The Hartford Yard Goats have spoiled their fans so far this season. The team has been so successful that a week in which they had two different losing streaks of two games feels like a disaster.
Hartford still leads the Eastern League with a record of 22-8, so it is not as though the sky is falling. The pitching staff still owns a 2.08 ERA, a full run better than the next best Eastern League team. They have four shutouts, one complete game, and two flirtations with no-hitters. They also lead the league with a 1.07 WHIP, despite a 6.8 K/9 that is third lowest in the league.
The hitting has struggled to keep up with this level of dominance -- though who could, really -- but they have made a turn recently. Through last week, the Yard Goats were in the bottom third of the league in run production, scoring on average 4.1 runs per game. In the past seven games, the Yard Goats have averaged 7.1 runs per game, bringing them above league average. This offensive resurgence has been fueled by David Dahl (No. 2 PuRP), who continues to treat the Eastern League as his own personal playpen. Fortunately for the Yard Goats, though, several other big names have started to step up as well.
News and Notes, May 3 - May 16
|May 3||@||Harrisburg||L 2-3||May 10||@||Bowie||4:35 pm|
|May 4||@||Harrisburg||W 9-3||May 11||@||Bowie||9:00 am|
|May 5||@||Harrisburg||W 8-4||May 12||v||New Hampshire||4:05 pm|
|May 6||v||New Hampshire||L 6-8||May 13||v||New Hampshire||4:05 pm|
|May 7||v||New Hampshire||L 6-7||May 14||v||New Hampshire||6:05 pm|
|May 8||v||New Hampshire||W 10-0||May 15||v||New Hampshire||11:35 am|
|May 9||@||Bowie||W 9-5||May 16||v||Akron||4:05 pm|
Take some time to go read Irv Moss's look at the Yard Goats over at Denver Post. Moss got to chat with manager Darin Everson and Double-A development supervisor Ron Gideon, who talks about the road trip and the hot start.
German Marquez's impressive start to the 2016 is starting to catch even more attention. After taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Sunday's game, Marquez was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week for May 2-8. In 14 innings last week, he allowed just four hits, two unearned runs, four walks, and recorded ten strikeouts.
Harrison Musgrave (No. 23 PuRP) continues to excel, even if Anna Kendrick hasn't showed up to watch him pitch yet (#GetAKtotheYGs). In two starts this week, he posted the following line: 14 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, and 14 K.
After giving up three runs over seven innings in his last outing, Kyle Freeland's (No. 8 PuRP) ERA ballooned from 0.87 to 1.42. He also struck out seven; his strikeout rate continues to trend in the right direction, and his 3.4 K/BB rate is already looking very good.
There is still little news on Antonio Senzatela (No. 9 PuRP), who has been sidelined, but Thomas Harding reported last Tuesday that Senzatela threw a 25-pitch bullpen session. There's no public timetable for his return, but the Rockies don't seem to be too concerned.
Ryan McMahon (No. 5 PuRP) and Raimel Tapia (No. 6 PuRP) have showed signs of life recently. Through the end of April, both were treading water with batting averages floating around .200. May has been different:
Small sample size caveats certainly apply here, but these are encouraging signs from two highly regarded prospects who seemed to take a little bit of time to adjust to Double-A pitching. If they indeed have made that adjustment, the rest of the league really needs to look out for the Yard Goats.
Pat Valaika got off to a hot start but has cooled off as the season has progressed, though this past weekend the 23-year-old shortstop went 7-for-13 with five runs scored. Valaika, however, still has no extra base hits in May.
Catcher Jan Vazquez has been quietly excellent for the Goats. He has caught 14 of the 30 games so far and strung together a .291/.381/.418 line as a 25-year old. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Dodgers out of Puerto Rico and spent the 2014 season in the independent Atlantic League, mostly with the Long Island Ducks. He may not be much of a prospect, but he has played a vital role with this team.
Another lesser known player making a great impact for Hartford is New Britain-native Matt Carasiti. A sixth round draft pick in 2012, Carasiti has slowly climbed the ladder from Rookie-level Grand Junction to Double-A and has settled in as the Goats' closer. He has nine saves in 12⅓ innings and 14 strikeouts.
Spotlight On: Outfielder David Dahl
David Dahl is good. This statement should come as no surprise to intrepid readers of this weblog. He is at the top of the Eastern League leaderboard in nearly every offensive category, leading in runs, home runs, total bases, slugging percentage, and OPS. He's also stolen 11 bases while only being caught twice. In a league with top prospects like JP Crawford (MLB.com No. 3), Austin Meadows (No. 17), Bradley Zimmer (No. 23), and Clint Frazier (No. 24), David Dahl, who sits at No. 42 on MLB.com's list, is rising above the crowd.
The Eastern League doesn't track this, but Dahl's 0.343 ISO also likely leads the league. The raw numbers are impressive, but no doubt you already had some idea of that. But there are a few things that are especially interesting. First, Dahl is walking a lot more than he ever has. His 12.1 percent walk rate is more than double his career rate and nearly four times greater than his 3.6 percent walk rate last year for Double-A New Britain. It would be easy to say that this is something that is likely to regress but, walk rate is one of those stats that tends to stabilize relatively quickly, so we could very well be seeing a change in Dahl's game. We won't know for sure until about the 200 plate appearance threshold, but it's something worth keeping an eye on.
There is one other area where Dahl has improved, though its over such a small sample it's difficult to know what to make of it yet. Last year, the left-handed Dahl managed just a .591 OPS in 55 at bats against left handed pitching. This year, in 25 at bats, he's hitting .280/.357/.680 against lefties, good for a 1.037 OPS. Yes, Dahl is slugging better against lefties than he is against righties in 2016! It's only 25 at bats, but already it's clear that he has improved at hitting against southpaws. This is crucial in his development as a hitter and could be a major factor in whether or not he gets a promotion to the next level -- or even the highest level -- sometime this season.
David Dahl is good. But it is the areas where he is improving that lead fans and evaluators alike to think that he could be great.
Dunkin Donuts Park Update
Countdown to Opening Day: 21 Days (?)
The Yard Goats are actually going to get to play some games in Connecticut before Dunkin' Donuts Park officially opens. The Goats have already played as the home team for 15 games this season, but from May 12-18 they will be the hosts as well. Dodd Stadium, about 42 miles southeast of Hartford in Norwich, is home to the Connecticut Tigers of the Short Season A-Ball New York-Penn League. Though technically the road trip is still alive and well, surely it will be nice to spend six consecutive days in the same city playing baseball.
About that new stadium though. A report out of Hartford last week puts the May 17th "substantial completion date" in serious doubt, and now the city development director Sean Fitzpatrick has "grave concerns" the contractor will meet the deadline. Before you accuse Mr. Fitzpatrick of being melodramatic, consider that the contractor will have to pay $15,000 for every day they go over, and the Yard Goats ownership will not be required to pay the agreed $2 million to cover the $10 million in cost overruns. That, and delays, may prevent the stadium being ready for the the the May 31 home opener. Construction people make their living operating on tough deadlines, though. By this time next week, we'll know how much longer the Neverending Road Trip will continue.
Looking Ahead, Helpful Links, and Twitter
Perhaps most significantly, the Yard Goats get to look forward to some real home games! It's unclear how the franchise is going to treat these home games -- will we see the pomp and circumstance we typically see at home openers? -- but it will certainly be a boon for the players, and the community is rallying around the opportunity.
As good as the Yard Goats have been, the Akron Rubberducks, the Eastern League affiliate for Cleveland, have been nearly as dominant. The two teams face off for the first time this season, opening a four-game set at Dodd Stadium next Monday.
For more Yard Goats news, links, coverage and Twitter, check out the links below. If you have any questions or requests of what you'd like to see in this column, drop me a line in the comments, on Twitter (@playerTBNL), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Hartford Yard Goats