Opinion

Royals on the Farm: Top draft pick A.J. Puckett pitches five no-hit innings at Class A Lexington

Kansas City Royals minor-league pitcher A.J. Puckett.
Kansas City Royals minor-league pitcher A.J. Puckett. jsleezer@kcstar.com

With the season nearly complete, let’s take a look at how each of the Royals’ minor-league affiliates has fared and whether they can make the playoffs.

(Statistics through Wednesday’s games.)

Class AAA Omaha

Record: 55-74 (fourth place in the Pacific Coast League’s American Northern Division)

Playoff chances: Eliminated

Outfielder Orlando Calixte, who had three at-bats with the Royals last season, is hitting .308 with two home runs and six RBIs in his last 10 games.

Third baseman Hunter Dozier is hitting .270 with two homers and nine RBIs in his last 10 games.

Second baseman Whit Merrifield is hitting .316 with two homers and seven RBIs in his last 10 games.

Class AA Northwest Arkansas

Record: 59-69 overall in the Texas League’s North Division (30-28 in the second half)

Playoff chances: Decent. The Naturals have a 1  1/2 -game lead over Arkansas in the second-half standings with 12 games left. The two division winners in each half of the season advance to the playoffs.

Trivia time: The two pitchers with the most losses in minor-league baseball this season pitch in the Royals’ organization, according to baseball-reference.com.

Right-hander Ashton Goudeau, a former 27th-round pick leading the way with 16 losses, pitched one of his finer games of the season in his last outing on Aug. 17. He allowed one run and four hits with seven strikeouts in 5  1/3 innings against Corpus Christi to earn the win. He is 7-16 with a 5.28 ERA between Classes AA and A this season.

Class A Wilmington’s Zach Lovvorn (2-15, 3.95 ERA) is second on the dubious list.

First baseman Samir Duenez is hitting .300 with a homer and 10 RBIs in his last 10 games.

Center fielder Alfredo Escalera is hitting .325 in his last 10 games and .267 overall with the Naturals.

Righty Josh Staumont pitched five shutout innings with four strikeouts and two walks on Sunday against San Antonio. Walks (31 in 33  1/3 innings) remain a problem, but Staumont, a former second-round pick, has pitched well since his promotion with a 3.51 ERA and 43 strikeouts in eight starts.

Class A Wilmington (Advanced)

Record: 49-78 overall (last place in the Carolina League’s Northern Division for both halves of the season)

Playoff chances: Eliminated

Catcher Luis Villegas is hitting .289 with three homers and eight RBIs in his last 10 games.

Right-hander Jake Newberry (3-1, 2.44 ERA in 51  2/3 innings) earned a rare save on Friday, his second of the season.

Class A Lexington

Record: 48-80 overall (last place in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division for both halves of the season)

Playoff chances: Eliminated

Right-hander A.J. Puckett has been a revelation for the South Atlantic League’s worst team.

The 67th overall pick in June’s draft — and the first selection by the Royals — Puckett was named the league’s top pitcher for the week of Aug. 15-21.

Puckett picked up his first victory with the Legends on Sunday, pitching five no-hit innings with four strikeouts and one walk in an 8-2 win over Hagerstown.

The Suns, a Washington Nationals affiliate, have the league’s best record (76-53).

Puckett is 1-2 with a 3.09 ERA in nine starts with Lexington.

Geson Garabito followed up Puckett’s gem with a no-hit outing of his own. A 21-year-old righty, Garabito allowed one unearned run and walked three batters in six innings Monday, but the Suns beat the Legends 3-1. Garabito is 2-9 with a 5.22 ERA in 16 starts this season.

Righty Scott Blewett, a second-round pick in 2014, allowed three runs in six innings Wednesday but had 10 strikeouts without walking a batter. It was the second consecutive game without a walk for Blewett (7-11, 4.38), who is 10th in the league with 48.

Rookie Idaho Falls

Record: 31-30 overall (9-14 in the second half in the Pioneer League’s South Division)

Playoff chances: Slim. The Chukars are 4  1/2 games behind with 15 to play.

Catcher Meibrys Viloria is flirting with .400 again. The presumptive Pioneer League batting champion is hitting .393 (11 for 28) during a modest seven-game hitting streak.

He entered August hitting .448 before a 5-for-28 stretch dropped his average to .399. The 19-year-old Viloria is hitting .398.

Outfielder Nick Heath is hitting .297 with eight stolen bases in his last 10 games.

Rookie Burlington

Record: 36-23 overall (first place in the Appalachian League’s East Division)

Playoff chances: Strong. The Royals (36-23) have a three-game lead in the East Division with nine games left to play. The Johnson City Cardinals (35-25) hold a two-game lead in the West, which would set up a rookie-ball version of the 1985 World Series in the best-of-three league championship during Labor Day weekend.

Left-hander Cristian Castillo (5-3, 3.36) was named the league’s pitcher of the year, the league announced on Tuesday.

Shortstop Nicky Lopez (.270 batting average, 23 stolen bases) and outfielder Kort Peterson (.340 average) were also named to the league’s all-star team.

Burlington’s Scott Thorman was named the league’s top manager.

Rookie Arizona League Royals

Record: 28-23 overall (first place Arizona League’s West Division)

Playoff chances: Good. The Royals lead by half a game in the second-half standings with five games left to play.

Outfielder Khalil Lee, a third-round draft pick out of Oakton, Va., is hitting .289 with seven RBIs and four stolen bases in his last 10 games.

Catcher Sebastian Rivero, a 17-year-old Venezuelan, is hitting .425 in his last 10 games.

Jeff Patterson: 816-234-4767, @jeffpatt_KC

  Comments