2011 Connecticut Tigers Season Recap

In manager Andrew Graham's first season at the helm of the CT-Tigers, the club experienced an up and down season that saw them fall just a fraction short of the New York-Penn League playoffs. It was a successful season regardless of their playoff fate, as many player showed progress and Graham learned a lot throughout the year.

"It was a great experience for me this year," said Graham before one of the season's final home games. "It was challenging along the way but I feel that I learned a lot and I'm ready to give it another try next year."

For much of the year the offense was led by first baseman/designated hitter Dean Green. Green's offensive performance was nothing short of outstanding all year long as he finished with a .341/.395/.520. His .341 average was good for third in the league, while he also finished in the top ten in the NYPL in doubles, home runs, RBI, and first in total bases.

"The kid can flat out hit," said a scout for an NL club. "There's no questioning that. I wonder if it will play that well at higher levels and that body really bothers me. He's a DH only for me, but he put together a helluva season."

In addition to Green, one of the mainstays of the Connecticut lineup was third baseman and fourth round pick Jason King. The switch hitting King hit just .251 but slugged six home runs and drove in 31 runs before his season ended with a severe knee injury.

From the top of the lineup, Chad Wright was a bit of a spark with an outstanding .378 on-base percentage propped up by 41 walks in 69 games. Wright also played outstanding defense in center field and swiped 14 bases though he was caught seven times.

"He's a nice org player," said the NL scout. "He doesn't blow you away ever, but he can do enough things and he plays hard. He plays right."

Arguably the most dynamic offensive threat on the club was outfielder Tyler Collins. Collins signed later in the summer for an over slot bonus and hit form the moment he arrived in the NYPL.

Collins finished the season with ten doubles and eight home runs to fuel a .313/.360/.534 line. His well-rounded game saw him walk ten times and strike out only 17 in 42 games while also stealing six bases in seven tries.

"Absolutely the best prospect on that team," said an AL talent evaluator. "He's a bit on the small side but he's a force. He can do a little bit of everything offensively and he's got a chance to be a player at the Major League level."

Two significant players that were expected to play a significant offensive role after coming back to Connecticut were never able to help the club on the field as much as they wanted. Outfielder P.J. Polk and second baseman Alexander Nunez both suffered through injuries to combine for just 32 games played and a cumulative sub-.200 average.

On the mound, pitching coach Jorge Cordova's staff was led by the outstanding performance from returning right-hander Brennan Smith. Smith led the entire NYPL with a 1.53 ERA in 14 starts spanning 94 innings. He finished the summer with two complete games and one shutout and posted a great 1.01 WHIP.

Righty Wilsen Palacios also turned in a solid season, topping Smith in complete games, finishing with three on the summer. In 14 starts of his own, Palacios posted a 3.08 ERA and notched a 5-5 record.

"I like the raw stuff [Palacios] showed," noted an AL scout. "He's really inconsistent but there's some stuff there and some deception. I'd like to see what he could do in the bullpen."

Around mid-season, Graham and Cordova were granted the arrival of right-hander Thomas Collier. Just a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Collier was nothing short of dominant from the moment he arrived.

In seven starts, Collier finished with a 1.85 ERA, allowing only 28 hits in 39 innings while fanning 35 hitters. His 4-1 record helped spark the CT-Tigers run toward the top of the Stedler Division.

"There's no way that kid is just a year off surgery," said one surprised scout I sat with at a game. "He's commanding things so well. Everything flashes really well and they could have gotten a bit of a steal with him."

At the back end of games the Tigers got several noteworthy performances, including those of newcomers Daniel Bennett and Ryan Woolley. Returning Latin American right-handers Melvin Mercedes and Fernando Celis were also instrumental throughout the summer.

Bennett was positively unhittable in his 14 appearances as the CT-Tigers closer. The side-arming college senior posted a spectacular 1.17 ERA with eight saves in 15 1/3 innings. He allowed only 12 hits and struck out a dominating 22 batters.

Both Bennett and Woolley (2.38 ERA in 11 games) pitched so well that they earned late season promotions to West Michigan for the stretch run in the Midwest League.

Overall, the CT Tigers blended young Latin American talent with incoming draft picks to produce a successful club that finished with a 39-35 record.

"The entire season went really well I think," said Graham. "The team came together very well. A lot of guys – myself included – got better as the year went along. I really can't complain about anything. It was a great year!"

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