Pair of relievers crack the Hot List

Every Monday, Royals Corner publishes our Hot List, ranking the ten hottest prospects in the Royals' minor league system. This week, Juan Abreu and Ben Swaggerty made the list for the first time this season behind Omaha's Scott Thorman, who continued to be the O-Royals' most productive hitter . Who else made the Hot List this week? Look inside to find out.

1. Scott Thorman
The Omaha Royals may be scuffling along with the worst record in the Pacific Coast League, but it certainly isn't Scott Thorman's fault. Since joining the O-Royals, the 27-year-old outfielder has hit .343/.427/.667 with 11 home runs and 23 RBIs in just 31 games. Last week, Thorman hit .462 (12-for-26) with three homers and seven RBIs, vaulting him to the top of this week's Hot List.

2. Kurt Mertins
In a little over a week, Kurt Mertins will take part in his first ever professional All-Star game, representing the Texas League's North Division as a reserve. The honor is well deserved, as the 23-year-old infielder is hitting .304/.371/.396 in his first season at the Double-A level. Last week, Mertins hit safely in all seven games, going 11-for-26 (.423) with a pair of doubles, four walks, and six runs scored.

3. David Lough
Lough falls a couple of spots on this week's list, but he still had a great week. Lough went 8-for-23 (.348) with two home runs and a double, pushing his season line to an impressive .332/.384/.493. He has also undergone a bit of a power surge of late, as four of his five home runs this season have come in June, and his OPS on the month is a season-best .940. Lough still ranks second in the Carolina League in batting average, trailing Frederick's (Baltimore) Caleb Joseph by just three points.

4. Jordan Parraz
Is Parraz for real? That's probably the most frequently asked question on our message board, and right now, the stats speak for themselves. Parraz continued to rake last week, hitting .321 (9-for-28) with three doubles and two homers. Of course, because his numbers were already so high, his season line dropped to .354/.447/.538 despite his impressive performance. Regardless, Parraz seems to have the Texas League figured out right now. He's second in the league in batting average, and he leads the circuit in on-base percentage.

5. Mike Montgomery
Several – perhaps even the majority – of the Royals' top pitching prospects entering this season have had at least somewhat disappointing campaigns thus far. One of the exceptions, however, has been Montgomery, who turned in his best outing of the season last week. The 19-year-old southpaw picked up a no decision despite going six innings while yielding just one earned run on two hits while striking out seven and walking none. On the season, Montgomery has a 1.99 ERA in 31.2 innings pitched while surrendering just 24 hits and striking out 28 batters. The league is hitting just .214 against him so far, and the next home run he surrenders will be the first he's allowed all year.

6. Rowdy Hardy
After getting knocked around a bit in the Double-A Texas League in 2008, Hardy returned to the Carolina League this season with a new submarine delivery. The early results weren't good, but lately Hardy's been doing quite well. The southpaw made two starts last week, going 2-0 with 10 strikeouts and no walks in 12 innings pitched. On the season, Hardy's ERA is down to 2.25, and he's surrendered just one home run in 28 innings while inducing nearly twice as many ground balls as fly balls.

7. Juan Abreu
After surrendering a couple of runs on May 15, Abreu's ERA was a bloated 27.00. He's made 11 appearances since without allowing another earned run, and his ERA with the Blue Rocks is down to an impressive 2.03. Last week, the 24-year-old right-hander had two outings, saving a pair of games while striking out five batters in two innings without allowing a hit. In fact, in 13.1 innings so far this season, Abreu has surrendered just three hits, translating to a league batting average against him of just .071.

8. Jeff Bianchi
Bianchi had a short week, thanks to a promotion to Double-A NW Arkansas. Between the three games he played with the Naturals and the one game with the Blue Rocks, Bianchi hit .375 (6-for-16) with four doubles and three RBIs. On the season between the two levels, the 22-year-old shortstop is hitting .306/.365/.444 with 16 doubles, four homers, and 29 RBIs.

9. Ben Swaggerty
Like Bianchi, Swaggerty got a midseason promotion, and so far, so good. The southpaw made three appearances for the Naturals last week, yielding just one earned run on three hits while striking out seven in 5.1 innings pitched. In 16 games with the Blue Rocks, Swaggerty registered a 1.64 ERA before his promotion, and on the season he is 4-1 with two saves and a 1.65 ERA. He has struck out an impressive 34 hitters in 27.1 innings pitched, and opposing batters are hitting just .202 against him.

10. Nick Van Stratten
Several players in the organization probably had slightly better weeks than Van Stratten, but he stays on the Hot List by a hair after hitting .300 (9-for-30) with five runs scored, one double, two triples, and four RBIs. The Kansas City native remains as the Bees' most consistent hitter this season, batting .333/.416/.460 with 18 extra base hits and 11 stolen bases thus far.




PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK:

There were a few very impressive performances last week. On Sunday, Kila Ka'aihue hit two solo homers against Albuquerque. Jeff Bianchi went 3-for-5 with three doubles in his Double-A debut. However, we'll give the "Performance of the Week" award to Geoff Baldwin, the Royals' 2009 10th round selection. The club signed him for $100,000, and in the first baseman's professional debut, he stepped to the plate in the top of the eighth inning with a man on base and his team down a run. Baldwin stroked a go-ahead two-run homer, and the AZ Royals went on to win their opener, 10-5.


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