The short-season New York-Penn League opens its 2019 season on Friday, June 14. The Connecticut Tigers, Detroit’s affiliate in the league, will kick off their schedule with a two-game road series against the Lowell Spinners, then play their home opener at Dodd Stadium on Sunday against the Vermont Lake Monsters. The Tigers’ Gulf Coast League affiliates will open play on Monday, June 24.
While the Gulf Coast League rosters have yet to be announced, Connecticut’s squad is ready to go. They don’t have any big names on their list — a credit to Detroit’s improving depth higher up in their farm system — but the roster still features a few interesting prospects. Lefthander Jack O’Loughlin should be a familiar name around here, as we have kept close tabs on him for the past few years. Eric De La Rosa, Detroit’s seventh round pick in 2018, is one of the top hitters on the roster. Kelvin Smith, another under-the-radar prospect drafted in 2018, and international talent Julio Martinez will also be familiar to those keeping an eye on the deeper reaches of Detroit’s farm system.
Our friend Emily Waldon, now of Baseball America (!), has the full Connecticut roster for your perusal.
That brings us to our Question of the Day.
Which prospects in short-season ball are you most excited to watch?
My answer: Riley Greene is somewhat of a cop-out here, so I’ll touch on him quickly before getting to a more in-depth answer. Greene, the Tigers’ first round pick in 2019, is a potential 70-grade hitter who signed almost immediately after Detroit grabbed him fifth overall. He will play in center field for now, and if all goes well, should jump to Single-A West Michigan to begin the 2020 season. As someone who lives within reasonable driving distance of part of Connecticut’s schedule, I wouldn’t mind seeing him getting a quick promotion this summer.
Kelvin Smith is another player to keep an eye on. Many thought the Tigers found a diamond in the rough when they grabbed Smith, a projected Day 2 pick, well into Day 3 of the 2018 draft. They were then able to convince Smith to eschew his commitment to Missouri and sign for $140,000. Smith got off to a hot start in the Gulf Coast League, but finished the season with a pedestrian .202/.265/.298 line. Now a year older and with some added muscle on his 6’1 frame, we might see a bit more pop from the 19-year-old shortstop.