Baseball returned to 15 major league cities earlier this week, but today it will return to dozens more minor league cities as Low-A through Triple-A get their seasons going. The Albuquerque Isotopes and Lancaster JetHawks will open their seasons at home on Thursday, while the Asheville Tourists and the Hartford Yard Goats (surprise!) will open on the road.
Each roster is packed with prospects, but there are a few other general storylines to follow with each of these affiliates. To preview the season on the farm, here is one question surrounding the team and all the members of our latest PuRPs list on each roster.
Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes
Who is going to make an impact on the major league roster?
As far as minor league rosters go, the ‘Topes will experience little turnover this season. 14 players are returning to Albuquerque from last year. That may translate into on-field success for a team that fell just short of the Pacific Coast League playoffs last season, or it could mean a lot of turnover as the parent club looks to push open their contention window.
With top prospects like Jeff Hoffman, Raimel Tapia, and Jordan Patterson beginning the season in AAABQ, there is a high likelihood that the most talented players on the roster will be poached by the Rockies at some point in the season. Fans in the Land of Enchantment should try to catch an Isotopes game early if they want to see some of the future Rockies stars.
In addition to the following PuRPs, Albuquerque will also host Arizona Fall League participants Pat Valaika, Shane Carle, and Jerry Vasto (who might be real).
Jeff Hoffman (no. 2 PuRP)
Raimel Tapia (no. 4 PuRP)
Jordan Patterson (no. 13 PuRP)
Harrison Musgrave (no. 25 PuRP)
Sam Moll (no. 28 PuRP)
Matt Carasiti (HM PuRP)
Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats
What will it be like playing actual home games?
Last season didn’t exactly go as planned for the Hartford Yard Goats. The team expected to move into a brand new stadium in downtown Hartford, Connecticut in may after relocating from nearby New Britain the year before. Dunkin Donuts Park experienced delay after delay that led to a dispute between the team, the city, and the contractors. On the field, after starting the season red hot the team faltered down the stretch and missed the Eastern League playoffs.
All that is now behind them as Dunkin Donuts Park is ready to go and the team is ready to play actual home games for the first time. The players populating the roster are almost as intriguing, including several top pitching prospects. James Farris, acquired in the Eddie Butler trade, and Jack Wynkoop (who has a 178:20 K:BB ratio in 2192⁄3 career innings) are some notable under-the-radar prospects who will pitch for Hartford, and Dillon Thomas will return after an Eastern League All-Star appearance.
Ryan McMahon (no. 7 PuRP)
Ryan Castellani (no. 9 PuRP)
Yency Almonte (no. 12 PuRP)
Dom Nunez (no. 14 PuRP)
Parker French (no. 26 PuRP)
High-A: Lancaster JetHawks
How will Rockies prospects adjust to a new home park?
The Rockies made yet another affiliation change this offseason as the Modesto Nuts were bought out by the Seattle Mariners, forcing the Rockies to make a move. They ended up adopting the Lancaster JetHawks, who play in perhaps the most extreme ballpark in minor league baseball. Last year The Hanger surrendered 148 home runs in 54 games (compared to 83 in a similar number of JetHawks road games) which makes it a nightmare for pitching prospects.
Among top Rockies pitching prospects, only Peter Lambert will have endure the horrors of the California League’s torture chamber. The infield will be loaded with talent; top overall prospect Brendan Rodgers will hope to inflate his numbers in the friendly confines, as well Forrest Wall, Brian Mundell, and Garrett Hampson.
Brendan Rodgers (no. 1 PuRP)
Peter Lambert (no. 11 PuRP)
Forrest Wall (no. 15 PuRP)
Garrett Hampson (no. 22 PuRP)
Low-A: Asheville Tourists
Can they make it back to the championship game?
After playing in the South Atlantic League finals two year in a row, including winning a championship in 2014, the Tourists failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2016. They hope to make it back to the title game for the third time in four years and they will likely ride the arm of last year’s first round draft pick Riley Pint.
The team is loaded with former college players, like breakout stars in Boise from a year ago Jacob Bosiokovic and Willie Abreu. There could be even more, as Ben Bowden (No. 17 PuRP), Pedro Gonzalez (No. 16 PuRP), and Mike Nikorak (No. 27 PuRP) are all starting the year in extended spring training.
Charlie Drysdale will have a more thorough preview of the Tourists later today.
Riley Pint (no. 5 PuRP)
Colton Welker (no. 19 PuRP)
Tyler Nevin (no. 23 PuRP)
Jose Gomez (no. 30 PuRP)
★ ★ ★
Opening Day Probables
Triple-A Albuquerque: Chris Rusin v Salt Lake Bees (LAA), 6:35 pm MT
Double-A Hartford: Ryan Castellani (no. 9 PuRP) @ Richmond (SFG), 5:05 pm MT
High-A Lancaster: Trey Killian v Visalia (ARI), 7:35 pm MT
Low-A Asheville: Erick Julio @ Hagerstown (WAS), 4:05 pm MT