After an abysmal first half of the season, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals were dead last in the Texas League in nearly every major statistical category. After a 25-45 start, the Naturals have started to turn it around. Since they double-A all-star break, they have been 13-13 and have been showing signs of life.
Hitters like Matt Fields and Brian Fletcher have provided a spark at the plate in recent games, but the bats can only get the team so far. For sustained success, the improvement that the pitchers have shown must continue.
Right now, the Naturals pitcher and Overland Park native Jason Adam has the highest upside, currently ranked by MLB.com as the Royals' 11th best prospect. Statistically, Adam's numbers for this season are not the most impressive, but the improvement has been there. He is 4-10 on the season with a 6.14 ERA, but has done much better lately. Before his most recent start, Adam posted a 4-2 record and a 4.37 ERA in his last eight starts.
Part of the cause has been lack of run support in his losses, in May, Adam had a record of 0-5, but his ERA of 3.09 and opponents average of .229 has been among his lowest all season. His steady improvement will certainly lead to more success for the Naturals.
Sugar Ray Marimon has been looking better and better for the Naturals as well.
Much like Adam, his 6-10 record and 4.29 ERA are not stellar, but his last seven starts are exactly what is needed, during this time he is 4-2 with a 1.91 ERA. Marimon had a rough start to the season but has turned around and is putting together what could be the best season of his career. The Colombian is closing in on career highs on both wins and strikeouts.
The newest Northwest Arkansas Natural could be making the most noise soon. Kyle Zimmer was recently called up from Wilmington and is the top pitcher and the 2nd ranked player overall in the Royals' farm system. His first and only start with the Naturals so far did not disappoint either. Against the Springfield Cardinals, Zimmer threw six shutout innings in a 3-1 win. The righty was able to work around seven hits and struck out seven while only walking one batter.
Zimmer's was the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, his strength is getting batters to extend the strike zone for him, so far this year he has 120 strikeouts with just 32 walks.
Continued success from these players is crucial for the Naturals to remain near first place in the division and contend for a playoff spot.