Bianchi's great week takes Hot List top spot

Every Monday, Royals Corner publishes our Hot List, ranking the ten hottest prospects in the Royals' minor league system. This week, Jeff Bianchi laid waste to the Texas League, hitting an incredible .640 while rocketing to the top of the Hot List. Elsewhere in the minors, some other familiar names continued their excellent seasons. Who else made the Hot List this week? Look inside to find out.

1. Jeff Bianchi
Bianchi had arguably the best week of any Royals farmhand this season, hitting .640 (16-for-25) with two doubles, a home run, eight runs scored, and 10 RBIs. He enters Monday night's action carrying an eight-game hitting streak, with multiple hits in each of the last six games (including two straight 4-for-6 performances). The recent hot streak has pushed his Double-A line to an impressive .368/.417/.512 with nine doubles, three homers, and 23 RBIs in 125 at bats. Between NW Arkansas and Wilmington, Bianchi's season line is .325/.381/.458 with seven home runs and 51 RBIs.

2. Johnny Giavotella
After topping last week's Hot List, Giavotella had another excellent week, hitting .348 (8-for-23) with three doubles, a triple, three walks, and six runs scored. He also swiped two more bases without being caught, giving him 18 stolen bases this season and seven this month. The second baseman out of New Orleans has hit .317/.411/.415 so far in July, raising his overall season line to a much more respectable .255/.370/.366 after a very slow start.

3. Danny Duffy
Duffy made just one start last week, but it was good enough to boost him to the third spot on this week's list. The young southpaw picked up his eighth win of the season, going 6.2 innings while allowing just one earned run on five hits and a walk. His five strikeouts in the win give him 92 on the season in 96.2 innings pitched, and the Carolina League is hitting just .241 off Duffy (8-3, 3.26 ERA) this year.

4. Juan Abreu
Abreu's promotion to Double-A last week did nothing to stall his dominant season. The 24-year-old fireballer made three appearances for the Naturals last week, tossing a combined five scoreless innings while striking out nine batters without allowing a hit. Control is still occasionally an issue with Abreu, as he did allow four walks, but opponents are hitting just .095 against him this season. On the year, Abreu (3-2, 1.37 ERA) has 13 saves, and he's struck out 37 batters in 26.1 innings pitched.

5. David Lough
Lough had another strong week for the Naturals, hitting .345 (10-for-29) with five runs scored and six RBIs. He's currently on a five-game hitting streak, and he's now hitting .349/.379/.506 through his first 21 games with NW Arkansas. On the season, Lough's combined line (between High-A and Double-A) of .328/.373/.482 with 17 doubles, eight home runs, and 43 RBIs represents a large leap forward this season, and a strong case can be made that he's firmed up his position as the top outfield prospect in the Royals' minor league system.

6. Mike Montgomery
Montgomery finds himself back in the familiar territory of the Hot List after an eventful week that saw him promoted from Burlington to Wilmington. He made two starts between the two levels last week, yielding two earned runs over 10.2 innings on four hits and five walks while striking out 10. The 20-year-old lefty finished his stint in Burlington with a 2-3 record, along with a stellar 2.17 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 58.0 innings pitched. He got no decision in his first start for the Blue Rocks after yielding just one earned run in 4.2 innings.

7. Justin Trapp
Trapp was selected by the Royals in the 34th round of the draft last month, and he makes his first appearance on the Hot List this week after hitting .500 (9-for-18) with eight runs scored, four RBIs, and three stolen bases for the Arizona Royals last week. Through nine games thus far, the 18-year-old shortstop is hitting .343/.425/.371, a fine start to his professional career.

8. Kurt Mertins
Mertins' fine season continued last week, as the 23-year-old infielder hit .333 (11-for-33) with a double, a triple, five walks, two stolen bases, nine runs scored, and five RBIs. Mertins had four multi-hit games on the week, and on the season, he's hitting a solid .287/.353/.368 with 20 doubles and 43 RBIs. He also had a 13-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday, when he was 0-for-3 with three walks, two runs scored, and two RBIs against Springfield.

9. Rowdy Hardy
Hardy was promoted to NW Arkansas in mid-July, and after a rough first outing, he appears to be back on track. The 26-year-old southpaw won both of his starts last week, pitching a combined 14.0 innings with 11 strikeouts while allowing just three earned runs on 12 hits and four walks. He now has a 3.32 ERA through three starts with the Naturals, and he's 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA and just 15 walks in 67.0 total innings on the season between Wilmington and Springdale.

10. Luis Piterson
Piterson, a nondrafted free agent from Colombia, makes his 2009 Hot List debut after hitting .500 (10-for-20) with a double, two stolen bases, five runs scored, and three RBIs for the Arizona Royals last week. The 19-year-old infielder is hitting .300/.340/.340 through 27 games and 100 at bats thus far this season after hitting .256/.338/.306 last year for the DSL Royals.

Other Notables:
Royals fans got good news last week when two of the system's high profile outfielders – Chris Lubanski and Jordan Parraz – were sent to rookie ball affiliates on injury rehab assignments. Both have responded very well, as both have hit safely in all their games thus far. Lubanski has been particularly sharp for the Arizona Royals, hitting a cool .500 (11-for-22) with five doubles, one home run, and eight RBIs. In fact, Lubanski has had at least two hits and a double in all five games in which he's played thus far. It shouldn't be long before he rejoins the Omaha Royals, for whom he hit .308/.388/.462 in 24 games prior to his injury.

Parraz, for his part, doesn't appear to be too slowed by his hamstring injury. Playing for the Idaho Falls Chukars, the 24-year-old outfielder is hitting .353 (6-for-17) thus far with three doubles, a home run, and five RBIs. Parraz was hitting .358/.451/.553 for the NW Arkansas Naturals prior to his injury.

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