RC Organizational Report

This week marked the one month point of the minor league season, and RC's James Pinick today takes a look at how the affiliates are doing. The two most advanced clubs are both atop the standings, while Burlington and Wilmington have fallen behind a bit, largely due to offensive struggles.

BURLINGTON BEES (A)

Record
14-18 (.438), 9.5 games behind Clinton (22-7)

Club Leaders
BA: Adrian Ortiz (.333)
OBP: Jason Taylor (.380)
SLG: Clint Robinson (.537)
HR: Robinson and Taylor (5)
RBI: Taylor (17)
SB: Ortiz (13)

W: Three tied (2)
K: Ed Cegarra (37)
WHIP: Cegarra (0.82)
ERA: Anthony Bradley (0.53)

Notes

The Bees started the season slowly with a 2-5 record and endured losing streaks of three and four games during the season's first month, but the team still finished April close to .500 with an 11-14 record. Burlington's offense as a whole struggled during April, hitting just above the Mendoza line as a club, but the Bees did have some solid offensive performers.

Outfielder Adrian Ortiz and third baseman Jason Taylor accounted for much of the offense in April. Ortiz, last year's fifth rounder out of Pepperdine, is currently in the top five in the Midwest League with a .333 average, and his 13 stolen bases (in 16 attempts) are third-best in the league. Jason Taylor, the Royals' second round pick in 2006, was named Midwest League Player of the Week on April 28 after going 8-for-17 (.471 BA) with eight runs, one triple, three home runs, five RBI's and four stolen bases. Taylor has since cooled off a bit, but his current line of .231/.380/.433 (.813 OPS) has to be considered an encouraging sign after missing the entire 2007 season.


Ortiz has done nothing but hit since joining the organization last year

First baseman Clint Robinson got off to a blistering start, hitting five home runs in the season's first 14 games, but he too has been struggling of late. Robinson hasn't homered since April 18, but he still owns a respectable line of .244/.333/.537, and his .870 OPS is tops on the club.

Mike Moustakas, the Royals' 2007 first rounder, seems to be heating up after a dreadful April in which he hit just .190. Moustakas didn't get his first extra base hit until he homered on April 28, but he has since hit three more home runs and has raised his season line to .221/.279/.345 while playing more consistent defense.


Hopefully Moose is heating up

The pitching staff also has some bright spots. Edward Cegarra is third on the Bees staff with a 2.12 ERA. The 19-year old is also leading the team with 37 strikeouts, followed closely by Alexander Caldera, who has 32. Even more encouraging, Cegarra has walked just one batter this season in 34 innings pitched.

Making the jump from the Arizona League this season is Matt Mitchell, the Royals' 14th round pick from 2007. Mitchell got off to a good start, but he has gotten hit around a bit in his last three outings. Nevertheless, Mitchell still sports a decent 4.29 ERA along with a 19-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 21 innings pitched.


Matt Mitchell was a 14th round steal in last year's draft

Daniel Gutierrez also had a strong start, logging a 2.37 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 19 innings over his first four appearances. However, he hasn't pitched since coming out of his April 20 start early, and he's on the shelf for six weeks after experiencing elbow discomfort and a dead arm. The Royals don't believe it's serious, and the move to shut him down was termed strictly precautionary.

The staff's 3.35 team ERA puts the squad in the middle of the pack in the Midwest League, but the staff is in the top half of the league in strikeouts and WHIP.




WILMINGTON BLUE ROCKS (HIGH-A)

Record
15-17 (.469), 5.0 games behind Potomac (20-12)

Club Leaders
BA: Joe Dickerson (.324)
OBP: Josh Johnson (.482)
SLG: Dickerson (.537)
HR: Dickerson (3)
RBI: Dickerson (17)
SB: Dickerson (16)

W: Gilbert de la Vara (3)
K: Blake Wood (40)
WHIP: Wood (0.91)
ERA: Tyler Chambliss (1.02)

Notes

The Blue Rocks started the season in disheartening fashion, spoiling an encouraging performance by pitcher Blake Wood in the opener. Wood went 5.1 innings, giving up only one hit and striking out nine batters, but he took a no decision after the Blue Rocks lost the game in 13 innings. The disappointing opener set the tone for the first month of the season. The Blue Rocks were getting decent pitching, but the offense was struggling.

The team opened the season 1-6 but rallied a bit to finish April with an 11-14 record. The Blue Rocks are playing close to .500 ball now, but the club still finds itself on the outside looking in on the division race.

Despite a disappointing team offense, the Rocks do have some standouts. Outfielder Joe Dickerson seems intent on building upon his strong 2007 campaign in Burlington, and he leads Wilmington in nearly every offensive category. Through 108 at bats, Dickerson sports an impressive line of .324/.408/.537, good for an OPS of .945.


Dickerson hit .289 with the Bees last season

Infielder Kurt Mertins hasn't been a slouch either. Mertins was named the Carolina League Player of the Week on April 21, making the 22-year old the first Blue Rock to earn the award this season. He batted .500 (9-for-18) with two doubles, a triple and two RBI's in five games. Mertins also drew three walks, scored four runs, stole a base and slugged at a .722 clip. On the season, he's hitting .305/.393/.400, representing an excellent improvement over his 2007 numbers in Burlington.

Two other players are showing solid improvement as well. Speedster Derrick Robinson, who struggled for much of last season in Burlington, has really come on lately, and his season line is now up to .282/.349/.350 with 15 stolen bases in 18 attempts. Shortstop Chris McConnell, in his second tour at Wilmington, has played excellent defense while contributing a line of .268/.325/.375 at the plate. Perhaps the best news is that McConnell already has nearly as many extra base hits (12) as he did last year in Wilmington in nearly half as many at bats.


McConnell is an excellent defensive shortstop

On the mound, several pitchers have turned in quality numbers over the season's first month. The aforementioned Wood has been solid all year, possessing a 3.29 ERA in seven starts. His 40 strikeouts (in 38.1 innings) lead the club, as does his miniscule 0.91 WHIP.

Greg Holland, last year's tenth rounder, made the conversion to starting this spring, and he hasn't skipped a beat. Holland is 2-1 with a 3.47 ERA, and he's striking out nearly 14 batters per nine innings pitched, by far the best ratio on the team.

The bullpen has been led by a solid trio of relievers. Tyler Chambliss leads the team with a 1.02 ERA in 10 appearances, and Aaron Hartsock (1-2, 2.38 ERA) has continued to quietly put up solid numbers. Perhaps most encouraging has been the return of Chris Nicoll, who left Wilmington last year after battling the yips. In nine appearances spanning 19 innings thus far, Nicoll has struck out 20 batters while walking just six, and his ERA stands at a solid 2.37.


Nicoll's command seems fine so far this season, which is very encouraging




NORTHWEST ARKANSAS NATURALS (AA)

Record
17-17 (.500), Tied for first place with Springfield

Club Leaders
BA: Geraldo Valentin (.304)
OBP: Kila Kaaihue (.408)
SLG: Kaaihue (.589)
HR: Kaaihue (10)
RBI: Kaaihue (29)
SB: Ovandy Suero (15)

W: Carlos Rosa, Dusty Hughes (3)
K: Rosa (38)
WHIP: Rosa (0.85)
ERA: Rosa (1.38)

Notes

The Naturals started out the season with a 2-5 record. A six-game losing streak in the middle of April didn't have things looking good for the team either, but a four-game winning streak toward the end of the month brought the Naturals closer to the .500 mark. The team finished the month of April with an 11-15 mark, and with a 6-2 mark thus far in May, the Naturals now stand even at 17-17.

Outfielder Geraldo Valentin leads the team and is in the top 15 of the Texas League with a .304 batting average, but the offensive story thus far has been the reemergence of first baseman Kila Kaaihue as a prospect. Kaaihue had an excellent spring training, and he carried it right over into the season. Kaaihue leads the Texas League with 10 home runs, is second in RBI's, and is in the top 10 in OBP and OPS.


Everything seems to be coming together for Kaaihue this season

Of course, the true strength of this Naturals team is its pitching. Carlos Rosa has been nearly unhittable thus far, posting a 3-2 record with a 1.38 ERA. Rosa leads the club with 38 strikeouts, and he's issued just six free passes in 39 innings pitched. Rosa's strikeout total is third-best in the Texas League, and his ERA is tops in the league. His one-hit, eight inning performance on April 25 started a four-game winning streak and helped the Naturals to a 3.47 team ERA, which leads the Texas League. The near no-hitter helped Rosa earn Texas League Pitcher of the Week honors on April 28 as well.


Rosa could make his major league debut sometime this season

Behind Rosa, several other pitchers are also doing a great job. Julio Pimentel is 2-2 with a 3.15 ERA, and his 35 strikeouts in 40 innings pitched represents a nice jump in his K/9 ratio over last season. Blake Johnson (2-2, 4.35) has been solid in his first exposure to Double-A, and Daniel Cortes (1.35 ERA) got off to a great start before being shut down with a tired arm after three starts.




OMAHA ROYALS (AAA)

Record
16-16 (.500), First place, 1.5 games ahead of Memphis

Club Leaders
BA: Mike Aviles (.355)
OBP: Aviles (.394)
SLG: Aviles (.688)
HR: Ryan Shealy, Jason Smith (8)
RBI: Aviles (29)
SB: Shane Costa (4)

W: Kyle Davies (3)
K: Brandon Duckworth (27)
WHIP: Davies (1.19)
ERA: Davies (2.61)

Notes

The O-Royals were the only affiliate to end the month of April with a winning record, but the season started on hold, literally. The first game was postponed because of the weather. Afterward, the club began the season with a 5-2 record, and an early five-game winning streak set the tone on their way to finishing April with a 14-10 record.

Offensively, the season's first month was the Mike Aviles Show. Aviles had a blistering April, hitting .363 on the month with five homers and 23 RBI's. He hasn't slowed down much in May, and his current line of .355/.388/.688 is the best in the organization. Mike Aviles is in the Pacific Coast League top 10 in a myriad of categories, including batting average, OPS, RBI's, and doubles.


Mike Aviles is hitting everything hard this year

Of course, Aviles isn't the only O-Royal swinging a hot bat. Outfielder Mitch Maier returned from an early season injury and immediately began torching the league. In 62 at bats, Maier is hitting .371/.394/.613 with three homers and six doubles. Also producing in the outfield is Shane Costa, who once again is tearing up the PCL. Costa is hitting .323/.362/.583 with seven home runs and 23 RBI's, both totals second-best on the club.


Costa always hits in Omaha

On the mound, Kyle Davies has turned in a fine first month. His 2.61 ERA ranks among the league's top five, and he leads the O-Royals in most categories, now that Jorge De La Rosa has been traded to the Colorado Rockies.

In the bullpen, Neal Musser has been busy putting up steady numbers as he awaits a return to Kansas City. The lefty reliever has struck out 24 hitters in 18.2 innings pitched, and his ERA stands at 3.38.

A pair of pitchers who are no longer with the O-Royals also put up some good numbers in April. Prior to the trade with the Rockies, De La Rosa was in the top three of the Pacific Coast League with a 1.64 ERA, and he earned PCL Pitcher of the Week honors on April 21. He became the first Royals pitcher to win the award since 2002 (Brett Laxton). Luke Hochevar was also very good, posting a 2.60 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 17 innings prior to his promotion to Kansas City.



Dave Sanford also contributed to this report

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