I got my first in-person look at Northwest Arkansas (AA) this weekend. I came away really impressed with a good number of guys on the team. There is legitimately probably 8-9 big leaguers on that roster right now. Deep lineup with a good number of guys with success in the minors even if they aren’t highly-touted prospects. Fun team to watch that shouldn’t lose much when guys move to AAA because of the depth at Quad Cities (A+) right now. I’ll talk more about the Naturals in depth when we get to them in the recap.
AAA Omaha (10-7): W 7-5
Edward Olivares continues to make a joke of AAA pitching as he finished 4-5 with his 5th HR of the year yesterday for the Storm Chasers. He is now slashing .406/.488/.696/1.183 with 5 HR, 9 XBH, 6 SB, 10 BB and just 10 K in 17 games for Omaha. He can’t have much longer left to wait in the minors.
Hunter Dozier went 2-5 in his rehab appearance. Gabe Cancel notched a couple singles. Meibrys Viloria hit his 2nd HR of the year. Gabe Speier picked up his 3rd save on the year for Omaha, striking out one and keeping his season ERA at 0.00.
AA Northwest Arkansas (9-7): W 12-5
If Clay Dungan was 22 instead of turning 25 in June, he’d already be in our top 20 prospects for KC. The kid can flat out hit and he’s excellent defensively at second base. He runs well, doesn’t make too many mistakes, and showed some pop this weekend that, quite frankly, I didn’t think he had. He finished Sunday’s game 2-5, pushing his season average to .300 and his OPS to .810. Like I mentioned, he is a little bit older than some of the other guys you think of in the Royals top prospects, but he’s going to be good when he makes it. It’s not a crazy ceiling but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he and Kyle Isbel turned out to be similar types of players.
Bobby Witt Jr. is insane. 2-5 again on Sunday with a HR and a 2B. He got off to a slow start but he’s batting .273 with 4 XBH over his last 10 games. Remember, he’s still just 20 years old.
I don’t know if it can be said enough the changes that Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez have made to their approach at the plate. It is literally night and day. If we’re being honest here, I really didn’t know if it was even possible after 2019. I’ve never seen such talented kids so lost at the plate. The work that Drew Saylor, Alec Zumwalt, and Mike Tosar have done with these guys over the last year and change is un freaking believable. Pratto and Melendez were spraying line drives all over the freaking place this weekend. It looked like two teenagers who were drafted in the first and second rounds, respectively, tearing up AA after tearing up Low-A and their 2019 seasons never even happened. I’ll be the first to admit that I was nervous back in February, and skeptical after Spring Training, but it is impossible to ignore what these two are doing for NWA right now. There is still plenty of time for the other shoe to drop, but these changes look legit, man. I am so impressed with these two both at the plate and the way they carry themselves overall on the diamond. Could not have come away more impressed than I did this weekend.
I’ve been a fan of Rudy Martin’s for a long time and it was really good to see him back in action this weekend. He made 3-4 stellar plays in the outfield and finished Sunday’s game 2-5, pushing his season average to .383 and his OPS to 1.032. I’ve mentioned before that he reminds me of Nick Heath a little bit, in that the speed and defense are there, and he’s had success producing in the minors, but the K% scares me a bit moving forward. Regardless of all that, just seeing this kid play baseball is worth the price of admission. He is an electric talent and an even better dude off the field.
Jonathan Bowlan left Sunday’s game with an injury after striking out the first two batters he faced. We’ll update you more as soon as we know something.
A+ Quad Cities (13-4): W 5-2
This Quad Cities pitching staff is an absolute nightmare for opposing lineups right now. They allowed just 10 runs in 6 games this past week and struck out 29 while walking just 1 in the last two games of the series. Drew Parrish, who made the first USA Baseball team for the upcoming Olympics, started Sunday for Quad Cities, striking out 9 in 4 perfect innings of work. Christian Chamberlain followed that up by striking out 2 in 2 scoreless innings of relief in his professional debut. Jonah Dipoto struck out a trio of hitters in the 9th to seal it off and keep his season ERA at 0.00.
Offensively, the River Bandits deploy the current leader of the Royals MiLB system in HR. Vinnie Pasquantino hit #7 on Sunday to keep himself ahead of the aforementioned Melendez and Pratto, who each have 6. Jeison Guzman hit his first HR of the season on Sunday as well. Jimmy Govern finished 2-4 with a pair of doubles and has continued to do nothing but rake as a professional.
A- Columbia (11-7): W 4-2
It was a good week for the Fireflies as they took 5 of 6 from Kannapolis. Diego Hernandez looked good again Sunday finishing 1-1 with a pair of walks. Tyler Tolbert finished 2-4 with his fourth 3B of the year and a walk. He’s been really good lately, hitting .241 with 5 XBH in his last 7 games. AJ Block struck out 7 in 4 scoreless innings of relief, giving him 26 K in 16 IP this year with a 0.56 ERA. Nate Webb K’d a pair in a perfect 9th inning, giving him 17 K in 9 IP this year with an ERA of 1.00.
Photo Credits: Tim Campbell