Royals On The Farm: Brooks Pounders thriving since move to bullpen

Brooks Pounders threw during a spring-training workout on Feb. 24, 2016 in Surprise, Ariz.
Brooks Pounders threw during a spring-training workout on Feb. 24, 2016 in Surprise, Ariz. jsleezer@kcstar.com

It’s time for another Royals On The Farm report, our weekly look at each level of Kansas City’s minor-league system.

(Statistics through Wednesday’s games.)

Class AAA Omaha

It would have been easy to label Brooks Pounders a failed prospect.

A second-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009, the bulky, 6-foot-5 right-hander toiled below Class AAA for seven seasons before breaking camp this spring with the Storm Chasers.

However, since his move to the bullpen, the 25-year-old Pounders has been something of a strikeout virtuoso — averaging 12.6 per nine innings.

In Tuesday’s outing at Nashville, he struck out eight batters in four innings while allowing just two baserunners. He has 15 strikeouts without walking a batter in seven innings in the past week.

The absence of walks might be the biggest development for Pounders, who had 11 in his first 13 innings as a reliever. Of the 100 pitches he’s thrown in the past week, 74 have been strikes.

Pounders, who MLB.com rates as the Royals’ 28th-best prospect, has lowered his ERA (2.84) and opponents’ batting average (.219) in the process.

Outfielder Orlando Calixte is hitting .367 (11 for 30) with six RBIs in his last 10 games.

Catcher Tony Cruz is hitting .297 (11 for 37) with a home run and five RBIs in his last 10 games.

Right-hander Miguel Almonte, who MLB.com rates as the Royals’ fourth-best prospect, is having a nightmarish run the last two months. Almonte walked six batters in three innings on Tuesday at Nashville, giving him 23 in his last 32 innings. His ERA has jumped from 3.45 to 5.29 in that nine-game stretch.

Class AA Northwest Arkansas

First baseman Frank Schwindel was named Texas League Player of the Week after going 10 for 24 with three homers from June 20-26. He’s hitting .276 with a team-high 12 homers and 36 RBIs for the Naturals.

Outfielder Ryan O’Hearn is hitting .333 with two homers in his last 10 games. The former eighth-round pick is hitting .301 with 14 homers between Class A Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas this season.

Left-hander Eric Skoglund, a third-round pick in 2014, has lowered his ERA more than half a run in his last two starts. Skoglund (3-5, 3.50) pitched seven shutout innings on June 24 at Tulsa.

Class A Wilmington (Advanced)

Shortstop Raul Mondesi is hitting .158 in five games during his rehab stint as he prepares to make his return from a 50-game suspension for failing a drug test. He is scheduled to return to Northwest Arkansas on Monday.

Lefty Colin Rodgers allowed only one hit in 5  1/3 scoreless innings on June 25 at Winston-Salem. Opponents are hitting .210 against the former third-round pick.

Class A Lexington

First baseman Brandon Dulin is 3 for 23 with a homer and seven RBIs since returning to the Legends from Rookie Idaho Falls.

Dulin, a Lee’s Summit native, missed two months recovering from injuries, including a collapsed lung, suffered in a slide on April 12.

Rookie Idaho Falls

Catcher Meibrys Viloria is 18 for 36 with four three-hit outings nine games into the season.

Rookie Burlington

Shortstop Emmanuel Rivera is hitting a brisk .520 (13 for 25) after six games in the Appalachian League. Rivera, the Royals’ 19th-round pick last year, was a home run shy of the cycle on Wednesday, going 4 for 5 at Bristol.

First baseman Chris DeVito, an eighth-round pick in June out of New Mexico, is hitting .333 with three homers.

Arizona Rookie League Royals

The Royals’ first pick in June’s amateur draft, right-hander A.J. Puckett, has a 3.86 ERA with eight strikeouts and no walks in seven innings.

Right-hander Ashe Russell, the Royals’ first-round pick in 2015, has allowed two runs in two innings of relief the past week.

Jeff Patterson: 816-234-4767, @jeffpatt_KC