(WTNH)–The Hartford Yard Goats are finally in Hartford, and if you’re a baseball fan in Connecticut, you’ve probably thought about checking them out.
The brand-new Dunkin’ Donuts Park is pretty sweet (it’s like a major league ballpark, only smaller), and there are some interesting food choices to supplement your baseball-watching experience (the Yard Goat Burger with goat cheese and the BLTDD come to mind).
On the field, the Yard Goats have some interesting players who might end up in the big leagues someday soon. A few guys from last year’s squad (David Dahl, German Marquez) have already made a difference for the Rockies, who are in first place in the N.L. West right now at a surprising 16-10.
Here are some of the prospects you’ll want to keep an eye on this year:
Ryan McMahon, 3B/1B
The Goats’ cleanup hitter has the kind of power bat that can make him successful at the next level. He’s off to a terrific start in his second season in Double-A, batting .375 with four homers and 20 RBI through 20 games.
McMahon’s average is encouraging given that he hit just .242 last season, and his defense at first base is reportedly improved, which is good because that’s where he’ll be playing if he makes it to Colorado (N.L. MVP candidate Nolan Arrenado is entrenched at third).
The 22-year-old earned an invitation to Rockies spring training before heading back to Hartford, so he’s clearly on track to one day reach the big leagues. If he keeps raking like he is now, you likely won’t have the chance to see him at Dunkin’ Donuts Park for very long.
Yency Almonte, RHP
The 22-year-old was a 17th-round draft pick, but he’s already been traded twice for major leaguers (impressive), and has the nickname “Showtime.” He’s off to a 2-0 start with a 1.52 ERA in 23.2 innings so far this season. Almonte has struck out 25 and walked just nine, and has a minuscule 1.01 WHIP thus far. The Miami native has a mid-90’s fastball and according to MinorLeagueBall.com, an improved slider and changeup.
Ryan Castellani, RHP
The 21-year-old righty is just 1-2 with a 4.72 ERA so far, but he’s struck out 25 batters and handed out just seven walks in 20.2 innings pitched. He’s got a big-league fastball, according to Baseball Prospectus, and is ranked as one of Colorado’s top pitching prospects.
The Phoenix native has a career 4.07 ERA in the minors but has climbed up the ranks steadily, moving up to Double-A in this his third full professional season.
Sam Howard, LHP
He’s only pitched eight innings for the Yard Goats so far this season, but Howard was impressive in Single-A and earned himself an invite to big league spring training this year. The 6-4 lefty posted a 3.99 ERA in the offense-heavy California League last season and was named an All-Star.
Dom Nunez, C
The 22-year-old lefty hasn’t hit much this season, batting just .175 with eight strikeouts in 40 at-bats so far, but he’s coming off of a torrid finish at Single-A Asheville last season (335/.444/.607 in the second half). He’s also considered the organization’s best defensive catcher, and he was ranked as the 7th-best catching prospect in all of minor league baseball by MLB.com heading into 2016. If he starts hitting, there’s a good chance he’ll crash the big leagues one day.
Ashley Graeter, 2B
He’s 27, and batting just .222 in 72 at-bats so far this year, so odds aren’t great that you’ll see him taking up a regular spot in the big leagues. But the Mississippi native did hit .276 last season and is somewhat of a fan favorite, maybe because of his country walk-up songs.
Emerson Jimenez, SS
This kid has a terrific glove, and he made quite a few sparkling plays when your boy was sitting behind the plate in Hartford this weekend. If he could hit at all, he might have a shot to make it, but a destitute batting average (.095 in 16 games this year and .203 in 1,131 at-bats since 2014) makes you wonder whether or not the 22-year-old has what it takes to make it to the next level.