued only three walks and held the opposition to a miniscule .145 batting average. At the plate, 2011 draftee Richard Espy made a strong impression with a .391 on-base percentage, while Daniel Mateo led the club with a .341 average. Infielder Nick DelGuidice was passed over by all 50 teams in this year’s draft, signing as a non-drafted free agent. But he batted .396 with a 1.037 OPS between Surprise and Idaho Falls and seems on track to start next year with Kane County.

Stock Falling

Like Carl, Jonathan Dooley competed in the Pioneer League as a 22-year old, where he was the Chukars opening day starter, but did not have the same success. The Arkansas native began the season in the rotation before being moved to the ‘pen, posting a 6.79 ERA in the process. Overall, the Chukars recorded a 5.38 staff ERA, with Jose Sanchez (8.17), Robert Penny (8.54) and Willian Avinazar (8.89) posting particularly high figures.

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.

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Royals Farm Report: August 25th

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:

Triple-A

Omaha

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Double-A

NWArkansas

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Class-A Advanced

BlueRocks

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Class-A

KaneCounty

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Short Season/Rookie

IdahoFalls

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Burlington

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

AZL

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

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Royals Farm Report: August 11

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:

Omaha

Triple-A

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

NWArkansas

Double-A

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

BlueRocks

Class-A Advanced

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

KCounty

Class-A

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Short Season/Rookie

Idaho

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Burlington

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

AZL

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

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Royals Farm Report: July 21st

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:

Triple-A

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Double-A

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Class-A Advanced

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Class-A

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Short Season

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

Who’s Hot

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.

Who’s Not

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.

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Royals Farm Report: July 14th

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:

 

Triple-A

In an abbreviated week of baseball, the Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) went 2-2 before breaking for the Triple-A All-Star Game. The Storm Chasers still stand a game and a half ahead of the Memphis Redbirds in what is essentially a two-team race in the American Northern Division. Omaha will head to Memphis for a pivotal four-game set that begins on July 18.

Who’s Hot

One of three Storm Chasers named to the PCL’s All-Star team, second baseman Johnny Giavotella had seven hits in the last three games before the break. He leads the team with a .328 average and 26 doubles. Fellow All-Star Clint Robinson broke out of a mini-slump with four straight two-hit games, and though he has not homered in a month, Robinson’s .542 slugging percentage leads all of the team’s qualifiers. Right-hander Luis Mendoza, the team’s final All-Star, tossed seven innings of one-hit ball (allowing only an unearned run) against Oklahoma City in his last start.

Who’s Not

Lance Zawadzki is one of the few Storm Chasers currently struggling at the plate. Now playing third base, Zawadzki is just 3-for-24 in his last eight games. Also in a bit of a slide is outfielder Paulo Orlando, who is batting .235 and does not have a multi-hit game since June 22.

Double-A

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) followed a 3-3 homestand with a 3-3 road trip, as the team took two of three in San Antonio before falling twice in three games to the Corpus Christi Hooks. The Naturals are tied for third place in the North Division’s second-half standings, but still hold the edge in a potential wild-card race.

Who’s Hot

Few players in the Texas League are hotter at the plate than Nick Francis, who is batting .362 since his latest promotion from the Carolina League. Derrick Robinson has put together a five-game hitting streak that has included four multi-hit contests, a stretch that has raised his batting average to .280. Right-handerJake Odorizzi made his first two Double-A starts on the road trip, winning his first before delivering a quality start in what was ultimately a Natural loss.

Who’s Not

Wil Myers’ road trip was interrupted by a trip to Arizona to compete in the All-Star Futures Game, and perhaps as a result, the outfielder did not find a rhythm at the plate, going 2-for-18 on the road trip. On the mound, Chris Dwyer did not get out of the third inning against Corpus Christi (though the Naturals came back to win), while Zach Miner allowed eight runs in his most recent outing.

Class-A Advanced

The Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) went 4-1 last week, bringing their overall record back over the .500 mark. Though the team is just 9-10 in the second half, Wilmington sits just two games out of first in what is a crowded Northern Division.

Who’s Hot

Right-hander Justin Marks delivered one of his best starts of the year on July 11, firing six shutout innings against Myrtle Beach. Marks lowered his season ERA to 4.28 and now has 84 strikeouts in 88.1 innings. The next day, Tyler Sample topped Marks’ effort with seven scoreless innings against the Pelicans. Fellow starterElisaul Pimentel gave up just two unearned runs in six innings against Frederick on July 11.

Who’s Not

After a scorching start to his Carolina League season, Nick Van Stratten has slowed down a bit at the plate, going 1-for-13 in four games last week, while Kurt Mertins is hitting .188 in nine games with the Blue Rocks. Tim Ferguson (.202) and Deivy Batista (.198) have also struggled to get it going for a Wilmington club that has collectively hit just .239 this season.


Class-A

The Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) continue to lead their division’s second-half standings with an outstanding 13-6 mark. That comes thanks in part to a week that saw the Cougars go 4-2, including a three-game sweep of the first half champion Burlington Bees.

Who’s Hot

There are few players in the system in more of a groove than Cheslor Cuthbert is right now. The 18-year-old third baseman has hit safely in eight straight games, racking up multiple hits in five of those contests. Cuthbert drove in 10 runs in a three-game span and is now hitting .342. Righty Greg Billo fired six scoreless against Wisconsin on July 8, and now leads all qualifiers across affiliated baseball with a 1.37 ERA. Though he does not have enough innings to qualify, relieverChase Boruff lowered his earned run average to 1.30 with two scoreless innings of his own.

Who’s Not

Righty Leondy Perez lost both of his starts last week, including a forgettable performance on July 7, when he gave up nine runs on 13 hits against Wisconsin. He appears on the way to putting that behind him, however, as Perez tossed a quality start in a losing effort his last time out. At the plate, Juan Graterol and Yowill Espinal both have gone 1-for-11 in their last three games.

Short Season

The Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League) endured a five-game losing streak last week before beating Helena on Wednesday night. One of the team’s biggest issues is consistency on the mound, as the team is carrying a 5.72 ERA through 23 games. At 10-13, the Chukars sit in third place in the league’s South Division.

Who’s Hot

The Chukars’ struggles on the mound have not extended to the batter’s box, as the team has posted a collective .291 batting average. In particular, Daniel Mateohas five hits in his last three games to bring his average to .387, while Richard Espy cranked three home runs last week, raising his team-leading total to four. Reliever Edwin Carl has yet to allow even a single run in eight appearances, converting both of his save opportunities.

Who’s Not

Starter Robert Penny got knocked around by the Orem Owlz on July 10, allowing eight runs in just two innings of work. Jonathan Dooley also had a rough go against Orem as he yielded five runs one day later. Catcher Tyler Smith will look to get his bat started, as he has just one hit in 13 at bats for the Chukars this season.

The Burlington Royals (Appalachian League) put together what was easily their best week of the season, going 4-2 as the team looks to erase their slow start to the 2011 season. Though the the team currently resides in the basement of the circuit’s East Division, they are only four games out of first with plenty of baseball to be played.

Who’s Hot

Any offensive struggles the Royals may have had are not the fault of Murray Watts, who racked up four straight-two hit games from July 8-11. He also cranked his ninth home run in 22 games and now has more than twice as many home runs as any of his teammates. Matt Ridings turned in a solid start his last time out, yielding two runs – both unearned – in five innings against the Bristol White Sox.

Who’s Not

Catcher Jin-Ho Shin had just two hits in five games last week, as his batting average fell from .211 to .189, while Kenny Swab is just 3-for-16 since joining Burlington on July 7. On the mound, Andrea Pizziconi has allowed at least two runs in each of his last three appearances, raising his ERA to 9.00.

In complex league action, the AZL Royals (Arizona League) went 3-2 over the last seven days, closing the week with back-to-back wins. At 8-10, the club sits 3.5 games out of first in the league’s West Division.

Who’s Hot

Somehow, Nick DelGuidice improved on his torrid start to the season, raising his batting average from .444 to .453 over the last seven days. Riding a nine-game hitting streak, DelGuidice has driven in 10 runs in his last five games. Nicholas Cuckovich has not kept up quite the pace of his teammate but is batting .358 with an active six-game hitting streak. On the mound, Julio Morales allowed just two hits in 4 1/3 scoreless innings last week.

Who’s Not

Right-hander Fernando Cruz had a rough outing on July 8 against the AZL Padres, allowing five runs in just an inning and a third. He has now been tagged for 13 earned runs in six innings with the club. Behind the plate, Alexander Marquez is off to a slow start with just one hit in five games this season.

Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization

Released by Kansas City in late June, right-hander Blake Johnson signed with the Colorado Rockies organization and was assigned to Triple-A. Johnson debuted with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox on July 9, tossing a scoreless inning against Salt Lake. Also in the Pacific Coast League, Dan Cortes allowed three runs in one inning during his lone appearance last week, while Corey Smith has five hits in his last six games for the Albuquerque Isotopes.

In the International League, outfielder Jordan Parraz had a nine-game hit streak snapped in his last game but is now hitting .305 for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Meanwhile, in Gwinnett, Juan Abreu fired another scoreless inning in his lone outing last week and has still not allowed a run since June 8. Fellow G-Brave Ed Lucas had just two hits last week, but both of those came against Charlotte on July 10, the last time he took the field.

Down in the Southern League, Rowdy Hardy, Ben Swaggerty and Ernesto Mejia are all on the Mississippi Braves’ roster. Coming out of the bullpen, Hardy allowed one run in three innings spread over two appearances last week, while Swaggerty has not pitched since July 5. Mejia had a monster week at the plate, homering four times in a six-game span to raise his season total to 15. Mejia is now batting .314 in 2011.

In the Eastern League, Chris McConnell had just two hits last week for Harrisburg, lowering his batting average to .219.

Finally, Jose Duarte has hit safely in three straight games and is now batting .250 for the Florida State League’s Jupiter Hammerheads.

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.

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Royals Farm Report: April 21

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:

Royals Farm Report: April 21st
A look at the Royals farm system after the season’s first two weeks

Triple-A
After beginning the season just 2-5, the Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) righted the ship this week, going 5-2 in the past seven days to climb back to the .500 mark. Thanks to an offense powered by top Royals prospects, the Storm Chasers sit just a half game back of first-place Iowa (7-6) in the PCL’s American North division.

Who’s Hot
Eric Hosmer hit well in the season’s first week but has turned it up even more of late, riding a nine-game hitting streak that has raised his average to .425. Clint Robinson has continued to mash everything in sight as he is batting .404 and leads the team with five doubles, four home runs and 11 RBI. After a somewhat slow start to the season, David Lough notched four two-hit games in the past week while Mike Moustakas has a hit in eight straight games. On the mound, Danny Duffy allowed just a lone hit over 4.2 innings in his last start while Mike Montgomery gave up only an unearned run over six frames in his most recent outing.

Who’s Not
The Storm Chasers have not received much production from the team’s catchers, as Lucas May has just one hit in 19 at bats while Manny Pina is batting just .130. Shortstop Lance Zawadzki is also off to a slow start, carrying just a .119 average through the season’s first two weeks. Starter Vin Mazarro (9.82 ERA) and reliever Steven Shell (9.35) have both struggled in the early going.

Double-A
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) were swept by the San Antonio Missions in their first road series of the season but recovered to take two of three from the Hooks in Corpus Christi. Despite the 2-4 week, the Naturals (7-5) remain in first place of the Texas League’s North Division, one game ahead of the Arkansas Travelers (6-6) entering Thursday’s action.

Who’s Hot
Jeff Bianchi has torn the cover off the ball of late as he carries a 10-game hitting streak that includes eight extra-base hits. Catcher Salvador Perez’ bat has started to come around, as the 20-year-old picked up six hits between the last two games of the road trip. Though he hit for a decent average in the season’s first week, Wil Myers found his power stroke last week as he hit his first two Double-A homers. Starter Chris Dwyer turned in his best outing of the season last week, allowing just one run over six innings at Corpus Christi, and reliever Blake Johnson, who now is in possession of the Naturals’ franchise record for appearances, has now opened the year with 12 consecutive scoreless innings.

Who’s Not
Shortstop Christian Colon struggled at the plate this week as his average has dipped to .205, though he does still have more walks (8) than strikeouts (5). Kurt Mertins had just two hits in the five games he appeared in as well. The entire Naturals pitching staff had a rough day in a 26-5 loss to San Antonio, as starter Will Smith will look to rebound after giving up six runs in one inning in that game.

Class-A Advanced
The Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) matched their opening-week record of 4-2 in the past seven days, and at 8-4 have opened up a two-and-a-half game lead on second place Frederick (5-6). The Blue Rocks’ hot start is largely due to a pitching staff that has put up an overall 2.94 ERA through 12 games.

Who’s Hot
Last week’s offensive star, Rey Navarro, has continued his torrid start to the season with 21 hits in his 46 at bats this year, good for a .457 average. Navarro leads the Blue Rocks with seven extra-base hits, including three triples. Whit Merrifield had three two-hit games this past week and his current seven-game hit streak has him up to .310. Perhaps the biggest standout on the Blue Rocks’ dominant pitching staff has been Noel Arguelles, who in his professional debut has yet to give up a run in eight innings over two starts. Tyler Sample took the loss in his last start but boasts a 2.03 ERA through 13 1/3 innings, while reliever Michael Mariot is holding opposing hitters to just a .077 average.

Who’s Not
The Blue Rocks’ raised their team batting average from .208 to .231 this past week, but several players are still finding their way offensively, including Alex McClure (.119), Deivy Batista (.138), Tim Ferguson (.154) and Jose Bonilla (.168). Starter Tim Melville was roughed up by the Kinston Indians in his last start as he allowed four runs on 12 hits in just 4 1/3 innings.

Class-A
After a 2-5 opening week, the Class-A Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) put up a 3-4 mark in the past seven games. Managed by former Natural Vance Wilson, at 5-9 the Cougars are 5.5 games out of first place behind the 10-3 Burlington Bees.

Who’s Hot
Ryan Stovall paced the Cougars’ offense this week as he has seven hits in his last four games, a burst that has raised his batting average to .417. Alex Llanos also picked up multiple hits in three different games last week, as he checks in at .333 with a team-best two home runs. In part time duty, Ryan Jenkins has a .364 average through 22 at bats. The Cougars’ best starting pitcher has been Leondy Perez, who despite an 0-2 record checks in with a 2.00 ERA and 12 strikeouts through three outings.

Who’s Not
Geulin Beltre has played in all 14 games but has yet to see much offensive success as he is hitting .191 through two weeks. Other Kane County players struggling offensively include Yowill Espinal (.146), Angel Franco (.156) and Lane Adams (.219). Reliever Chaz Byrne will look to bounce back from his last appearance in which he yielded four runs in one inning against Burlington.

Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization
A number of former Naturals have found new homes in the Atlanta Braves organization, including reliever Juan Abreu, who has yet to allow a run through seven innings this season for Triple-A Gwinnett. One of Abreu’s teammates is infielder Ed Lucas, who is hitting .214 as a member of Gwinnett’s everyday lineup. Joining Abreu and Lucas in Atlanta’s system are first baseman Ernesto Mejia (.354, 2 HR, 6 RBI) and left-hander Rowdy Hardy, (0-2, 3.86), both of whom are on the roster of Double-A Mississippi.

Competing against Mejia and Hardy in the Southern League is Corey Smith, who is off to a .313 start through two weeks with the Chattanooga Lookouts, the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate. Reliever Dan Cortes is in the Mariners’ system, where he has a 3.86 ERA through five appearances for Triple-A Tacoma, while infielder Chris McConnell his hitting .219 for the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse. The first batter in Naturals team history, Jose Duarte has struggled in the early going, hitting just .185 for the Marlins’ Florida State League affiliate in Jupiter.

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.

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