Connecticut Team Report | April 17

The bone-chilling cold of the Northeast staved off play for the first week of scheduled games for the Defenders. After some initial bright spots to start the second week of the season, that same cold found its way into the Defender's bats as they finally opened up play in a series against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the Trenton Thunder.

A Double-A team is expected to have a fair amount of an organization's prospects, especially ones that are close to being major league ready and have upside. On the offensive side, the Defenders lack overly talented players and only have two players that are considered prospects by most people. This may or may not be contributed to the fact that Dodd Stadium is very much a pitcher's park and the Giants may question sending their better hitters there in order to not discourage them. It is also hard to evaluate players when their numbers are severely skewed by a large ballpark, especially one that had almost double the homerun per at-bat ratio last year, compared to the league average of Eastern league parks.

Team Record: 2-4

Standing: Tied for Fourth in Northern Division

The two players considered offensive prospects on this team are going to be counted on to lead this offense. Travis Ishikawa (whose prospect status is in jeopardy following last season) started this season by hitting a measly .154/.241/.308 through the first six games. The other, Eddy Martinez-Esteve, who returns from an injury-plagued 2006, hit .067 through the first four games before upping his average to .250 after Saturday's doubleheader.

Two players alone cannot win games, though, and that showed Saturday when Ishikawa and Martinez-Esteve were on base nine times in two games and did not score once. Batters No. 6-9 went 0-for-33 during the doubleheader with a combined 14 strikeouts. It is early in the season, but the ball has to at least be put in play 30 percent of the time for the team to be successful. There have been rumblings of how the team needs to promote more hitters to this team for them to have a chance, but it is early so let's wait and see how the current roster performs.

The team did win two games this week so there were some bright spots. The team's closer, Brian Anderson, who led the minors in saves a year ago managed to notch his first Double-A save in the team's second game after blowing one in the first outing. Ben Cox, Chris Begg, and Darren Sack all pitched well in the series against Trenton, giving the team quality starts in each of their outings, holding Trenton to five runs in three games, but were denied wins due to lack of run support. These starters, along with Nick Pereira, will keep the Defenders in the game, and Anderson will be ready to close the opposition out in the final innings.

It is early in the season, and with six games in the books, it is too small of a sample to conclude that the majority of the team will continue to hit poorly (especially since they played a Trenton team that held the opposition scoreless for over 46 innings), or that the starters will continue to throw quality innings. Let's see what the Defenders can do this week, barring weather, with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats coming to town for three, followed by the team traveling to New Britain to take on the Rock Cats.

Player of the Week: Brian Horwitz

The team clearly had one offensive standout player and that was outfielder Brian Horwitz. Horwitz has been labeled as a good hitter with an empty batting average, but no matter how empty it may be, it is still impressive to put up a .429/.448/.500 line, leading the team in hits with 12 and total bases with 14. With Horwitz getting on base about half the time, Ishikawa and Martinez-Esteve are going to have to start driving him in, along with DH/OF John Bowker, who will continue to bat near the middle of the order after starting the year off hot during his first Double-A at-bats.

Stat of the Week: 33 1/3

Unfortunately not the number of runs scored this week by the Defenders, or the number of team doubles for the week. This is the amount of innings that the Defenders were held scoreless by the opposition from Wednesday through Saturday's games.

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