Alcala goes the distance for Buies Creek

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The odds seemed to be against O’Neill reaching 30 homers this season after he went deep six times in his first 69 games with Triple-A Tacoma. But the 22-year-old found his power stroke in late in June — beginning with a two-homer, seven-RBI performance on June 23 — and reemerged as one of the more consistent sluggers in the Minors during the second half, totaling 24 home runs over 59 games despite being dealt from Seattle to the Cardinals for Marco Gonzales at the Trade Deadline.

With Saturday’s performance, O’Neill now has hit 11 homers in 35 games with Memphis while slashing .244/.300/.541. Altogether, he’s produced a .244/.321/.496 line across 128 games.

O’Neill previously achieved the 30-homer mark in 2015, when he went deep 32 times in 106 games for Class A Advanced Bakersfield in the California League. He followed it by hitting 24 homers in 2016, spending the entire season at the Double-A level.

For his career, O’Neill has homered 100 times in 453 games.

The rest of the best performances from top prospects Saturday

No. 42 overall prospect Juan Soto (Nationals’ No. 2) tallied a career-high five hits, including a triple and a double, in a 5-for-5, three-RBI day at the plate while playing in a Rookie Gulf Coast League rehab game. The 18-year-old outfielder has been beset by injuries this season, as he missed two months with an ankle injury early in the year before suffering a broken hamate in his hand upon returning in early July. When healthy, Soto produced a stellar .360/.427/.523 line in 23 games with Class A Hagerstown.

No. 58 overall prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres’ No. 4) collected a career-high four hits, going 4-for-5 with two RBIs in Double-A San Antonio’s win over Corpus Christi. The 18-year-old shortstop has hit safely in six straight games for the Missions after he went 2-for-17 at the plate in his first five contests following a promotion to Double-A. He’s batting .278 on the season with 22 homers, 27 doubles and 32 steals in 127 games.

No. 68 overall prospect Matt Manning (Tigers’ No. 2) spun a gem in his final regular-season start as he tied his career high with nine strikeouts while tossing five scoreless innings for Class A West Michigan. The 2016 first-rounder (No. 9 overall) threw 47 of his 73 pitches for strikes, allowing two hits and walks each in the performance. He previously struck out nine batters on June 20 in his season debut with Class A Short Season Connecticut.

Rockies No. 6 prospect Ryan Castellani threw six scoreless innings of one-hit ball with four walks and seven strikeouts in a no-decision for Double-A Hartford. It was the second straight scoreless performance for the 21-year-old right-hander after he struck out eight over eight innings in his previous turn.

Tigers No. 11 prospect Mike Gerber has played in two games since being promoted to Triple-A Toledo, and they’ve both been three-hit performances. On Saturday, the 25-year-old outfielder went 3-for-4 with a double and his first Triple-A homer, a two-run shot in the first inning that staked the Mud Hens to an early lead. The Tigers bumped Gerber up to Triple-A after he slashed .291/.363/.477 with 37 extra-base hits (13 HR) and 10 steals in 92 games for Double-A Toledo.

Orioles No. 13 prospect Zac Lowther racked up a career-high 12 strikeouts over six innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits and walk, as Class A Short Season Aberdeen fell to Tri-City, 6-1. A 21-year-old lefty whom Baltimore selected with the No. 74 overall pick in June, Lowther has pitched to a 1.79 ERA with 66 strikeouts and a .194 batting average against over 50 1/3 innings (11 starts) in his pro debut. He set a Xavier school record with 115 strikeouts this past spring while finishing fourth in NCAA Division I with 13.3 K/9.

Pirates No. 17 prospect Luis Escobar fired a one-hit shutout for Class A West Virginia in a rain-shortened game. The 21-year-old right-hander issued two walks and struck out eight, throwing 40 of his 63 pitches for strikes in the outing. He finishes the season with a 3.38 ERA and a South Atlantic League-best 168 strikeouts, also a West Virginia franchise record.

Orioles No. 18 prospect D.J. Stewart powered Double-A Bowie to an 11-2 win over Richmond with a 2-for-5 performance that included a pair of home runs and three RBIs. The 23-year-old outfielder pushed his home run total to 21 with the multi-homer game, his second this season, and he’s now collected multiple hits in four of his past five games. Pacing Bowie on the mound was right-hander Yefry Ramirez (No. 23), who racked up nine strikeouts over seven scoreless innings while allowing three hits and one walk.

Astros No. 22 prospect Jorge Alcala went the distance as he recorded his first career shutout in Game 1 of Class A Advanced Buies Creek’s doubleheader versus Down East. Working a season-high seven innings, the 22-year-old right-hander struck out four and allowed just two hits en route to facing one over the minimum in the outing.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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