After a disastrous 2021 campaign that saw the Colorado Rockies’ Double-A affiliate – the Hartford Yard Goats – post a 39-79 record, the club’s fortunes changed in 2022. Ezequiel Tovar (No. 1 PuRP) led the charge in the first-half, posting a 153 wRC+ in the first 66 games of the season.
The team barely missed the first playoff spot with a 43-26 record before the break. They played .500 ball the rest of the season, sitting on the outside of the Eastern League playoff picture despite posting the second-best overall record in the league at 77-60.
Some of the prominent names from that team have moved on, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of talent on the way. With that in mind, let’s preview the potential roster for the Hartford Yard Goats in 2023.
There are quite a few options for the Yard Goats rotation, some of which already got their first taste of the Double-A ranks last season. Joe Rock (No. 11 PuRP) was the first to arrive, starting two games in September after 107 ⅔ innings with a 4.21 FIP in High-A Spokane. He’ll get a full look with the Yard Goats this year, likely accompanied by Case Williams (No. 26 PuRP) who rose through three levels to finish his year with a dominant final start where he struck out 12 in six innings.
Tony Locey also reached Hartford, but was moved to the bullpen after his promotion in 2022. He could be a candidate to move back to the rotation or stick in a reliever role. That sentiment applies to Will Ethridge and Andrew Quezada, both of whom topped 100 innings last season. Evan Shawver represents another borderline rotation candidate that can strengthen the bullpen if assigned to that role.
Finally, there are a few players with lost seasons in 2022 looking to get back on track. The rebound seasons for Chris McMahon (No. 15 PuRP) and Sam Weatherly (No. 21 PuRP) very well could begin with Hartford. After conquering the High-A level in 2021, McMahon was set to start last season in Double-A before an oblique injury derailed nearly all of his season. For Weatherly, it was a shoulder injury that limited him to just 11 ⅔ innings. If both are healthy, they should be core pieces of the Yard Goats’ staff. This also applies to Helcris Oliveraz (No. 27 PuRP), although recent updates regarding his health have been less encouraging.
It’s no secret that Drew Romo (No. 4 PuRP) is the catcher of the future in the eyes of the organization. Romo did little to dissuade that notion last year, putting together a strong season both offensively and defensively before a hand injury in July hampered the second half of his season.
All signs point to him being healthy and ready to take over the starting job for Hartford in 2022. He’ll likely be backed up once again by Ronaiker Palma, who has been making a name for himself as a potential major league piece, as well.
On paper, it is a straight shot of promoting the Spokane Indians’ 2022 infield to the same roles in Double-A this year. Julio Carreras (No. 24 PuRP) was a doubles-machine for the Indians last season – cracking 37 in 450 PA – and has shown much of the same in Spring Training this year. He’ll take over the starting shortstop job, accompanying Eddy Diaz – who put together a much needed bounce-back season last year – in the middle of the diamond.
Warming Bernabel (No. 7 PuRP) took a major leap in the A-Ball levels, shooting up the prospect ranks with his .313/.370/.499 slash line. That performance earned him a trip to the Arizona Fall League along with a spot on the 40-man roster, paving the way for a starting job at third base this year. Rounding out the infield is Colin SImpson, whose hearty 146 wRC+ in Spokane should give him the inside-track on the starting job at first base.
The outfield is a little less certain. Zac Veen (No. 2 PuRP) struggled against Double-A pitching after a mid-season promotion. He thrived in the Fall League, however, and has shown well this spring, making it more likely he will man the outfield in Triple-A Albuquerque.
Unlike Veen, Daniel Montano thrived after his promotion and finished the season with an .834 OPS. There’s a chance he could get a little more seasoning in Hartford before moving up to Triple-A.
These probable promotions opens the door for Niko Decolati, Jimmy Herron and Robby Martin to get a longer look against Eastern League competition, There is also a clear path for Bladimir Restituyo – who managed a league-average wRC+ last year despite a walk-rate of just 2.6% – to get significant playing time with Hartford.
In conclusion, it appears the Hartford Yard Goats will have a deeper roster than in years past. While the two most prominent names in the system have come and gone, there is another top-100 prospect in Romo set to play a full season for the club. He’ll be surrounded by a strong infield and could be joined by other top names like Adael Amador (No. 3 PuRP) and possibly Jordan Beck (No. 9 PuRP) before too long.
The slate of pitchers for the level is also impressive. A few — like Rock and Williams — have exposure to the competition already while others should be in the Double-A mix a year later than expected. Like the position player side, promotions of high-caliber college arms Jaden Hill (No. 6 PuRP) and Gabriel Hughes (No. 8 PuRP) could also realistically occur during the year.
These graduations could add higher-ceiling talent to an already deep roster. This course could make Hartford a very formidable squad in the Eastern League, especially in the second-half of the season.
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