Connecticut Team Report | June 19

The Defenders ran into some Thunder this week, killing their winning streak and making Defender fans everywhere thankful that they only have to play Trenton three more times in August.

Team Record: 26-40 (2-5 on the week)

Standing: Sixth in the Northern Division

If there ever was a time to get excited about the Defenders this season, it was at the start of last week. They were in the middle of a five game winning streak, the pitching was solid and the hitting was starting to come around. They had a chance to test their newfound winning ways against quality competition when they started the week with a four game set against division leader Trenton. They managed to lose all four games.

So with the Defenders sitting 18.5 games out, it is time to focus on the players. When the team was first formulated coming out of spring training, most figured the team would center on its two offensive superstars, Eddy Martinez-Esteve and Travis Ishikawa. Well those players are now both MIA, with Travis's bat being MIA, and EME literally being MIA. This team now has two different offensive stars in John Bowker and Eugenio Velez. It seems these days that being a prospect relies more on how much you were paid to sign and how highly you were selected, as opposed to how you actually perform.

EME used to be the key member involved in the conversation about who would take over for Barry Bonds in left field once he stepped away from the game. John Bowker now warrants serious consideration as he seems to be a player on the rise, as EME is a player who seems to be deteriorating. Bowker really has the same credentials as EME. Both are about the same age. They both went to baseball power house colleges in Florida St. and LBSU. They both have shown they can hit for power. The difference is consistency and health. Bowker has consistently improved as he's moved through the system, increasing his offensive peripherals each year at San Jose and now in Double-A he's up to .288/.332/.496. These would all be full season career highs for him. He is also seeing some of his doubles and triples translating into homeruns this year, which is another sign of improvement. He is on pace for about 20 homeruns and is still keeping up his doubles pace which sits at about 36 over the full season. Take in mind this is happening in a league dominated by pitching.

The other offensive star is Eugenio Velez, who burst onto the scene in Connecticut about a month into the season. He can play both middle infielder positions, but projects best at second base. With Ray Durham aging, Velez easily has a shot at his position on the big league club. Much like Bowker, he hasn't been moving through the system based on reputation or clout, but by performance. With speedsters like Velez, you often wonder if they can get on base enough to allow them to actually use their speed. Well, Velez often doesn't even get the chance to steal second base, because he is already standing on it. Velez hits plenty of doubles, and many of the doubles his teammates accumulate would be triples for Velez. Velez is a little older, but at 25 is still improving his game and can not be completely counted out as a prospect.

As far as roster moves for the week, the Defenders decided to add their fourteenth pitcher to the roster in Yosandy Ibanez, who managed to pitch a scoreless inning for the team out of the pen. He's a 25 year old import from Cuba who has pitched primarily out of the pen for San Jose this year. He had only allowed 24 hits in 32 innings while striking out 35. Also, Alex Requena returns from the DL to give the Defenders some much needed depth in the position player department. The aforementioned Travis Ishikawa has not made an appearance on the field in the last seven games.

Player of the Week: John Bowker

Dave McKae could have easily been named to his third straight player of the week award after throwing an 8 inning shutout in his third Double-A start. But since John Bowker was named the Eastern League player of the week, we'll cut him some slack. He went 11-23 on the week, knocked in 12 runs in the seven games, hit two homeruns and scored seven runs. He is 2nd in the league in total bases with 124.

Stat of the Week: 23

The number of Double-A innings Dave McKae has appeared in without issuing a walk. He has 19 strikeouts and his WHIP stands at a whopping 0.65.

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