The Idaho Falls Chukars, the Royals’ Advanced Rookie Pioneer League affiliate, are off to a scorching hot start this short season. They are 13-1 (as of this writing) and already have a seven game lead in the Pioneer League North Division. This article highlights some of the top performers so far at Idaho Falls. (But first, it is important to make note of the fact that the Pioneer League is arguably the most hitter-friendly in the minors.)
As a team, the Chukars rank 2nd in runs scored per game with 7.86, 2nd in home runs, and 2nd in stolen bases. Interestingly enough, they rank last in walks taken. Here is where some Chukars rank among qualified hitters in the Pioneer League in wRC+ (100 is league average).
2. Michael Emodi, C, (208 wRC+)
3. Clay Dungan, SS, (207 wRC+)
4. Rhett Aplin, 1B, (182 wRC+)
8. Jose Marquez, IF, (167 wRC+)
Emodi, Dungan, and Aplin are all 23-years-old, so putting up impressive offensive numbers at this level shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s still worth something though, right? Michael Emodi’s slash line, though a small sample size thus far, is a somewhat mind boggling .390/.458/.878/.1.336. His OBP is boosted significantly by 4 hit-by-pitches, as he has walked only twice. Rhett Aplin is slashing .380/.448/.740/.1.188. He’s struck out 11 times so far, and walked 6 times. Rhett Aplin and Michael Emodi are tied for the most home runs on the Chukars with five each, which also has them tied for second in this category in the Pioneer League overall.
Clay Dungan, the Royals’ 9th round pick this year out of Indiana State, has also raked thus far, slashing .450/.511/.725/1.236, with three walks to only three strikeouts. While Dungan has only hit one home run, he leads the team in doubles with six. Jose Marquez, 21, has had a nice start to the season as well, slashing .417/.511/.500/1.011, also showing a very good eye walking 7 times to only 5 K’s. Marquez is also tied for the team lead in stolen bases with four.
2019 second round pick Brady McConnell doesn’t have enough at-bats yet to be among the qualified hitters in the Pioneer League, but if he did he would be second in the league with a 209 wRC+. Overall his slash line is quite impressive: .429/.529/.714/.1.244, with five doubles and one home run. McConnell has also shown a decent eye, walking four times to seven strikeouts.
As a team, the Chukars have the best ERA in the Pioneer League so far, and it’s not even close. Their ERA is 3.40, in a distant second place is the Missoula Osprey with an ERA of 5.03. That’s over a run and a half better than Missoula! The Chukars also rank first with a 1.354 WHIP.
Twenty-year-old Chih-Ting Wang has been one of the best pitchers early on for Idaho Falls. The lefty has appeared in three games out of the bullpen, tossing 9.0 scoreless innings, giving up 3 hits, 3 walks (1 intentional walk) and 13 K’s. Nathan Webb has been solid out of the Chukars’ rotation as well. Webb has pitched in four games (three starts,) and in 19.1 innings he has an ERA of 4.66, and has struck out 27 batters compared to 6 walks.
Royals’ third round draft pick Alec Marsh has started 3 games so far, and has been held to just 7.0 innings in those starts combined. I believe that holding Marsh to just two or three innings per start has been for load management, because he has been fairly effective. Marsh has given up seven hits and three runs in his 7.0 innings of work, and has struck out 9 batters to no walks. Anthony Veneziano has also had a nice start to his professional career. In 6.1 innings he’s given up zero earned runs, five hits and 6 strikeouts. His control appears to be a bit shaky as he’s walked four batters. Twenty-two year old Derrick Adams has also been good out of the bullpen, tossing 9.1 scoreless innings and managing a 1.18 WHIP. Adams has struck out 11 batters to 3 walks (1 intentional walk).
Idaho Falls has been playing tremendous baseball in this first half-month of their season. They’ve been extremely exciting to watch so far, and I can’t wait to see the rest unfold. Things could get even more exciting in the Pioneer League if the Royals decide to promote Bobby Witt Jr. to Idaho Falls, though they could also send him to Burlington. Nonetheless the Chukars have been outstanding so far, and I’m looking forward to watching as many games as I can.