The Hartford Yard Goats are living up to the preseason hype so far in 2016. A team that boasts seven PuRPs and three top 100 prospects (according to Baseball America, MLB.com, ESPN, and Baseball Prospectus) is off to a 15-5 start and they haven't even played a game in Hartford yet. And there's no mistaking it: this team can pitch.
Since we last checked in on the Rockies' Double-A affiliate, the team has gone 11-3, winning each of their first five series. They lead the Eastern League in ERA (1.80), shutouts (3, all in last weekend's series against the Portland Sea Dogs), saves (10), WHIP (1.09) and they have allowed 20 fewer runs than any other team, while also throwing the most innings. Interestingly enough, the staff has the fewest strikeouts in the league, which will warrant keeping an eye on going forward.
News and Notes, April 12 - 25
|April 12||v||New Hampshire||L 0-4||April 27||v||Harrisburg||4:30 pm|
|April 13||v||New Hampshire||W 3-1||April 28||v||Harrisburg||4:30 pm|
|April 14||@||Portland||L 5-8||April 29||@||Richmond||5:05 pm|
|April 15||@||Portland||W 5-2||April 30||@||Richmond||4:05 pm|
|April 16||@||Portland||W 8-1||May 1||@||Richmond||10:05 am|
|April 17||@||Portland||W 4-3||May 2||@||Harrisburg||4:30 pm|
|April 18||@||New Hampshire||W 4-3||May 3||@||Harrisburg||4:30 pm|
|April 19||@||New Hampshire||L 2-7||May 4||@||Harrisburg||8:30 am|
|April 20||@||New Hampshire||W 9-2||May 5||@||Harrisburg||4:30 pm|
|April 21||OFF DAY||May 6||v||New Hampshire||4:35 pm|
|April 22||v||Portland||W 2-0||May 7||v||New Hampshire||11:35 am|
|April 23||v||Portland. Gm 1||W 6-0||May 8||v||New Hampshire||11:35 am|
|April 23||v||Portland, Gm 2||W 2-1||May 9||@||Bowie||4:35 pm|
|April 24||v||Portland||W 2-0||May 10||@||Bowie||4:35 pm|
|April 26||v||Harrisburg||W 2-1||May 11||@||Bowie||
It's worth noting that, though the Yard Goats have played as the home team in 12 of their games so far, they won't play their first game in Hartford until May due to construction delays on their new stadium (more below). The team seemed to have a good perspective on the situation going into the season and they have made the most of the tough situation to this point.
The pitching has led the way for this team and the leader of the staff has been none other than 2014 first round draft pick Kyle Freeland (no. 8 PuRP). In four games Freeland has put up a minuscule 1.13 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. In his last start against Portland on Saturday, he went six innings without allowing a walk or a run, scattering six hits in the process.
The rest of the starting rotation has been impressive as well. German Marquez (acquired in the Corey Dickerson deal), Harrison Musgrave (no. 23 PuRP), and Zach Jemiola (no. 32 PuRP) each boast an ERA under 2.00. Unfortunately for Musgrave his performance hasn't been enough to entice local actress Anna Kendrick to come out to his games--yet. Matt Carasiti has allowed one run in seven appearances and leads the Eastern League with six saves.
Antonio Senzatela (no. 9 PuRP) was removed from his start on April 14 in Portland after just two innings allegedly because he was struggling to get warmed up in the cold weather of Portland, Maine. Unfortunately he hasn't pitched in a game since then, and the team hasn't released much information about his status.
Hartford hasn't been quite as successful at the plate as on the mound (sixth in the league in runs scored), but David Dahl (no. 2 PuRP) has certainly been doing his part. The Spleenless Wonder is tied for the league lead in home runs after hitting his seventh on Tuesday and is now slashing .257/.342/.629 on the season.
Dahl's fellow PuRPs Ryan McMahon (no. 5 PuRP) and Raimel Tapia (no. 6 PuRP) are having slow starts to the season, but for very different reasons. McMahon has struck out in 30% of his plate appearances while slashing .226/.323/.319. Tapia has managed to avoid the strikeout (he has a 10:8 K/BB ratio) but has a measly .224 BABIP in 77 plate appearances.
Shortstop Pat Valaika has slowed down from his .389/.400/.500 pace at the beginning of the season, though eight of his 14 hits since April 12 have gone for extra bases, but just three walks and ten strikeouts in that time.
Spotlight On: Chompers—Whodunit?
The name may have taken some getting used to for some, but otherwise the Hartford Yard Goats have been a marketing success. The logo has prompted a lot of national attention and the team can barely keep the merchandise on the shelves. The mascot, however, was not as popular.
Apparently those cold dead biologically incorrect eyes have unnerved some local Hartford residents. In what can only be described as a vicious attack on a defenseless...creature, Chompers was pushed over by some prankster (probably a teen) last week in downtown Hartford. Chompers was quoted as saying "I was charged tonight and did get knocked down, but I'm going to be fine. Thank you for your support & well wishes." At least no one was hurt.
Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley told CBS-Connecticut and the Hartford Courant that police are investigating the matter, so the perpetrator (again, probably a teen) will have the full force of the Hartford Police Department raining down on him/her for this heinous "attempt at humor that went too far."
Dunkin Donuts Park Update
Countdown to Open: 35 Days (?)
When the Yard Goats finally return to Hartford from their two-month long road trip, they will find quite the unique feature in the field of play. The Eastern League isn't yet committing to an opening date for the currently under construction Dunkin Donuts Park even while new alterations to the stadium's design continue. The newest addition: a mesh wall in right field.
The league recently decided that at 317-feet the right field line was too close to home plate. Fearing the damage such a short porch could do to the development of young pitchers (something that could very well be an asset), officials tried to find a way to suppress offense while not taking away seats. Finally they decided to use the same netting used to keep fans safe behind home plate to create a wall in right field. The net will stretch 247 from the right field foul pole to center field and will raise the fence from 12 feet to 25 feet. The best part: balls hit off the mesh will be considered in play.
Yard Goats General Manager Tim Restall told reporters "We see this as a great asset." Time will tell if pitchers and right fielders will feel the same way.
Looking Ahead, Helpful Links, and Twitter
The Yard Goats will be one of the more compelling teams to follow this season, not just in the Rockies system but in all of minor league baseball. From the prospects, to the stadium, to the mascots, there is something for everyone with Connecticut's team. We promise the most extensive coverage possible here on Purple Row with the morning Pebble Reports and this weekly update, but if you want even more, there are plenty of local sources to catch up with as well.
Hartford Yard Goats