Your place for Minnesota Twins and New Britain Rock Cats coverage, analysis and opinion.

Monday, April 23, 2012

3 Weeks of Rock Cats Baseball: A Review

New Britain fans have been treated to a lot of wins
early in the 2012 season
The minor league baseball season is just about 3 weeks old. For the New Britain Rock Cats, it has been a successful first few weeks. The team stands at 12-5, and is currently 1/2 game up on the Reading Phillies for first place in the Eastern League. Surprisingly, the Rock Cats have been better on the road, going 6-1, than they have at home, where they are 6-4. It is really over their past 10 games where the Cats have shined. They are 8-2 in that span, including a 6-game winning streak, and had won their past 2 contests before Sunday's game was rained out. I've attended 3 games (would have been 4 but for the rainout), and have been impressed with the on-the-field product.

The Rock Cats have had several good performers on offense. I've been pleasantly surprised by Chris Colabello, journeyman first baseman who, at age 28, finally finds himself playing in affiliated baseball. After 15 games played, Colabello's slash line is .313/.414/.667, for an OPS of 1.080. In 48 at-bats, he has 4 home runs, 5 doubles, 12 RBIs, and has 6 walks and 6 strikeouts. Evan Bigley has also performed well. In 17 games, his slash line is .308/.361/.462. He's accumulated 1 home run, 2 triples and 2 doubles, and also has driven in 12 runs. He has 12 strikeouts to go along with 6 walks, and has stolen 1 base, but has been caught twice. Pedro Florimon has been a pleasant surprise. With a .306/.358/.435 line, 2 homers and 2 doubles, 4 stolen bases (having only been caught 1 time) and 7 RBIs, it's been a good start for Florimon. Unfortunately, he's struck out 14 times, while walking 5, in 62 at-bats, but he has played error-free defense at shortstop. Aaron Hicks has been good, but streaky. From having attended a few games, it seems that, on any given night, he either has it, or doesn't. His line is solid, though, at .276./362/.534, with 3 home runs, 1 triple and 4 doubles. He's driven in 10 runs, has struck out 15 times and has walked 9 times in 58 at-bats. He's committed one error in the field. Finally, there is Deibinson Romero. He's been in the Twins' system for too many years to be a top prospect, but is batting well this year. At .274/.338/.516, with 3 home runs and 6 doubles, the offense has been there for Romero. Unfortunately, the glove has been a little troublesome. He's committed 4 errors in 17 games. From what I have seen, it's mostly fielding, and not throwing, issues. Perhaps this is the year where he can be comfortable with his offense, and make a jump in his defensive ability? He does lead the team with 14 RBIs, so he's getting the job done in the batter's box.

As you can see, these 5 players -- Colabello, Bigley, Florimon, Hicks and Romero -- have done considerable damage for the Rock Cats in only 17 games. Any lineup that has 5 core guys batting above .275, with a combined 13 home runs and 19 doubles in 17 games, is probably going to be pretty potent.

Starting pitching has also been decent for New Britain. I'm still getting used to the way the rotation works in AA. Due in part to Jason Marquis' presence for a couple starts, and Alex Wimmers' recent injury, there have been several starters, 7, for the Rock Cats thus far: Lucas French has dominated at AA (and he should). In 4 games started, French is 2-0 with a 1.52 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.93. He has struck out 14, but walked 12 (6 in 5 innings on Friday) in 23 and 2/3 innings of work, so there is room for work on control. Steve Hirschfeld, in 3 starts, is 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.05. He's struck out 15, while walking 4, in 17 innings. Lefty Logan Darnell is also 2-0. I saw him hitting 93 on the radar gun consistently in his start last Thursday night. In 16 innings of work, his ERA stands at 2.81, with a WHIP of 1.19. He's struck out 10 and walked 6 along the way. Andrew Albers has probably been the weakest starter, but has not been bad by any means. In 3 starts, he's 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA and a WHIP 1.05 in 20 innings. But wait for this stat: in those 20 innings, Albers has struck out 16 . . . and walked 0. No walks. So although Albers has given up too many hits (21) in 20 innings, if he can convert a few more batted balls into outs, that 7.2 K/9 innings ratio might start to make him more effective.

The final interesting stat about Rock Cats starters is that not a single one has been charged with a loss. All of the 5 losses have been charged to the bullpen. This is not to suggest that the bullpen has been bad, because a few pitchers have been great in clutch situations. Daniel Turpen, in his first year with the Rock Cats, is already 2-0 with 1 save in 9 and 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. His ERA stands at 2.89, and he's struck out 9 while issuing no free passes. Similarly, Deolis Guerra has been excellent for the Rock Cats. In 10 and 2/3 innings of work, Guerra has a tidy 0.84 ERA, a 0.47 WHIP, and has struck out 10 and walked 1, picking up 1 save and 3 holds along the way. If this production keeps up, look for Guerra, who just turned 23 this past week, to not stick around in central Connecticut for too many more months.

In sum, yes, it's only been 17 games -- just over 10 percent of the season schedule. But this core consisting of guys like Hicks, Colabello and Bigley on offense, French, Hirschfeld and Albers starting games, and Turpen and Guerra in late-inning, high-leverage situations, has worked out well thus far. This team will be even better when Chris Herrmann (.228) comes around and hits like he can, and when Wimmers re-emerges healthy and set to take a position in the starting rotation. New Britain is back in action tonight, beginning the first of 3 games at home against the Portland Sea Dogs, while their parent teams do the same thing. Let's hope for a bunch of Minnesota-New Britain success over their Boston counterparts.

No comments:

Post a Comment