Savannah Sand Gnats – Team Report – Stretch Run Edition

An article by posted on August 4, 2011

With a little over a month to go in the Savannah Sand Gnats season, the Mets affiliate in the low A, South Atlantic League, find themselves solidly in first place in the Southern Division. As first half winners of the division, they are guaranteed a playoff berth, and they have a 3.0 game lead in the second half standings as well. Their overall record this season stands at 63-44 for a .589 winning percentage. As successful as the season has been for the Gnats so far, the reason for that success can be explained in one word, pitching. Very good pitching. The hitting on the other hand has been a very different story.

Hitting

As a team the Gnats are last in the South Atlantic League in: runs, batting average, OPS, hits, HR’s, RBI’s, and total bases. Not much to get excited about here, most of the regulars and top prospects are in the midst of disappointing seasons. The following are the key players for the Gnats, and as you will see, many are not having good years:

Blake Forsythe C – The 2010 3rd round draft choice has not done much this year to cause his stock to rise. As a platoon catcher, and part time DH, Forsythe has been doing better at the plate lately, hitting .306 in his last 10 games to raise his average all the way to .240. There is still room for improvement as his OBP stands at .346, but his .391 SLG % shows some promise, mostly on the strength of his 21 doubles. Forsythe must cut way down on his strikeouts, moving forward, if he wants to have any chance of climbing up the organizational ladder. As it now stands, in 271 AB’s he has already whiffed 82 times.

Sam Honeck 1B – The 2009 11th round draft pick is not having a very good year after coming back from a broken leg which ended his 2010 season. He is hitting a pedestrian .227, with a putrid OBP of .306, and an equally poor .346 SLG. Luis Nieves 2B – Luis has inherited the 2B job but there is some question about whether he will continue to man the position when the playoffs arrive. He is hitting only .248 with an OPS of .623.

Wilfredo Tovar SS – The slick fielding youngster started the season at 2B until Robbie Shields was promoted to St Lucie. Tovar was then moved to the other side of the second base bag, to anchor the infield from short. Even though Tovar’s defense is good enough to play in the bigs right now, much like Rueben Tejada, his hitting lags quite a ways behind. Tovar has regressed at the plate this year, his first in long-season ball. He is hitting .228 in 381 AB’s, and woeful OPS of .577.

Aderlin Rodriguez 3B – Is perhaps the biggest disappointment of any Mets farmhand this year. In 401 AB’s he has hit only .219, and while he started this year as one of the top power hitting prospects in the system, it has translated
to only 13 HR’s so far. His OBP is only .275 and his SLG is only .367, and he has struck out a whopping 88 times. The one plus that can be taken from his season, is the 65 RBI’s he has managed so far.

Darrell Ceciliani CF – has struggled mightily so far in his first time through a long-season league. Despite batting lead-off every day his batting avg. sits at .242, and the 2009 4th round draft choice has an OBP of only .329.

Rafael Fernandez OF – has been hitting third in the order lately despite hitting only .249 with 4 HR’s and 42 RBI.

Cory Vaughn OF – was hitting .284 with an OPS of .814 when he was promoted to St Lucie a little over a month ago.

Alberto Cordero C – The other half of the catching platoon with Forsythe, Cordero is putting together a nice season, hitting .262 with 5 HR’s and 29 RBI’s.

Alonzo Harris LF, and Joe Bonfe OF – have each been making positive contributions lately after finding their way into the regular starting line-up. After a slow start, Harris has his average up to .280, while Bonfe is now hitting .258.

Pitching

The poor hitting certainly hasn’t affected the pitching staff which ranks first in the league in: Wins, ERA, fewest hits, Runs, ER’s, WHIP, Saves, SHO’s, and are tied for second in fewest losses and CG’s.

The one starter to be promoted to St Lucie after a strong start at Savannah was RHP Greg Peavey.  After posting a 6-2 record with an ERA of 3.12 in 14 GS, Peavey was promoted and replaced in the rotation by:

Angel Cuan LHP – Cuan was used in long relief in the first half of the season and racked up some wins. Although only having made 8 GS so far, Cuan’s record is now at 9-1, with an ERA of 3.00. His WHIP is a very low 1.04, and his batting avg. against is only .246.

Gonzales Germen RHP – He seems to be getting stronger as the season wears on, doing exceptionally well in five of his last six starts. Germen is finally showing consistency which had been alluding him earlier this year. With a record of 7-5, and an ERA of 3.70, the young Dominican righty, in 19 GS and 105 IP, has surrendered 109 hits, 28 walks, and struck out 101.

Ryan Fraser RHP – Last year’s closer at Brooklyn, has been a mainstay in the Gnats rotation this year starting 17 games, he has compiled a record of 6-7 with an ERA of 3.59. Fraser has to cut down on his walks if he hopes to stay in the rotation, but he may be destined for a move back to the pen anyway, where his velocity on the fastball picks up an additional three or four miles per hour.

Yohan Almonte RHP – Almonte has shown excellent development with his secondary pitches this year, as well as his poise and maturity on the mound. Keep an eye on this kid cause he could move rather quickly from this point on. In 18 GS this year he is 5-6, with a 3.72 ERA. His WHIP stands at an outstanding 1.15 but he has been bitten a little bit by the gopher ball, giving up 13 HR’s in 92 IP.

Taylor Whitenton RHP – This kid has put up some outstanding numbers in his 15 GS this year at Savannah. His record is 4-2, with an ERA of only 2.61. In 83 IP he has given up 52 hits, and 38 walks, while striking out 90. SAL opponents are hitting only .179 off him. This year should give him a leg up as far as a rotation spot at St Lucie in 2012.

Two pitchers have worked their way back from injury, one of them RHP Michael Hebert, the 7th round pick from the 2008 draft, has now made 3 GS for the Gnats and is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA. So far, opponents are only hitting .184 against him. The other RHP Erik Goeddel the 24th rounder in 2010 who was signed over-slot, is finishing a rehab in the GCL, and will be rejoining the Gnats staff any day now. Before he got hurt this year, Goeddel was 2-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 7 GS.

The bullpen has had some dominant performances this year and is probably the strength of this team. Led by Hamilton Bennett, the 6’1″ LHP who was the Mets 2010, 29th round draft pick out of Tennessee Wesleyan College. Ham took over as closer after Josh Edgin got promoted to St Lucie a month ago and he has been dominant all year. His record is 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA. In 42 IP over 26 G’s, he has given up 25 hits and 14 walks while striking out 45 and picking up 10 saves. Opponents are hitting .176 against him.

Josh Edgin LHP – Promoted to St Lucie about a month ago, Edgin had not allowed a run in his last 2 months at Savannah. The 6’1″ LHP, who was the Mets 2010, 30th round draft pick out of Francis Marion University, was completely dominant with a 1-0 record and a 0.87 ERA and 16 saves. In 31 IP over 24 G’s, he gave up 14 hits, 10 walks, and 3 ER’s. He whiffed 41, and batters were hitting .135 against him.

Adam Kolarek LHP – In 14 G’s out of the Savannah pen, the 6’3″ Kolarek, the 2010 11th round draft pick out of Maryland, has gone 5-0 with an ERA of 1.09. In 33 IP he has given up only 19 hits and 4 ER’s while striking out 38. Opponents are hitting .170 against him.

Chase Huchingson LHP – This 6’5″ southpaw was signed by the Mets a year ago as an undrafted free agent out of Central Arkansas. He has helped this staff all year in many roles including 8 GS but has pitched mostly out of the pen. In 71 IP, Chase has given up merely 52 hits and 22 walks, while striking out 79. Opposing hitters are hitting only .204 off him. This guy was a very good find for the past administration. A 6’5″ lefty signed as an undrafted free agent? Not bad.

Ronny Morla RHP – This 6’3″ Dominican right hander, was acquired by the Mets in last December’s Minor League portion of the Rule 5 draft from the Oakland Athletics. He has done a very nice job in 25 games out of the pen. Over 34 IP he has given up 19 hits (only one HR) and 19 walks while striking out 37. He is 2-3 with a 2.88 ERA and opponents are hitting a paltry .158 against him.

With this kind of outstanding pitching depth and quality arms, the Savannah Sand Gnats should be able to go deep into the playoffs in 2011. Hopefully the bats will wake up in time for the post season. Let’s Go Gnats!

Next up, the Brooklyn Cyclones!

This Fan Post was contributed by Pete!

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