Friday evening I ventured out to Werner Park in Omaha to check out Jake Odorizzi's first start at AAA Omaha, after having been called up from AA Northwest Arkansas. It also allowed me to see Wil Myers play in person for the second time.
Let me first say, if you are a Royals fan who ever happens to be in the Omaha area, make sure to head out to suburban Sarpy County to see Werner Park. It's a tough task for an organization to leave the charm of a historical place like Rosenblatt Stadium behind, but the guys in Omaha have done a top notch job. They went for a fresh start, which included a name change, and built a facility that is more intimate for the AAA game. These guys are doing it right.
Odorizzi, who was pitching about 90-91 in high school, is now a 22-year old who can run it up there routinely at 95 miles per hour, with the ball seemingly exploding out of his hand. His fastball is certainly going to be his best pitch when he reaches the next level.
His curveball will be a solid second pitch, but his off speed pitches are the ones he will continue to work on in AAA before getting the call up to Kansas City.
He went 6.2 innings in his first AAA start, allowing three runs on nine hits. He walked one while striking out four. The wind was blowing out and he did give up a no-doubt home run in the second inning to Tacoma's Carlos Peguero, but in all I was impressed with his ability to limit the damage when he did run into trouble. 68 of his 95 pitches went for strikes, and I can recall at least three times when he broke the bats of Tacoma players.
The other player I certainly had my eye on was Wil Myers, making his second start for Omaha. He didn't disappoint at the plate, going 3-for-4 and ended just a home run short of the cycle. The kid can hit, there is no doubt about that. He may not have the speed of the current center fielder in Kansas City, Jarrod Dyson, but he looked just fine in the outfield and running the base paths. His overall development has continued to make him a better all-around player each year. Though it was just one game, he looked like someone who could play in Kansas City next season.
I also took photos of my trip to the park, which you can view here.
Staying with Omaha, the team split a doubleheader on Sunday with Tacoma, and currently sits at 27-17 overall. They have an eight game lead over the second place Iowa Cubs in the Pacific Coast League American Northern Division standings. The squad is off to a terrific 17-3 start at home.
Six current Stormchasers are hitting over .300 at the moment, and well-traveled catcher Max Ramirez is putting together a nice .301/.386/.481 line with six home runs and 31 RBI. If you are looking for the next pitcher that is to make Kansas City for the first time, that will likely be Ryan Verdugo, the other played involved with Jonathan Sanchez in the off season trade with the San Francisco Giants for Melky Cabrera.
Verdugo, 25, is an LSU product who has made eight starts for Omaha and is 3-0 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
AA Northwest Arkansas has lost two in a row, and sits in second place in the North Division of the Texas League with a 24-19 record. They are one game behind the Colorado Rockies' AA team, the Tulsa Drillers.
Obviously Myers and Odorizzi were two of the Naturals' catalysts before being called up to Omaha, but shortstop Sharlon Schoop is a player who has been someone who has come from off the radar. Schoop, 25, spent many years in the Giants organization before signing with the Royals as minor league free agent in November. Thus far he is hitting .305/.394/.516 with five home runs an 11 RBI. Meanwhile former first-round draft pick, Christian Colon, is hitting .312/.370/.433 with three home runs and 15 RBI. 38 of his 49 hits have been singles, while he also has nine errors so far in 42 games.
Kendal Volz is the bullpen arm at Northwest Arkansas which has me intrigued. He is 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA in 15 appearances. His current WHIP is 0.99.
Kane County has lost two in a row, and sits with a 23-21 record, four games behind Wisconsin (Brewers) in the Midwest League Western Division.
Offensively, outfielder Lane Adams has led the way. Currently hitting .331 with three home runs and 33 RBI, Adams leads a talented group of offensive players that includes heralded prospects Jorge Bonifacio and Michael Antonio. Antonio is struggling with the bat at the moment, only hitting .226, but still has 25 RBI in 39 games.
23-year old, Edwin Carl leads the staff for the Cougars, as the University of New Mexico product continues to break the mold of a non-prospect, by sporting a 4-2 record with a 1.79 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He was undrafted and picked up by the Royals as a free-agent after his college days.
Low Class A Wilmington is 19-23 after the Blue Rocks win on Sunday afternoon. Currently they are struggling with the bats, but feature talented offensive players such as Brian Fletcher, Cheslor Cuthbert, and Brett Eibner. Eibner leads the team in home runs (6) and RBI (18) but is hitting just .212.
Meanwhile Jason Adam is 1-6, but sports a nice 2.82 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 51 innings pitched. he has struck out 39, while issuing just 15 walks. Yordano Ventura leads the Blue Rocks with 49 strikeouts in just 39.1 innings pitched. He is currently 2-3 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.