It was another night of firsts for Naturals Alumni last night.
LHP Chris Dwyer became the Seventh former Natural to make their Major League debut in 2013. The left-hander tossed 244⅓ innings for Northwest Arkansas between the latter part of 2010 and the first half of 2012, and last night the 25 year-old was inaugurated with two scoreless innings of relief in Seattle at Safeco Field as Kansas City tries to hold on to 2013 Playoff hopes.
Dwyer, along with 2008 Natural INF Irving Falu, were promoted to Kansas City following the Omaha Storm Chasers victory in the Triple-A National Championship game that saw Dwyer retire the first 20 batters he faced. Dwyer was opposed that night by 2011-12 Naturals teammate RHP Jake Odorizzi who last night picked up a three-inning save against the Yankees in the Bronx.
A former Clemson Tiger, Dwyer was drafted by the Royals in the 4th Round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft. He started the second-most games in Naturals franchise history and ranks third in innings-pitched. The Massachusetts-native also holds the Naturals single-season strikeout record along with 2013 Natural RHP Jason Adam.
Dwyer joined OF Wil Myers, RHP Yordano Ventura, INF Ed Lucas, C Cody Clark, LHP Kevin Chapman and OF Derrick Robinson as former Naturals to make their Major League debuts this season.
Over 2,600 miles away, Dwyer's teammate on the 2011 Naturals also had a night to remember. Brewers SS Jeff Bianchi hit his first homerun of the 2013 Season in an eventual 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. The 26-year-old had gone 246 at-bats and over a calendar year since his last home run on August 4, 2012. The native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania has played in a career high 95 games for Milwaukee this season playing third-base, shortstop, and second-base including three games in the left-field for manager Ron Roenicke's Brew Crew.
Drafted by Kansas City in the second round of the 2005 Amateur Draft, Bianchi .315 average over 68 games in 2009 marks the fifth-best number in Naturals history. Bianchi missed the entire 2010 season after undergoing shoulder surgery and returned in 2011. He signed a minor league contract with Milwaukee before the 2012 season and made his major league debut on July 13, 2012.
THE DOMINATOR: 2009 Naturals RHP Greg Holland has arguably been the best closer in the American League in 2013, especially among those finishers with at least 30 saves. The 27-year old from North Carolina has converted 45 of 48 saves. In 66 games, Holland is a 2-1 with 45 saves with a 1.25 ERA while striking out 99 strikeouts in 65 innings, and only allowing 37 hits and walking just 17 in that span. Originally drafted by the Royals in the 10th Round of the 2007 MLB June Draft, Holland spent the 2009 season in Northwest Arkansas and was 3-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 8 saves in 29 games.
WIL, MEET ROY: The Tampa Bay Rays sit atop the American League Wild Card Standings with five games remaining in the regular season. Joe Maddon's group was 36-33 when they called up 2011 & 2012 Naturals OF Wil Myers. Since his June 18th debut the team has gone 52-36. The 22 year-old is first or second in Triple Crown categories among rookies, he leads the pack with 51 RBI and ranks second in homeruns (13) and batting average (.293) to two different players. The 2012 Minor League Player of the year also leads the group in On-Base and Slugging percentages. Myers was the Royals 3rd Round selection in the 2009 MLB Draft and spent an injury-plagued 2011 in Northwest Arkansas. The High Point, North Carolina-native returned for 35 games in 2012 batting .343 with 13 homeruns and 30 RBI.
THE LAND OF HOZ: 2010 Naturals 1B Eric Hosmer has led the Royals charge to Playoff Contention. Kansas City owns the League's best record since the All-Star Break at 40-25 and the 23-year-old has a .328 average with 8 homeruns and 39 RBI in that span. The Royals third-overall selection in the 2008 Draft has hit over .300 in four straight months and leads the Royals in overall average, OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) and doubles. Hosmer is second to OF Alex Gordon for the team-lead in Homeruns and RBI, and has hit .304 on the season with 17 homeruns and 79 RBI. In 2010, Hosmer joined the Naturals steam roll towards the Texas League Championship batting .313 with 13 homeruns and 35 RBI in 50 regular season games, and added two clutch homeruns that staved off elimination during the Texas League Playoffs.
#LetsThrowFire: 2013 Naturals RHP Yordano Ventura began the year in Northwest Arkansas and will finish the year in a Kansas City Uniform with at least two stellar big league stars to his name. Ventura has started two games for Kansas City in the heat of their playoff push and has a 1.59 ERA in 11⅓ innings allowing 7 hits and 5 walks while striking out nine. According to CBS Sports, in his debut start against Cleveland on August 17th, the 22-year-old recorded a 102.8 MPH fastball, marking the fastest pitch ever recorded by a starting pitcher on Major League Baseball's current PitchFX tracking system. In 11 starts with the Naturals this season, Ventura was 3-2 with a 2.34 ERA and struck out 74 batters in 57⅔ innings, while allowing just 39 hits and 20 walks.
The Seventh Season of Naturals Baseball begins Thursday, April 3, 2014 in Frisco, TX. The team opens at Arvest Ballpark on Thursday April 10, 2014 against the same Frisco Rough Riders.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and proud host of the 77th Annual Texas League All Star Game. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, AR. For more information including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit NWANaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @NWANaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.