As we enter the month of June with over a quarter of the season complete, we can continue to look at pitchers within the Colorado Rockies farm system that are thriving with a decent sample size. Last week we discussed the High-A Spokane Indians, and today we move up yet again to the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats.
The Rockies drafted Michigan-born righty Karl Kauffmann (no. 20 PuRP) with their competitive balance pick in the 2019 draft. Shortly after the draft, Kauffmann helped lead the University of Michigan to the finals of the College World Series. Unfortunately his Wolverines lost to the Vanderbilt Commodores, but the Rockies had high hopes for their new prospect and his 2.99 career college ERA. Despite the cancellation of the 2020 season, Kauffmann was promoted to Double-A Hartford after just two games with the High-A Spokane Indians in 2021.
Karl Kauffmann with Double-A Hartford
Asking Kauffmann to go essentially straight from the draft to Double-A was a tall order from the Rockies’ player development team, and he definitely struggled with the adjustment in 2021. Difficulties with his command and giving up a great deal of contact led to a rotation-worst 7.35 ERA. However, Kauffmann seems to have learned a lot from that experience and is pitching like the top prospect the Rockies knew he could be in 2022. With an ERA of 3.75 he’s reached his total number of strikeouts from last year in 30 fewer innings with far fewer walks, and both his H/9 (7.51) and HR/9 (0.72) have declined significantly. I would not be surprised if Kauffmann was promoted to Triple-A before the All-Star break.
Shades of Scott Oberg, anyone? PJ Poulin is a late innings reliever from Massachusetts selected in the middle rounds of the draft after a strong career the University of Connecticut. In three seasons with the UConn Huskies, Poulin posted a career ERA of 3.35 through 94 innings. He also had 16 saves as the Huskies’ closer in 2018 before he was drafted by the Rockies in the 11th round. Poulin is putting together a strong resume in the Rockies’ farm system. Working mostly late innings he has a career minor league ERA of 2.88 with 27 saves. He’s only posted an ERA over 3.00 once, which came during his first stint with Double-A Hartford in 2021.
Like Kauffmann, Poulin has adjusted well to his second season of Double-A ball. In 17 total appearances over 20 innings, Poulin has an ERA of just 2.25, leads the bullpen with 27 strikeouts, has walked just six batters, and has a whip of 1.000 even. He’s even tallied three saves in a closer-by-committee setup for his troubles. Poulin, like pretty much everyone else on this list, might have earned himself a call to Triple-A in the neat future.
With one of the best names in the organization, Fineas Dominic Del Bonta-Smith has been gone straight from Low-A to Double-A in less than two seasons. A 22nd round draft pick in 2019, Del Bonta-Smith had a strong first professional season with the then-Short-A Boise Hawks. In 22 appearances and 33 1⁄3 innings he struck out 34 batters, had an ERA of 2.97, and a .215 batting average against. He sat for a year in 2020 due to the cancelled season and then... well he picked right back up where he left off.
Finn Del Bonta-Smith Minor League Pitching
|2020||DID NOT PLAY|
Del Bonta-Smith was promoted to Double-A Hartford after just five games to start the season, and he’s done quite well as a Yard Goat. His 3.38 ERA comes mostly from just one bad game: May 29th at Richmond where he allowed four earned runs in 2⁄3 of an inning. Before that he had only allowed runs in two games, and never more than one. After that blemish he immediately bounced back with a 2 1⁄3 scoreless, hitless outing on May 31st where he struck out five. Del Bonta-Smith has shown success in consistent command and missing at-bats at every level, and with how quickly he’s been rocketing up the ranks he might be an asset for the Rockies sooner rather than later.
The Rockies selected the big bodied righty Stephen Jones with the pick right before Finn Del Bonta-Smith in the 2019 draft. Things really came together for Jones in his final year of college at Samford University. That season he pitched to a career best 2.21 ERA with 13 saves and a 0.982 WHIP as the Bulldogs’ closer. With a low-to-mid 90s fastball that has good movement and a strong put-away slider, the Rockies saw promise in him and snatched him up.
Jones has been solid in the minors. In 2021 he posted a 4.50 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 19 games and 20 innings with the Low-A Fresno Grizzlies before being promoted to High-A Spokane. With the Indians he made 26 appearances with a 3.41 ERA over 29 innings with 39 strikeouts. He was assigned to Double-A Hartford to start 2022 where suddenly something seemed to just click. Jones has allowed just two earned runs this season, and hasn’t given up a run earned or otherwise since April 23rd. His ERA is just 0.90 and he’s got a WHIP of 0.850 in 16 appearances and 20 total innings. He’s struck out 26 for a 11.7 K/9 and walked 8 for a 3.6 BB/9. His H/9 is miniscule at 4.1 and he’s yet to give up a single home run. Jones is providing excellent work out of the Yard Goats bullpen and has emerged as a definite prospect to watch.
★ ★ ★
Speedy outfielder Yonathan Daza has been one of the best stories to come out of the Rockies this season. Entering 2022 with a questionable future, Daza has charged ahead to become one of the Rockies’ best hitters. With the lowest strikeout rate in the National League, a .356 batting average, and strong defense in Coors Field’s cavernous outfield, Yonathan Daza the Major Leaguer has arrived.
“I go out there, try to compete and do the best I can, and I am glad I did it,” Daza said.
★ ★ ★
On the Farm
Peter Lambert did not have a good time in his first true start of the season. In 2 2⁄3 innings he got clibbered for five earned runs on seven hits and two walks. He did strike out five batters. The Isotopes bullpen locked it down after that, only giving up one more earned run (off of JD Hammer in the fifth inning) for the rest of the game. Heath Holder and Justin Lawrence both struck out two batters in one inning of work, while Jake Bird struck out four over two innings. The Isotopes only had four hits, but drew seven walks while going 2-for-6 with RISP. Elehuris Montero slugged his 11th home run of the season with a three-run blast in the fourth inning.
Mr. Montero, ladies and gentleman. 11th homer of the year.— Albuquerque Isotopes (@ABQTopes) June 2, 2022
T4: Space Cowboys 5, Isotopes 3 pic.twitter.com/XhqwMB9mun
Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats vs Reading Fightin’ Phils
This game was postponed due to rain. It will be played as part of a double header today at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
The Indians dominated the Canadians for eight innings in Vancouver. Starting pitcher Tony Locey was excellent through 6 2⁄3 innings, shutting out the Canadians and striking out six batters. Locey held the Canadians hitless through 5 2⁄3 innings. Robinson Hernandez pitched 1 1⁄3 innings and gave up the first run of the night, but thinks didn’t really fall apart until the ninth inning. Tanner Propst came on to finish the job and just... couldn’t do it. Propst got the first two outs but walked two batters, hit another, yielded a sac fly and gave up a single. He left the game with the bases loaded and a four run lead. Shelby Lackey was then called upon to wrap things up. A single, two walks, and a wild pitch later it was suddenly a much closer game. Luke Taggart finally put his fut down and struck out the final batter to end the game and earn the save. On offense Drew Romo and Braidan Ward had excellent games. Ward was 2-for-5 and Romo was 2-for-4 with three RsBI, including a two-run home run in the fifth. Grant Lavigne was 1-for-3 with two RsBI, and Zac Veen was hitless but walked three times.
The Castle Rock Cannon Case WIlliams had another strong outing for the Grizzlies. Williams pitched 6 1⁄3 innings while giving up just one earned run on eight hits. He struck out five batters and walked just one. The Grizzlies bullpen was also excellent tonight, keeping the Nuts hitless for the remainder of the game. Ever Moya relieved Williams in the seventh inning for the final two outs, and Tyler Ahearn pitched a fantastic eighth inning with a strikeout. Felix Ramires walked two batters in the ninth, but struck out three and finished the game off without allowing a run. At the plate the Grizzlies had four batters with multi-hit games, including the top three men in the lineup. Amael Amador was 2-for-4, while Yanquiel Fernandez and Warming Bernabel were both 2-for-5 with two RsBI. In the eighth inning Zach Kokoska had an RBI single and Trevor Boone drove in two runs with a triple.
B7 | @TheCaseWilliams ties his career-high with 6.1 innings pitched! The righty has gone at least 6 innings in 5 straight starts! Grizzlies lead 4-1 as we head to the bullpen. ⚾️ #RaisetheBear pic.twitter.com/wGSqR4OQk5— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) June 2, 2022
★ ★ ★
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