Four Gnats Named Sally League All-Stars

SAVANNAH, GA - Following their impressive starts to the season, four members of the Savannah Sand Gnats were named South Atlantic League All-Stars. The list includes reliever Jimmy Johnson, starter Jeff Kaplan, outfielder Sean Ratliff and second baseman Josh Satin.

[FREE PREVIEW OF PREMIUM CONTENT]

For a team that is usually a perennial disappointment, the Savannah Sand Gnats are having one of their best seasons in the past decade at the halfway point of 2009.

To reward some of the individuals responsible for Savannah's success this summer, the South Atlantic League named four players, two former Gnats and two current players, to the 2009 SAL Southern Division All-Star team.

This year's "fantastic four" consists of two hitters and two pitchers. The two arms that were selected, starter Jeff Kaplan and reliever Jimmy Johnson were called up to high-A St. Lucie June 3 after posting some of the best pitching numbers in the SAL up to that point.

Kaplan ranked second among starters in the SAL with a 1.46 ERA, third in strikeouts with 47 and third in innings pitched with 55.2 in his ten games with the Gnats.

Before Johnson's promotion, he was one of the most productive and most consistent arms in the Sand Gnats bullpen. The lefty specialist combined his three effective pitches to post a blistering 0.68 ERA in 19 games.

In his last 15.2 innings as a Sand Gnat, Johnson did not allow a run to score, and only allowed five of 20 inherited runners to score in his time in the Savannah bullpen.

"It tickles me to know that these two guys got called up to a higher level," said Savannah pitching coach Mark Valdes after the announcement.

"Their success was evident to everyone in this league and the organization. Just look at their stats," he said.

Although they were named to the All-Star roster, due to their promotion to St. Lucie, Kaplan and Johnson will not participate in the 2009 SAL All-Star game.

The other duo that made the cut for the Gnats were the two California boys on the team, who have been two of the leaders on the young squad both on and off the field.

Outfielder Sean Ratliff, 22, has been one of the most consistent hitters in the Gnats lineup this season. Currently hitting .309, Ratliff answered an average April with one of the most impressive performances in the month of May in the entire league, improving his average from .259 to as high a .360 towards the end of that month.

The fourth round pick out of Stanford is currently tied for first in the SAL with 68 hits, leads Savannah in home runs (5) and is tied in team RBI with 31.

"I just want to keep swinging the bat well and trying to perfect my hitting," said Ratliff.

"Hitting is one of those thing that you can always perfect so I want to just keep working and gain knowledge to help me be a better hitter and player and hopefully that will continue my success and help me move quickly through the system," he continued.

His teammate, and former college rival Josh Satin, has been the other essential factor for Savanna's success at the plate at the half way point.

Satin, 24, a graduate of the University of California-Berkley, was hitting as high as .353 as of May 22 and is currently posting a .316 mark. He is splitting the team's top spot in RBI with Ratliff and leads the SAL with 34 walks.

"Both of these guys are college guys and two of the older guys on the team and they definitely act as leaders on team for the younger and the older guys," said Savannah hitting coach Ryan Ellis.

"They're both doing well with their approach and if they just stay within themselves and don't try to do to much, I think that they will have continued success in this league and in the future," he added.

This is the first time that Savannah has sent four players to the All-Star squad since 1998 when the club was the affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

This year's All-Star game will take place in Appalachian Power Park, home of the SAL's West Virginia Power, on June 23. The first pitch of the game has yet to be determined.

To get constant access to news across the farm system and to not miss a beat of the 2009 season, CLICK HERE to become a subscriber of InsidePitchMagazine.com

InsidePitchMagazine.com Recommended Stories