NEW BRITAIN – The Rock Cats announced their opening day roster this week and the Colorado Rockies’ Double AA affiliate has four players with major league experience, Colorado’s No. 1 overall prospect, a pair of first round picks and three of Colorado’s top 12 prospects.
It will be the first season the Rock Cats will be affiliated with the Rockies after 20 years with the Minnesota Twins. And it’s the final season for the Rock Cats in New Britain. The franchise will be moving to Hartford next spring in a stadium currently under construction to become the Yard Goats.
The Rock Cats open the season Thursday in New Hampshire for a four-game series, move farther north to Portland for a three-game series before returning to New Britain on Thursday, April 16 for a 6:35 p.m. contest against the Fisher Cats – the final opening day at New Britain Stadium for the franchise.
Outfielder David Dahl is the top prospect in the Rockies’ organization according to Baseball America. He’ll be in New Britain along with catcher Tom Murphy, the No. 6 ranked prospect in the organization, and infielder Trevor Story, who is the No. 12 ranked prospect.
Dahl, 21, had a breakout season a year ago. He hit .309 with Asheville in low Class A before being promoted to Modesto, where he hit .267. Between the two clubs, he hit 299 with 14 home runs and 55 RBI. He is a fleet outfielder who runs down balls without fear. It is his first time playing on a northern club in the cold weather. But he shrugged it off. “You have to get used to it,” he said. “World Series are played in the cold.”
It is Murphy’s first complete season back after hurting his rotator cuff a year ago. The fourth-year pro played just 27 games in Tulsa with Colorado’s former Double AA affiliate before he left the lineup. He is thrilled to back on the field and back up north. Murphy, 24, grew up in West Monroe, N.Y., about a half hour north of Syracuse. He went to college at the University of Buffalo.
“I was dying in Arizona (where Colorado goes for spring training),” he said with a grin. “I like the cold. You don’t sweat as much.”
Dahl was Colorado’s No. 1 draft pick (10th overall) in 2012 while infielder Trevor Story was the Rockies’ top pick (45th overall) in 2011. Story hit .263 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI a year ago on three minor league teams.
The pitching staff has four pitchers with major league experience. Yohan Flande (Colorado), Justin Miller (Detroit), Jose Ortega (Detroit) and Gus Schlosser (Atlanta) have all thrown in the majors.
Darin Everson will be managing the Rock Cats, after spending two years as the hitting coach for the Rockies’ former Double AA team in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has five years of experience, including two seasons leading the Washington Wild Things in the independent Frontier League.
“I would love the pitchers to pound the zone (inside of the plate) as much as possible if we can do that,” Everson said. “We have some great defenders. We have some great skill players. If we’re fighting and playing for each other, we’ll have some success.”