Hartford Off-season/Spring Training

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Updated: October 12, 2017

Spring Training Begins

Hartford/Omaha legend returns as hitting coach. 
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Former first baseman Narahiko Imada has accepted a hitting coach position for the Cheyenne Frontier (A). Imada is a legend for the Harpoon organization having played 14 seasons of his career within the Omaha/Hartford organization. Imada holds multiple career records including leading the team in most career games played with 1922. In an interview with The Cheyenne Chronicle, Imada said the decision was a “no-brainer” and that he “couldn’t imagine coaching for any other organization”.

Imada was widely known for his power bat as a player, something Hartford will be looking forward to him passing on in the minors.

Offseason Moves:

Hartford returns in 2026 with most of the players from last season’s deep playoff run, with a few exceptions.

Departures:
3B Dwight Carver (Trade w/Neo-Tokyo)
SP Kata Nakamura (FA)
RP Jorge Martinez (FA)
RF Edgardo Estrada (FA)
RF Dewitt Barry (Trade w/West Virginia)

5 notable players left after last season with the most iconic being Carver and Nakamura. Carver was a mainstay third baseman for the past 4 season who slotted in as a power bat in the lineup. Nakamura was a late season “loan” towards the push for playoffs. He turned around a poor first half of the season but was deemed too expensive to re-sign. Martinez and Estrada were also regulars in Hartford who’s time had run out.

Additions:
2B Gil Sterling (Trade with Neo Tokyo)
P Alfredo Zambrano (Trade with West Virginia)
P Yuji Nakano

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3 key additions were added to the Hartford roster with the hope of fixing some of the problems of last season. Gil Sterling comes in to take over second base from Luis Cedeno with his move to third. Sterling isn’t flashy but can provide consistent defense and may benefit while playing in Mack Stadium. Zambrano torched AAA last season and looks likely to earn a spot in the Hartford rotation early in Spring. Nakano joins after spending time in New Orleans last season and Florida before that. Nakano took a step up last season and will look to continue that production in 2026.

Spring Preview

With Spring Training kicking off, we review who to watch, key matchups, and expectations for 2026.

The “Young Guns”

In the spotlight of Hartford, there are a few young players fighting for increased roles and even roster spots in 2026.
P Matt Brown
P Masaharu Konishi
P Alfredo Zambrano
LF Walter Daniel
RF Shojiro Kotara

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Matt Brown made his highly anticipated debut last season as a 22yo middle reliever. Many pundits see him as the future closer of the organization with a lights-out fastball/knucklecurve combo. Throwing 33 innings last season, Brown notched 38 Ks, 13 BBs, and an impressive 1 HR. With current closer Marcos Gonzalez approaching an option year, Brown will be “let off the leash” as a setup man if all goes right in spring. Brown’s talent is clearly there but this season will be a test of how he handles high-leverage and stressful situations.

Masaharu Konishi went 13-8 with a 2.84 ERA last season in AAA and is currently fighting for a rotation spot this is currently out of his hands. Hartford coaches question if he is truly ready for the jump to PEBA. But the decision seemingly rests on whether Takiji Shiskikura can remain in the rotation. Shiskikura is 37 and slowed down significantly towards the end of the last season, bringing into question whether he can handle a starter’s workload. If he is moved to the pen, Konishi could earn his spot and vice versa.

Alfredo Zambrano made his move across the division from rival West Virginia after pitching well for AAA Mansfield last season. Zambrano fits the Hartford style well with advanced control and movement over racking up strikeouts. Despite being only 23, Zambrano is highly advanced and is widely tipped to earn a rotation spot on day 1. With defensive improvements in Hartford, Zambrano could thrive early on in his career.

Walter Daniel caught the eye of the league last season with his astounding, but short-lived, 74 game season. Daniel exploded on the scene batting .354 with 19HRs and 50RBIs in that short time period. But the concern with Daniel is his proneness to injury, something that cut his 2025 short. Daniel is out to prove he can stay healthy this season as he continues to develop into one of the more pleasant surprises in the league.

Shojiro Kotara wasn’t very impressive at the plate last season at AAA after coming close to a Hartford role last spring. His swing still needs some work, but his glove could earn him a role with the big boys this season. Kotara has fielding down to a T being able to cover any role in the outfield at an excellent level. With defense a priority this year, we could see Kotara up at some point this season.

Contract Years
P Marcos González
C Scott Francis
1B Mike Harris
RF John Martin

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4 key Hartford players could see their contract run out at the end of this season. With only so much money to go around, these 4 will likely be fighting for contracts this season.

Marcos González has a team option for 2027 but has started to show a decline in the past few seasons. The 35-year-old is still valuable but he has to prove he is worth keeping around next season, especially with you guys like Matt Brown nipping at his heels. This season will be make or break for the long-time closer.

Scott Francis is regarded as one of the league’s premier defensive catchers but last year he even managed to bring up his batting stats. Having just turned 30, Francis sits in a key role that is very hard to replace. Making him the current front-runner for a new contract.

Mike Harris was brought in last year as a better defensive first baseman who could also hit. He made massive contributions and cemented his role as a starter, something he struggled with most of his career. But Harris shares a position with current DH Ron Myers so he will have to make himself irreplaceable this season.

John Martin is a fan favorite in Hartford and is fresh off of an IL All-Leather Award at RF. But with the good comes a handful of random injuries average abilities at the plate. Martin is a Hartford draftee but will need to become a must-have in the lineup.

Big Contract

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During the offseason, star Carlos Ryan signed a 6-year contract extension worth a total of $130,400,000. Ryan was arguably the best all-around player in the IL last season putting up big numbers with the bat and the glove. But big deals come with big responsibility, something Ryan has yet to face. Moving up the ranks of the Hartford organization, Ryan lived in the shadows of the renowned superstar infielders of the Luis Cedeno, Mark Edwards, and Ron Myers. But in 2025, Ryan showed he belonged at the top of that list as he formed an offensive partnership with Cedeno, becoming one of the most dangerous hitting threats in the league. This year will show if he can continue to be the star Hartford needs him to be.

Spring training has plenty to offer for Hartford as they ramp up for the 2026 season.