NWA Week in Review: April 16-22
Weekly Record: 2-3
Overall Record: 6-9
Standings: 4th (3.0 GB)
Weekly +/- : -16 (13 runs scored, 29 runs allowed)
4/17 – RHP Corey Ray reassigned to Idaho Falls.
4/17 – RHP Clay Buchholz assigned to NWA.
4/19 – RHP Zach Lovvorn reassigned to Omaha.
4/19 – RHP Jacob Bodner assigned to NWA.
4/22 – RHP Clay Buchholz reassigned to Omaha.
4/22 – RHP Zach Lovvorn reassigned to NWA.
Weekly Overview. The Naturals won their first series of the season by winning the rubber game Tuesday at San Antonio. From there they had a day off and traveled home to face Tulsa Thursday. They split the short 2 game home series before heading to Tulsa for a rainout Saturday and a loss Sunday. The Naturals open up an 8 game week Monday with a 4 game set at Springfield followed by a double header to open what amounts to a 5 game Tulsa series.
The Naturals have had some issues scoring runs this year. If you take a look at their offense they have just two players with an OPS over .700. The Texas League as a whole has 12 guys over 1.000. Samir Duenez is best at .788 and Nicky Lopez is next at .730. Duenez leads the team with a .283 batting average while Lopez is second at .280. Lopez leads the team with a .410 OBP and has 4 stolen bases.
The Naturals starting rotation hasn’t been much better than the putrid offense. Starters are being limited to around 90 pitches and they aren’t getting through much of a game. Emilio Ogando leads the team with 14.0 innings pitched in 3 starts. They are averaging about 4.1 innings per start still.
Up to this point this team has been a real disappointment starting slow. They are having a hard time winning series, are not pitching, and are struggling to hit. Defensively they have made about an error per game. That isn’t terrible but it is not great either. Hopefully the team gets hot as the weather continues to warm up.
The Naturals had their first transactions of the season sending Corey Ray down and replacing him with Clay Buchholz. Then Zach Lovvorn went to Omaha to make a spot start and was replaced by Jacob Bodner before Lovvorn came back down for Buchholz to go up on his way to KC.
I imagine NWA will get Nick Dini back this week when the Royals activate Salvador Perez. Cam Gallagher will get moved down to play everyday and the Royals will want Dini playing every day as well. I would also guess that Nathan Esposito will be the roster casualty there going back to Wilmington. They could also keep Dini at Omaha because he is hitting and send Parker Morin back to AA but that would force them to share ABs between Gallagher and Dini.
I would say Nicky Lopez has been the brightest spot on the offensive side of things for the Naturals. He has 11 BBs and just 8 strikeouts on the season. I would like to see him cut down the K’s a touch as he has struck out in 16% of his plate appearances and isn’t a power type of profile. I know that’s lower than a lot of guys but his game is contact and being on base. Empty at bats don’t help anyone’s game but they especially don’t help non-power production guys. Pitching wise, Jason Adam has been really good. There are good reports on his velo getting up to the mid-90s. In the Sunday game he was a consistent 94 on the black, at the knees, away to the RHH with a high 70s 12-6 curve. He topped out at 98 on an elevated fastball away to a RHH for a strikeout.
The Naturals go to Springfield for a four game series starting today. Friday they make up their rainout with Tulsa in a double header at Tulsa before playing two at home and going back to Tulsa Sunday. The Naturals and Drillers are doing this weird thing where they are breaking up their 4 game series into two home and homes this April. I think it is to help with attendance and long road trips early. But I’m not really sure? I will ask around and see what people have to say. Either way, the Naturals are playing 8 games in 7 days baring rain. This is also part of a stretch of 16 in 15 days before their next off day in two-and-a-half weeks.
Monday. Foster Griffin had a rough start in this one lasting just 2.2 innings and allowing 4 runs on just 1 strikeout. Salvador Perez made his second rehab start for the Naturals and hit in the 2 hole contributing with a single, HBP, the only RBI on a sac fly, and a strikeout. No Naturals had multiple hits in this one and the team managed just 7 baserunners. Nicky Lopez was the only other Natural besides Salvy to be on base more than once with a hit and a walk. Donnie Dewees had a triple but was left on third base.
Sam Selman pitched 1.1 scoreless innings in relief with 2 strikeouts. Corey Ray had another rough outing (5 in a row) and was reassigned after the game to Idaho Falls where he can get back on the right track. Ray is working on making the transition from starter to bullpen. Pedro Fernandez gave up 1 run in 1.2 innings of work and Jake Kalish threw 2.0 scoreless with 1 hit and 2 strikeouts.
Tuesday. Clay Buchholz made his only start for the Naturals pulling a no decision in 4.2 scoreless innings. Buchholz gave up 1 hit, 2 BBs, and had 5 Ks before moving up to Omaha after the game. He was followed by 2.1 perfect innings from Jason Adam who may soon move up to Omaha. Adam retired 3 by strikeout and received the win. Franco Terrero came in for the 8th and managed his third hold of the season even though he battled some baserunners. Jake Newberry recorded his second save with 2 Ks.
Erick Mejia had the only multi hit game for the Naturals with two singles. Salvador Perez had a hit and RBI for the Naturals. Donnie Dewees had the other RBI. The Naturals managed 8 hits, 1 BB, struck out 10 times, and left double digit runners on base in this game continue a recent trend with double digit K’s and LOBs.
Wednesday. Off day.
Thursday. There isn’t much to say about this one as the Drillers drilled the Nats with an 11-0 thumping. The Naturals managed 5 hits and made 3 errors. They managed 6 baserunners and struck out 9 times leaving 14 guys on base. Scott Blewett got shelled. Jacob Bodner made his 2018 debut for the Naturals and didn’t fare much better. Let’s go to Friday.
Friday. One of the great things about baseball is that no matter how bad you played the day before, you always have a chance today. The Naturals managed to even the series with a 4-1 victory over Tulsa. Ogando had a decent start going 5.0 innings, allowing 1 run, 3 hits, and had 4 Ks. The problem is he wasted an entire inning of pitches walking 4 batters. Think about that. Sixteen balls which is the minimum for 4 walks is roughly an innings worth of work not to mention any other pitches that were thrown in those ABs. Yunior Marte came in and threw 3.0 dominate innings in relief accumulating 5 Ks while only allowing a hit and a walk. Jake Newberry notched his third save of the season throwing a scoreless ninth.
Nicky Lopez had a multihit game driving in a run and scoring one himself. The Naturals only had 4 other hits but left single digit runners on base in this one. It’s tough to leave double digit runners on when you only have a few in a game but we’ll take small victories.
Sunday. The Naturals dropped a tough one as Franco Terrero couldn’t hold the lead and gave up a combined 5 runs between the 7th and 8th innings on 3 solo homers and a 2 run homer. I’ve never given up four homers in an outing, but I have given up 3 homers in an outing before. And those were all solo and actually in the first inning of a start back on the American Legion field of Oak Grove my junior year of high school. You don’t forget that type of outing. Glenn Sparkman had an okay start but only lasted 4.0 innings with his 87 pitches. He was able to strike out 6 batters but also gave up 7 hits and 3 runs. Jason Adam came in and again was dominate with 5 Ks in 1.2 innings. Sam Selman also pitched 0.1 innings in this game just to finish an inning. Aside from his first outing of the year in which he gave up 6 earned, Selman has been pretty solid as of late.