Opinion

Royals on the Farm: Whit Merrifield heating up at Class AAA Omaha

Whit Merrifield.
Whit Merrifield. jsleezer@kcstar.com

As the Royals re-enter the playoff picture — albeit with just a 1.1 percent chance to make the postseason, according to fangraphs.com — it’s time to take stock of which minor-leaguers could help down the stretch.

Kansas City will surely bring back several prospects who’ve already contributed at the major-league level this season when rosters expand up to 40 players on Sept. 1.

(Statistics through Wednesday’s games.)

Class AAA Omaha

Second baseman Whit Merrifield continues to state his case to return to Kansas City in the next two weeks.

He’s been consistent at the plate since the Royals optioned him back to the Storm Chasers on July 26, with his batting average not falling below .263 or rising above .283.

Merrifield is hitting .344 (11 for 32) since Aug. 8, including a grand slam Tuesday at Fresno. He has a .274 average with Omaha and .271 with Kansas City.

Right-hander Luke Farrell allowed one unearned run and five hits in 6  2/3 innings Wednesday in 4-3 win over Fresno. Farrell, a former sixth-round draft pick of the Royals in 2013 and son of Red Sox manager John Farrell, is 6-3 with a 3.50 ERA in 17 games.

Center fielder Bubba Starling’s batting average fell under .200 on Monday for the first time since joining the Storm Chasers in early July. A former first-round draft pick out of Gardner Edgerton High School, Starling is hitting just .063 with 19 strikeouts in his last 10 games. He’s hitting .189 in 37 games with Omaha.

Former St. Louis Cardinals closer Edward Mujica was released on Aug. 10 after posting an 8.25 ERA in 12 innings.

Class AA Northwest Arkansas

First baseman Ryan O’Hearn has three home runs and eight RBIs in the past two days against Corpus Christi. A former eighth-round draft pick, O’Hearn is hitting .291 with 20 homers and 60 RBIs between the Naturals and Legends this season.

Left-hander Eric Skoglund struck out a season-high 10 batters Friday at San Antonio in six shutout innings but didn’t factor in the decision. The former third-round pick out of Central Florida is 6-8 with a 3.36 ERA this season.

Center fielder Alfredo Escalera is hitting .366 with nine runs scored in his last 10 games.

Class A Wilmington (Advanced)

Right-hander Zach Lovvorn (2-14, 3.70 ERA) pitched what was perhaps his best game of the season on Wednesday against Potomac. Naturally, he didn’t get the win.

Lovvorn, who has the third-most losses in all of minor-league baseball this season, allowed three hits with seven strikeouts in seven shutout innings. The Blue Rocks won 1-0 on a Elier Hernandez single in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Third baseman Brian Bien, who scored the winning run Wednesday, is hitting .281 in his last 10 games.

Class A Lexington

The Legends are on an eight-game losing streak and have lost 12 of 16 games in August.

Second baseman D.J. Burt has alternated cold months with hot ones all season, hitting .241 in April, .189 in May, .350 in June, .215 in July and .276 in August.

Center fielder Ben Johnson, the Royals’ 11th-round selection in 2015, is hitting just .114 with 20 strikeouts in his last 35 at-bats. He’s batting .213 with the Legends after a solid .282/.360/.479 last season with Burlington.

Righty A.J. Puckett, the Royals’ first pick in June’s draft, is 0-2 with a 3.49 ERA in 38 2/3 innings.

Rookie Idaho Falls

Outfielder Nick Heath has seven stolen bases in his last 10 games, giving him a Pioneer League-leading 23 in 46 games. Heath, a Junction City, Kan., native, is hitting .282 in his first professional season.

Catcher Meibrys Viloria is hitting .194 in his last 10 games but with just three strikeouts in 36 at-bats. A 19-year-old Colombian, he is hitting .395, tied with Billings’ Hector Vargas for the league lead.

Rookie Burlington

Left-hander Cristian Castillo (4-2, 2.89 ERA) allowed only one hit for the second time in three outings on Aug. 11 against Princeton. He pitched seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts in a 10-0 win over the Rays.

Righty Geoffrey Bramblett, a 30th-round pick from Alabama, allowed one earned run in five innings Monday at Danville to lower his ERA to 2.72. He didn’t factor in the decision, a 3-2 loss. He is 4-1 and holding opponents to a .220 batting average in 39  2/3 innings.

Shortstop Nicky Lopez, a fifth-round pick from Creighton, is second in the Appalachian League with 22 stolen bases.

Rookie Arizona League Royals

Third baseman John Brontsema is hitting .300 with seven RBIs and four stolen bases in his last 10 games. The Royals’ 26th-round pick in June’s draft, Brontsema is third in the league with a .359 batting average.

Parkville native Grant Galvin leads the Arizona League with a 0.86 WHIP.

Jeff Patterson: 816-234-4767, @jeffpatt_KC

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