Steven Branscomb - USA Today Sports

Connecticut Tigers 2015 Season In Review

For the second straight year the Connecticut Tigers, guided by second year manager Mike Rabelo, finished six games back of first place in the Stedler Division. Though that result led to a second place finish in 2014, the Tigers ended up in third place and three games under .500 this time around.

On a club that hit a combined .249 there were still some offensive standouts, including 23-year old catcher Will Allen, 20-year old Victor Padron, and second year players Brett Pritle and Shane Zeile. Finally recovered from shoulder surgery during his 2014 season at Mississippie, Allen made an impact in his first professional experience. In 57 games for the Tigers, Allen ripped 13 doubles and two home runs on his way to a .324/.387/.417 line.


“He surprised me a bit this year,” noted a veteran scout with NYPL coverage. “He’s a guy that contributes in a variety of ways, has some bat speed, and he can put a charge in the ball. There’s a chance he turns into a solid big leaguer.”


Another catcher on the Tigers roster, second year professional Shane Zeile hit just .252 in 35 games, and posted an on-base percentage below .300, but he slugged his way to a meaningful contribution. When the season ended, Zeile finished with nine doubles, one triple, and six home runs in just 127 plate appearances.


The Tigers best performing outfielder, 20-year old Victor Padron turned in arguably the best season of his brief career as he posted a .325 average in 43 games. Over that span, Padron walked 14 times and whiffed on just 20 occasions. His damage was mostly as a singles hitter, but Padron excelled in that role and helped set the table for the rest of the lineup.


Also chipping in at the plate, Joey Havrilak didn’t have the sexiest line, hitting just .213 in 52 games, but he made his hits count with five doubles, four triples, and four home runs; topped off by some solid outfield defense. Havrilak’s companion in the outfield, Cam Gibson got off to a roaring start and settled in with a .252 average, four triples, and six home runs.


Much of the Tigers damage in the NYPL came via the pitcher’s mound as the club enjoyed having several top picks and numerous other intriguing arms log innings in Connecticut. The top pick on the entire roster, left-hander Tyler Alexander, was electric despite a severe inning restriction. Alexander made 12 starts this summer, working roughly three innings per start, and he finished with a microscopic 0.97 ERA and allowed just 17 hits in 37 innings.


Another top pick, right-handed flame thrower Drew Smith dominated the NYPL with his plus-plus heater and quality slider before going on the shelf with elbow discomfort. In eleven appearances and 27 2/3 innings of work, Smith allowed just 15 hits and four walks while fanning 33 hitters.


“I really liked Smith; I mean really liked him,” said the same veteran scout. “His fastball is explosive and is very difficult to square, and when he stays on top of his slider it can be a second devastating pitch.”


A bit more unheralded, but just as intriguing when it comes to prospect status, right-handed Dominican Sandy Baez flashed impressive raw stuff, including a fastball that reached the mid-90s, but he struggled to locate and hitters were able to get the barrel to the ball consistently during his outings.


In ten starts for the Tigers, left-hander Matt Hall definitely showed the hammer curveball that was his calling card coming out of the draft. While his fastball may come up a bit short of average, Hall is fearless on the mound and relies heavily on his breaking ball that can miss bats and induce weak contact. Hall finished his debut season with 2.90 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning.


Before being promoted to West Michigan where he pumped his high octane fastball an helped lock down the late innings as the ‘Caps charged to the league title, right-hander Gerson Moreno notched a 3.86 ERA with better than a strikeout for each of his 28 innings. Moreno is going to be a name to watch in 2016 as he can consistently reach triple digits in short outings, and he gets after hitters with an aggression that fits in the late innings.


Rounding out the standout performers on the pitching staff, right-hander Spenser Watkins finished with a 2.23 ERA across 12 starts. Watkins allowed just 6.3 hits and 2.6 walks per nine innings while navigating opposing NYPL lineups and finishing with a 5-4 record.


Though the Tigers came up short in the standings in Rabelo’s second years as skipper, the club featured some intriguing talent that could add more big leaguers to Connecticut’s NYPL resume.

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