Hot List dominated by rookie leaguers

With the opening of the short season affiliates in late June, a whole slew of players made this week's Hot List for the first time. Meanwhile, Naturals shortstop Jeff Bianchi took top honors as he continued to rake following his promotion to the Texas League. Who else made the Hot List this week? And who did RC readers select as the June Pitcher and Player of the Month? Look inside to find out.

Editor's Note: Because of the All-Star shortened weeks in the Midwest, Carolina, and Texas Leagues, and the staggered start of the short-season leagues, we opted to combine the last two weeks into one Hot List. The below list reflects performances between June 22 and July 5.

1. Jeff Bianchi
This is truly the Jeff Bianchi the Royals had hoped to see after his two incredible but injury-shortened seasons in rookie ball a few years ago. The 22-year-old shortstop hit .386 (17-for-44) over the last two weeks for the Naturals with seven runs scored, a double, a home run, eight RBIs, and three stolen bases. Bianchi is hitting .393 since moving to Double-A, and on the season, his line stands at .319/.381/.449 with five home runs and 37 RBIs between two levels.

2. Luis Del Rosario
A nondrafted free agent signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, Del Rosario was one of the Arizona Royals' best hitters last season. This year, the 19-year-old outfielder is off to a blistering start for the Burlington Royals. He has hit safely in all 12 games so far, carrying a line of .396/.431/.563 into this week's action with a double, a home run, two triples, and nine RBIs.

3. Deivy Batista
Batista hit .317 with an OPS of .854 for the Arizona Royals last year, and he's off to an even better start this year for the Idaho Falls Chukars. Splitting time between second base and shortstop, the 20-year-old infielder is hitting .378/.385/.757 so far. In 37 at bats, Batista has already hit three home runs, two triples, and a double while driving in a club-best 12 runs. He's also swiped three bags without being caught.

4. Rowdy Hardy
Hardy has steadily climbed the Hot List since being placed back in the Wilmington rotation. The submariner made two starts over the last two weeks, pitching 13 innings with eight strikeouts while surrendering just one earned run (0.69 ERA) on 10 hits and two walks. On the season, Hardy's ERA is down to 1.76 after a slow start, and he has issued just nine walks in 41 innings pitched thus far.

5. Mike Montgomery
Montgomery continued his impressive campaign over the last two weeks, despite not winning either of his two starts. In 11.1 innings, Montgomery allowed just two earned runs (1.59 ERA) on six hits and six walks while striking out 10 batters. On the season, the young southpaw is now 1-2 with a stellar 1.88 ERA. He has struck out 38 hitters in 43.0 innings pitched, and the Midwest League is hitting just .204 against him.

6. Juan Abreu
Abreu finally gave up a hit on Saturday. The young right-hander went over a month between hits allowed (his last hit allowed was on June 2), and opponents hit just .030 against him in June. He made three appearances over the last two weeks, going 1-0 with two saves while striking out five batters in 4.1 innings pitched. On the season, Abreu is 3-1 with nine saves and a 1.53 ERA. In 17.2 innings pitched, he has allowed just four hits (but 13 walks) with 23 strikeouts. The Carolina League is hitting just .073 against him this season.

7. Hilton Richardson
Richardson made some progress last season in the Appalachian League, but his overall numbers were still a little disappointing. However, he seems to be putting that behind him this year, hitting a robust .429/.484/.607 through his first two weeks in the Pioneer League. In 28 at bats so far, the athletic 20-year-old outfielder has a pair of doubles and a home run, along with three stolen bases and seven runs scored.

8. Mario Lisson
For whatever reason, Lisson has shown much improved power since his promotion to the Omaha Royals in late May. Over the last two weeks, the big shortstop has pounded the Pacific Coast League, hitting .347 (17-for-49) with four doubles, three home runs, and eight RBIs. In 139 at bats for the O-Royals, Lisson has hit seven homers after hitting just two for the Naturals in the season's first two months. He's slugging a respectable .446 for Omaha, although his overall season line of .229/.280/.364 between the two levels is still a bit of a disappointment.

9. Bryan Paukovits
After missing the entire 2008 campaign while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the 6-foot-7 Paukovits is off to a tremendous start for the Idaho Falls Chukars. He has made three starts thus far, going 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA. In 13.0 innings pitched, Paukovits struck out 15 batters while allowing 11 hits and eight walks. The Pioneer League is hitting just .224 against him so far.

10. Yowill Espinal
Signed to a six-figure bonus as a nondrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic, the Royals have had high hopes for the young Espinal. Still just 18-years old, Espinal is off to an outstanding start for the Burlington Royals. Through 12 games, he's hitting .348/.434/.543 with two doubles, two triples, a home run, and seven stolen bases (2 CS). It's also quite encouraging that he's already drawn six walks against just five strikeouts.



JUNE PITCHER AND PLAYER OF THE MONTH

With 64 percent of the vote, Mike Montgomery was selected by Royals Corner readers as the June Pitcher of the Month. In five starts for the Bees, Montgomery went 1-0 with a 1.37 ERA, striking out 23 batters in 26.1 innings while allowing just 15 hits and five walks. Opponents hit just .167 against him in June.

NW Arkansas outfielder Jordan Parraz was selected as the Player of the Month, garnering 61 percent of the vote. Parraz hit 407/.473/.704 with seven doubles, five homers, and 16 RBIs on the month.


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