Red hot Ka'aihue tops this week's Hot List

From now until the end of the season, the Royals Corner Hot List will be published every Monday. This week, Kila Ka'aihue takes over the top spot after hitting four home runs and knocking in 12 runs. After a slow start, the big first baseman seems to be returning to his 2008 form, which is very encouraging. Who else made the Hot List this week? Look inside to find out.

Editor's Note: This week's Hot List covers the period from May 8 through May 17.

1. Kila Kaaihue
Ka'aihue takes the top spot on this week's list after hitting .382 and launching four home runs. Since May 8th, the 25-year old has gone 13-for-34 with 11 walks, and he added five doubles and 12 RBIs while scoring 11 runs. Prior to his hot streak, Ka'aihue's batting average was hovering in the low .200s, but he entered Monday's action with a season-high average of .270, along with seven home runs, 23 RBIs, and an eye-popping (and league-leading) 37 walks.

2. Cody Strait
Cody Strait had a huge week for the Naturals, going 15-for-32 (.469) with four doubles, a home run, six RBIs, and 12 runs scored. The 25-year-old outfielder hit just .265 in April, but his hot streak has boosted his season average to .316 (entering Monday's game). Strait's production has boosted a struggling NW Arkansas offense, and this is his first appearance on the Hot List this season.

3. Derrick Robinson
Robinson disappeared from the Hot List for a few weeks after going through a slump, but he reappears after a week in which he went 11-for-33 (.333) with three walks, a pair of doubles, seven RBIs, and six stolen bases. The speedy center fielder entered Monday's game hitting just .244, but his 18 stolen bases easily lead the Carolina League.

4. Danny Duffy
A string of lackluster outings bounced Duffy from the last two Hot Lists, but two dominant starts last week put him right back in the mix. On May 8, Duffy outdueled Orioles' first-rounder Brian Matusz as the Blue Rocks defeated the Frederick Keys, 3-0. On the week, he was 1-0 with a 0.79 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 11.1 innings pitched. He allowed just one earned run on seven hits and just one walk. Duffy is now 4-1 with a 3.16 ERA on the season, along with 36 strikeouts in 37 innings pitched.

5. Nick Van Stratten
Van Stratten's nine-game hitting streak ended on Sunday, but the 23-year-old outfielder still makes this week's list after going 13-for-36 (.361) with five doubles, nine runs scored, four RBIs, and three stolen bases. Hitting atop the Bees' lineup, Van Stratten has added some life to what has been a sputtering Burlington offense. Van Stratten missed a couple of weeks on the disabled list, but entering Monday's action, he's hitting a club-best .344.

6. Chris Nicoll
Nicoll is the only carryover from last week's Hot List, but it was well-earned. The 26-year old made three appearances last week, combining for 6.1 scoreless innings. He allowed just four hits and no walks while striking out eight batters, and he has not allowed an earned run since his first outing of the year. On the season, Nicoll is 3-0 with a miniscule 0.41 ERA, and he has issued just five walks while striking out 23 batters in 22 innings pitched. The Texas League is hitting just .175 against him so far.

7. Bryan Casey
Casey makes the Hot List for the first time this season after a week in which he went 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA for the Bees. The 22-year-old right-hander won both of his starts, yielding just two earned runs on seven hits in 12 innings pitched while striking out 11 batters. The victories were the first two of the season for Casey, who is now 2-3 with a 2.25 ERA on the year. The conversion to a starting seems to be paying off for the former reliever, as the league is hitting just .220 against him through six starts.

8. Jeff Bianchi
Narrowly missing last week's list, Bianchi returns after going 11-for-35 (.314) with a pair of doubles, seven runs scored, three RBIs, and two stolen bases. The 22-year-old shortstop carried an eight-game hitting streak into Monday's game against Salem, along with a .310 batting average on the season. Bianchi hit .255/.290/.442 last year for the Blue Rocks, and he's on pace to easily eclipse those numbers this season.

9. Nick Francis
Francis was a mainstay on the Hot List for the first month of the season, but a small slump knocked him off the list last week. However, he returns this week after going 7-for-23 (.304) with two home runs, two doubles, eight runs scored, and eight RBIs. Along with Van Stratten, Francis has been one of the Bees' only productive hitters thus far, and he entered Monday's action carrying a .295 average and six home runs on the season.

10. Aaron Hartsock
The Blue Rocks' closer had a stellar week, and he finds himself on the Hot List for the first time this season. Hartsock appeared in four games last week, saving all four without allowing an earned run in 5.1 innings pitched. The 25-year-old right-hander allowed just three hits and no walks while striking out six batters, and he now leads the Carolina League with eight saves. On the season, Hartsock has a sparkling 0.57 ERA, and the Carolina League is hitting just .182 against him thus far.




PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK:

On May 8, the Wilmington Blue Rocks and Frederick keys matched up for a highly-anticipated pitching duel, with Danny Duffy taking the hill against Brian Matusz, the Orioles' 2008 first rounder. The matchup lived up to its billing, and in the end, Duffy emerged victorious with arguably his best outing of the season. The Blue Rocks' southpaw pitched into the seventh, throwing 6.1 shutout innings while striking out nine and allowing just three singles and no walks. Matusz struck out 13 batters in seven innings of work, but the two runs the Rocks pushed across against him in the second inning proved to be more than Duffy needed.


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