(Manchester NH) The best player in minor league baseball plays for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Mlb.com’s 2018 Prospect Watch confirms it.
If you look online at their list of the top prospects you will see that 19-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is listed third. Above him? Shoehei Ohtani (LA Angels) and Ronald Acuna (Atlanta Braves). Both of those players are now with the parent club. Acuna may bounce back to the minors but Ohtani certainly won’t because he was never there in the first place! That leaves Vladi as the top player still in the minors.
I visited the Fisher Cats last night for a look at the young phenom and liked what I saw.
I chose a night (Monday) with rain in the forecast for Manchester (NH), as well as a night with several other stay-home options for fans and media. The other things going on? Bruins and Celtics with playoff games and the Red Sox with a home game. There certainly were plenty of reasons to stay away from Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on an overcast, 40 degrees night, don’t you think!
And stay away they did. Announced attendance of over 2,000? If you counted the arms and legs of those in attendance you wouldn’t have reached that number!
But I was in the house and glad I was.
I knew that Vladi was there but that is hardly what the current edition of the NH Fisher Cats is all about. By my count, eight of Toronto’s top thirty prospects are at New Hampshire. I got to see five of them (Vladi, Bo Bichette, Jordan Romano, Jonathan Davis, and Max Pentecost).
The large collection of prospects has helped NH to get off to a nice Eastern League start (14-7) to lead their division.
The Fisher Cats won tonight’s game, 7-2, and had nine hits.
Vladi had a triple and a single and is currently batting .380. This type of information is what hastens my urge to see top Eastern League prospects early in the season. Why? There is absolutely no assurance that top prospects will stay with their current minor league team.
I had that happen with Mookie Betts. He was at Portland to start a season and quickly he was on to Pawtucket. I caught Mookie in April and was fortunate I did because he wasn’t there for very long.
I was led to believe, by someone connected to the Fisher Cats, that Vladi may spend the season in NH. I now have an example to recite when someone asks me what “wishful thinking” sounds like!
That is why I tell you, that if you want a close-up look at a future star you need to get to Manchester (NH) before too long.
In major league parks you can only dream about getting close enough to players to get a good picture or autograph. In the minors the chances are very good.
Getting to Manchester, for me, was quick. I was on 495, 93, and then 293 and there from Massachusetts in less than an hour.
While you’re watching 3B Vladi Guerrero, you might want to zone in on shortstop Bo Bichette. Bo (son of Dante Bichette) just turned twenty in March. Baseball America rates him the #8 prospect in the minor leagues.
One thing I had read about Bo was that he takes a hard swing. In person? No question, he does! The first player that came to mind was Boston’s Dustin Pedroia and his swing-from-the-heels approach. Bo’s swing had me preparing for the worst as I stood semi-protected at the edge of the Phil’s dugout: “Please don’t throw him a changeup!”
Not a prospect? That’s Craig Biggio’s son Cavan. He might be one to remember. Plays second base and on this evening was 2-for-5 with a triple and an RBI.
Cavan and Vladi had back-to-back triples. Both were high flies to deep center that were nearly out of the park.
CF Jonathan Davis (Toronto’s 28th prospect) had a double and beautifully executed a safety squeeze to get an RBI.
Undefeated pitcher Jordan Romano picked up his 4th win going five innings and giving up three hits to the 8-13 Phils. He had seven K’s to go with five walks.
The start of tonight’s game was delayed an hour. Not a good thing for someone like myself. Put me anywhere near food for an extra hour and my nutritarian diet is in jeopardy. Did I need the extra fried chicken, fries, and soda? You bet not!
I realized that I hadn’t been to see a Fisher Cats’ game in Manchester for a while when I noticed that a 5-story apartment complex had been built to the left of the media parking. I checked my blog (McClelland Miscellanea) and the last time I was at NDD Stadium was in May of 2014. I saw Toronto’s #1 prospect at the time, Aaron Sanchez, pitch on that visit.
Tyler Murray (voice of the Fisher Cats) was very helpful in arranging tonight’s visit. He took me on a tour of where I could be to take pictures and I needed the review since it had been nearly four years since my last visit. A new vantage point would have been behind the backstop through the netting. I never got there but did use the two dugouts.
I am a fan of the between-innings entertainment. If you read my coverage of the Portland Sea Dogs, there is always something about Slugger’s ongoing quest to win a round-the-bases footrace against young opponents. At Manchester I was kind of intrigued by a sumo wrestling contest. I also watched a race of various condiments (?) that included one racer clocking an opponent as the race went on.
The Fisher Cats have the current buzz of being a very good team. They have hitters. They have pitchers. They are a good take. Let me one more time assure you, they won’t all be together for the entire season. If you’re thinking of visiting on a sunny afternoon in July, there will be a game to watch, but don’t be surprised if Vladi and Bo are no longer there.
Picture taking for me is a work in progress. I faced an overcast night under stadium lights. Raise the ISO to get light and you add noise. Widen the aperture and you lose speed and get blur. Certainly, a better photographer with better equipment would have found a way. The “better equipment” is not an option but getting smarter, with the equipment I have, should be.
Again, thanks to Tyler Murray for arranging the terrific visit.
My non-specific plans are to get to Manchester several times in May…………before Vladi and Bo leave.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)