I hope everyone is enjoying the opening week of Minor League Baseball. Congrats to today’s focus, the Hartford Yard Goats, for winning their season opener. I already set up how this series is going to work in the last article, so let’s get right into it.
Of the four teams that the Rockies are affiliated with, only the Albuquerque Isotopes and the Hartford Yard Goats remain from before the 2021 realignment.
Let’s look at the Hartford Yard Goats, the Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
League: Double-A Northeast
Location: Hartford, Connecticut
I want to preface this section by saying that the Colorado Rockies have created a great relationship with the town of Hartford. If the Rockies are to have an affiliate in the Double-A Northeast, then it should be Hartford. There is just one problem … it is very far away from Denver. In the new MiLB system, geography is supposed to be king. The Rockies do not follow that precedent. So what closer options were potentially out there?
In order to figure out which cities the Rockies should have teams in, first we need to explain the league. The Hartford Yard Goats play in Double-A Northeast, formerly the Eastern League. Could all of the NL/AL West teams play in a single western league, called Double-A Central (I know it’s confusing, but it is the most western Double-A league), formerly known as the Texas League? If so and, in order to find a closer affiliate, we are going to have to look there.
First, we have the Amarillo Sod Poodles, a new team in the 2019 season. The team is currently an Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate, but could work wonders as a Rockies affiliate. In the last article, we spoke of increasing a team’s influence through the Minor League farm system. Hartford GM Mike Abramson has talked to Rox Pile in the past about how the team has carved out an impressive niche for itself, despite an area packed with Red Sox, Mets, and Yankee fans.
While the Hartford area is filled with various baseball fanbases, this is not the case in the Texas Panhandle, though, cities like Amarillo and Lubbock are well out of driving range for any meaningful MLB action. On top of this, tourism tickets for the games would be sky-high as Amarillo is along the route that most Texans take from their home state to Colorado (I know it is the route I take). This could also help corner the influence Colorado has in eastern New Mexico, creating a very solid triangle for the Rockies to build a base from.
Not only would a team in Amarillo create a fanbase foothold in the only area in the region to have true professional baseball, but it would also help players acclimate to higher climates. This is critical for preparing players to spend half their time at Coors Field.
For a while, this was my pick for the Colorado Rockies affiliate, but then I did more research, and I found somewhere better.
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- MLB Pipeline: The Colorado Rockies’ farm system has strengthened … a lot
The Wichita Wind Surge is finally getting its inaugural season. After being thrown down to Double-A without ever playing a game in the Triple-A, the Wind Surge finally can play baseball.
On the surface, they would have been the perfect pick for the Colorado Rockies Double-A affiliate. First, they fit the territorial expansion. While technically the closest team to them is the Kansas City Royals, the state of Kansas has a very interesting relationship with Colorado. This is not exactly as promising as Amarillo for new fans, but I believe it evens out when you remember how ravenous Texans are about their own sports teams, even when they are 500 miles away. Wichita also is at a higher elevation, again helping players acclimate for their eventual days at Coors Field.
Another factor that goes in Wichita’s favor is the current affiliate. The Minnesota Twins are actually a fitting affiliate for the Wichita Wind Surge, but their division and location much further east than the Rockies would make them fit slightly better in Double-A Northeast. The reason this is a point over Amarillo is that, admittedly, Arizona is a good affiliate for the Sod Poodles. They are the only other team in the league that really has any sort of larger elevation than the rest. Location-wise, Amarillo is a much better team for the Diamondbacks than any other Double-A Central team would be.
The final reason though, the true reason that I believe that the Colorado Rockies Double-A affiliate should be the Wichita Wind Surge is … they kinda used to be the Denver Bears, and I think it would be a really cool callback to Colorado Rockies history if they finally became affiliated with the team that made the Colorado Rockies possible. I wrote an entire article about it.
Prospects to Watch: Ryan Rolison (2), Elehuris Montero (9), Jameson Hannah (13), Tommy Doyle (23)
There are plenty of exciting future Rockies to watch in Hartford, but what’s the most exciting part? MLB Pipeline expects every single one to be getting the call-up in 2021.
Each one of them has shown potential, especially Ryan Rolison and Jameson Hannah this past spring training. Tommy Doyle is especially notable as he is the only member of the Yard Goats’ roster to see MLB time, making his debut in 2020 with poor results. Doyle only appeared in 2.1 innings but surrendered six earned runs, showing some more development time was necessary. That said, it sure would be exciting to be one of the people to witness the jump. All four players could play for the Colorado Rockies in 2021, wouldn’t you want to be in Hartford right before their rise?
Note: Data for this article came from Baseball Reference and MLB.com.