Welcome to the first edition of "Farming New England" for the 2011 season. Here is where we take a quick peek at how the teams have been doing so far this season...enjoy:
The Rock Cats are on fire in a way that they never came close to in 2010. They have raced out to a 7-5 record, good enough for second placed in the Eastern League's Eastern Division. The team didn't win their seventh game until May 15th last year and they hit that mark in game 9 this season! The attitude has changed in New Britain and a slew of familiar faces may just be the reason behind it. The offense has been led by familiar faces such as Yangervis Solarte (.342, 6 R, 2 SB) Chris Parmelee (.322, 8 R, 8 RBI), Joe Benson (.372, 8 R, 9 RBI, 3 SB) and Mark Dolenc (.286, 4 SBs). The starting pitching staff has had a similar resurgence of returning faces who have come out firing. Bobby Lanigan (1-1, 1.59), Deolis Guerra (2-0, 1.80), Steve Hirschfeld (1-0, 0.82) and David Bromberg (1-1, 4.24) have been instrumental in getting things off on the right foot and all three may soon see promotions because of it. New face Ray Chang (who may be an old face to many around here after spending last year with the Portland Sea Dogs) has also played an integral role for the Rock Cats, hitting .295 with 11 RBI and 6 runs. It's evident that all of these players feel that they have something to prove after 2010 and a six game winning streak is a nice way to put last year in the dust.
The Fisher Cats are riding some early ups-and-downs so far this season. They have a 6-5 record and currently sit in third place in the EL’s Eastern Division. They lost the season opener, and then rattled off three straight wins, followed by three straight losses, then two wins, a loss and a win. Quite the roller coaster ride to start a season. All eyes are definitely on the progression of Zach Stewart, one of the Blue Jays top pitching prospects, whom many thought would break camp with the big club this year. Unfortunately no one is quite sure how he will be used once he makes the leap. Stewart stumbled out of the gate, allowing 4 earned runs and 7 hits against Trenton in the opener. But he quickly rebounded; tossing 13 1/3 solid innings over his last two starts in which he has only allowed 2 earned runs and 2 walks, collecting a win along the way. If Stew keeps up this pace, he should be jumping up a level very soon. For the every-dayers on the roster, center field Anthony Gose has impressed with his quickness in the field and on the base paths, but his bat hasn’t had much to say yet as he heads into Wednesday batting .222 on the year. The sweet swing of Mike McDade has been the main offensive weapon for the Cats so far. McDade is one of only 3 players to play in every game so far and he has made the best of it, hitting .341. As a whole this lineup could use some more pop, as their 2 total team home runs puts them well behind the pack, tied for last in the league with Trenton.
The PawSox are putting together a nice little start for themselves here, even with a stacked lineup that has yet to live up to its potential (how does Lars Anderson have NO homeruns!!!). Second baseman Tony Thomas has been one of the exceptions so far, belting 3 homers, 2 of which were grand slams, compiling a team best .375 average and driving in 11 runs. He’s also 3/4 on stolen base attempts. Pitching vets Brandon Duckworth (1-0, 0.77 ERA, 11 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 9 Ks), Scott Atchison (1-0, 0.96 ERA, 9 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 11 Ks) and Rich Hill (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 8 2/3 IP, 1 Save, 0 ER, 11 Ks) have been dominating the competition so far and both may soon find themselves up with the big club if they continue on this pace. The team is in the midst of a five game win streak, putting them in a tie for first place of the North Division in the International League with an 8-5 record. Considering that 11 of their first 13 games have been against either Buffalo or Syracuse, it will be interesting to see how the PawSox hold up against the rest of the league.
The Sea Dogs record (4-6) might not reflect the hot start that their bats have had, but they currently lead the Eastern League in batting average with a plump .282 team total. That stat is boosted by three players sitting in the Top 6 in the EL in batting, including league leader Alex Hassan (.474!!!), fifth place Tim Federowicz (.361) and sixth place Will Middlebrooks (.359). Speaking of Alex Hassan, the 20th round pick from 2009 has been nothing short of spectacular to start the season. His league leading batting average is all thanks to a 10 game hit streak to start the season. Hassan also leads the team in RBI (10) and has swiped 2 bases without being thrown out. The stolen base has become a strong point for this team, swiping 12 bases with only one runner not making it. The pitching has been fairly solid as well, with starters Alex Wilson (2-0, 2.45) and Stephen Fife (2-0, 2.70) being the frontrunners of the staff. The Sea Dogs have to find a way to pull out the one run games, of which they have lost three so far.