SAVANNAH, GA - The 2009 Savannah Sand Gnats were headlined by the emergence of numerous pitching…
Savannah Season in Review – Part II
First Half: 35-35
PITCHER OF THE YEAR:
Jeurys Familia: 10-6, 2.69 ERA, 23 GS, 134 IP, 109 K, 46 BB, .221 OBA
The right-hander more than doubled his innings total from his 2008 Gulf Coast League stint and emerged as one of the leading pitching prospects in the organization. Familia was a model of consistency throughout the season keeping an ERA of 3.86 or better in every month, bookended with a 2-1 record and 1.37 ERA in April and a 2-0 record and 1.71 ERA in August. He finished third in the Sally League in ERA and tied for fourth in WHIP.
However, the most significant development of his season was the maturation of his slider. Last summer, his slider flashed its promise and remained a hit-or-miss option at the start of the season. As this season went along the slider became a true weapon which he used to keep hitters off-balance. His fastball, which has consistent running action, is Familia's top pitch. He runs it on right-handers with natural two-seam action. He backs it up with a four-seam fastball that has development slight cut action but it is a new selection for Familia.
Kyle Allen: 9-6, 3.45 ERA, 25 G, 19 GS, 125 1/3 IP, 111 K, 51 BB, .234 OBA
Allen, like Familia, was thrown into the long-season fire after a debut season in the Gulf Coast League in 2008. The right-hander got off to a rough start when he was tuned up for a 7.47 ERA in 15 2/3 innings in April, but rebounded and eventually recorded a 2.97 ERA in 12 second-half starts and sub-.220 opponent's batting average in July and August. An additional good sign for Allen was his reaching of his 125-inning limit without any physical setbacks.
Robert Carson: 8-10, 3.21 ERA, 25 GS, 131 2/3 IP, 90 K, 45 BB, .270 OBA
The left-hander's season was headlined by a sizzling month of May when he went 1-1 with a 1.01 ERA in 26 2/3 innings. Carson suffered from bouts of rough starts but overall kept the Sally League opposition at bay with a fastball he commands in all quadrants of the zone and a slider that generates a high amount of ground balls. The changeup was still a work in progress throughout the season but was an effective enough third option to give Carson needed depth at this level.
Eric Beaulac: 7-7, 2.95 ERA, 26 G, 19 GS, 116 IP, 133 K, 41 BB, .250 OBA
Beaulac completes the four that headstronged the Savannah rotation in 2009. After a subpar May in which he went 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA in five starts, the right-hander made a temporary move to the bullpen where he was dominant in five outings, giving up just one earned run 17 innings with 20 strikeouts against four walks. Nonetheless, he moved back to the rotation and pitched well down the stretch, going 4-3 with a 3.07 ERA. Featuring a strong fastball/slider combination, the development of a third pitch will determine the right-hander's future positioning but for now, he figures to remain in the rotation.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Josh Satin: .284, 7 HR, 60 RBI, 62 R, 125 H, 38 2B, 73 BB, .385 OBP
The second-year second baseman-turned-utility man was a catalyst for the Sand Gnats offense all season long. Satin was among league-leaders in three different categories including doubles (1st), walks (3rd) and on-base percentage (5th). Though drafted as a second baseman, Satin also collected time at in the outfield as well as first base. Though he was above the league average age, Satin took advantage of his opportunities and provided consistent production and demonstrated his gap power.
Sean Ratliff: .265, 15 HR, 68 RBI, 64 R, 124 H, 28 2B, 7 3B, 31 BB, .312 OBP
Ratliff emerged as the lumber in the Savannah order, leading the club in home runs and extra base hits. He was twice named South Atlantic League Player of the Week for his efforts in May, a month during which he hit .321 and had a 10-day span in which he hit .500 with four 4- hit games and double-digit extra bases. Though he hit a cold spell down the stretch and racked up a high amount of strikeouts (131), the power Ratliff demonstrated was a result of a revamped swing that came to fruition in his second season.
ARRIVED ON THE SCENE:
Arguably, there was not a prospect who put himself on the radar that was not already on the radar or on last season's Top 50 list. The majority of the Sand Gnats roster was filled with youth that came up from rookie ball but who had already made a name for themselves in the system—like Allen, Familia, Carson, Wilmer Flores and Jefry Marte. Otherwise, the roster will filled out with much fringier prospects who do not have as much long-term projection.
However, if any prospects were to stand out it would be Familia and Allen who boasted much less comparative experience after limited time in the Gulf Coast League. Not only have the two separated themselves in the organization, but are receiving more external attention that is reinforcing their overall value.
"The Savannah Four": That list includes Familia, Allen, Carson and Beaulac all of whom figure to move on to St. Lucie next season and lock down spots in the rotation. Of the foursome, Familia and Allen have separated themselves due to the consistency and effectiveness of their top secondary pitches—the slider for Familia and the changeup for Allen.
The early prediction is that Beaulac and Carson will remain in St. Lucie for the entire season, but do not rule out Beaulac from moving up if he elects to take another shot at the bullpen. As for the Familia and Allen, right now there is an outside shot one or both could get to Double-A but things would have to fall together during a season that will surely bring rough periods and adjustments for the whole group.
Wilmer Flores: The 2009 season was an education in baseball for the highly-regarded teenager. He was pulled from the roster in mid-season to wind things down and get his game refocused, and now the shortstop will be off to St. Lucie. His overall perception was dinged up as his severely lacking speed and still-developing defense, but eyes will be on whether his bat can develop the special traits many scouts see in it.
Keep Tabs On…
Josh Satin: The second baseman excelled in the Sally League, but given his age, the pressure will be on him to excel even more and at a quicker pace. At this rate, he remains an organizational player who will benefit from the flexibility to play several positions, but there are opportunities given the lack of depth at second base. But, with challengers ahead of him, he will have to move quickly.
Sean Ratliff: Like Satin, there are not many concrete outfield prospects in the organization which gives Ratliff the opportunity to make his mark as he likely opens the 2010 season in St. Lucie. He needs to minimize his streakiness and do a better job of shortening up his swing to decrease his high strikeout ratio. However, his raw power and outfield defense are worthy of further attention.
Jefry Marte: Many could wonder why Marte is not considered a "must watch". Simply, his offensive skills are not maturing, or have yet to show the projectability, many other outlets have commented on. Defensively, the third baseman's game is still very much raw and filled with deficiencies—like his footwork and positioning—that led to a near-record breaking error total in 2009. Nonetheless, his age and level will continue to draw attention, now the question remains whether he can respond. But there are rumblings that he is losing internal value and is not as highly regarded within the organization as other outlets perceive him to be.
Rafael Fernandez: The young, athletic outfielder provided little production in his 73 games, but his defensive prowess and contact skills should provide him continued opportunities. He will have to rely on that athleticism if he wants to continue to rise up the ranks, but for now his stock dropped a tick as he has yet to show he can consistently handle higher-level pitching.
Raul Reyes: Like Fernandez, Reyes relies heavily on his athleticism, but benefits from more advanced hitting skills that include greater raw power and strike zone discipline. It is that raw power that has kept him in the Top 50 the last two seasons—despite missing most of 2008—and he will likely get his shot to further grow in St. Lucie next season.
Eric Campbell: Campbell provided average production in his 95 games with Savannah that was interrupted by a shoulder injury. The infield/outfield utility man will start the 2010 season in St. Lucie, where he ended his season. Campbell has demonstrated solid defensive skills wherever placed but now the attention will turn to his bat where the production must increase.
Chris Schwinden: The right-hander was the first of the very successful Gnats rotation to make it to St. Lucie this season. Schwinden does not boast as projectable of a repertoire as the others in the Savannah rotation, but in his first two seasons he has proven to be an innings-eater with excellent command (18 BB in 126 2/3 IP in '09). The jury is out as whether or not he will remain in a competitive St. Lucie rotation next season, but given his successful track record, he will continue to receive opportunities.
Rhiner Cruz: The Gnats closer this season finished fourth in the Sally League with 22 saves and allowed 42 hits in 61 innings pitched while posting a .199 opponent's batting average. So far, he has stayed ahead of opposing hitters with his good velocity but needs a reliable secondary pitch—his slider—to take his game to the next level. Nonetheless, there are very few true late-inning prospects in the organization and Cruz could use 2010 to further improve his standing.
Elvin Ramirez: For the second straight season, Ramirez was shut down due to injury in June. Heading into the season, Ramirez was a raw, but worthwhile, project to develop. His hard, sinking fastball and budding slider were two elements that raised his value but 153 2/3 innings over the last two seasons have damaged his future prospects. He has likely lost his shot in the rotation (he projected as a reliever), but now he will have to work to avoid a third straight season in Savannah in 2010.
Phillips Orta: The right-hander finally spent the entire season in Savannah, but did not arrive until June and was inconsistent in his appearances. Once of a bit of a sleeper because of his fastball velocity and hard curveball, his repertoire has not advanced further and his breaking ball regressed at times this season. For a pitcher who will turn 24 early next season, it was a stock-dropping summer.
Jordan Abruzzo: The catcher bounced around three levels in 2008 and there had been word that Abruzzo would begin 2009 in Binghamton, but an elbow injury put a damper on his 2009 season. He appeared in just 23 games for the Gnats, all as the designated hitter, and hit three home runs with eight RBI. It is likely he will begin 2010 in a long season league, and though there are still opportunities for catchers to make their mark, the lost playing time simply came at the wrong time for Abruzzo.
Juan Lagares: His high ranking in last fall's Top 50 will not be repeated this season as Lagares' bat has yet to develop. His projection was far from a sure thing and based almost entirely on whether Lagares had the health and discipline to put it together. After yet another injury-shortened 2009 season in which he hit .266 in 53 games, his stock continues to drop as he is surpassed by other newly arriving prospects. His expected shift to the outfield is complete, but he will not go much further without growth at the plate.
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