Savannah Season in Review - Part I

Jeurys Familia led Savanna with ten wins

SAVANNAH, GA - The 2009 Savannah Sand Gnats were headlined by the emergence of numerous pitching prospects. In this first edition of the 2009 Savannah Season in Review, Inside Pitch takes a look back those who made impacts on the mound.

Although finishing the season seven games below the .500 mark, the Savannah Sand Gnats had many highlights during 2009 in terms of player development.

The group that stood out the most this year was the young Savannah pitching staff, who finished the season with a South Atlantic League best 3.23 ERA.

Savannah saw a number pitchers advance to a higher level in '09, including Jeff Kaplan and Josh Stinson.

Kaplan, who was promoted to High-A St. Lucie in early June, saw much of the same success there as he did with Savannah, posting a 3-5 record and a 3.39 ERA.

Johnson, an excellent off-speed pitcher, who was also called up to St. Lucie in early June, posted a 3-1 record with a blistering 1.98 ERA.

"He's definitely not just a specialist, said Savannah pitching coach Mark Valdes in an earlier interview this season with Inside Pitch.

"His fastball isn't going to blow by a lot of guys, but when you have control over your three pitches and your locating and thinking about what pitches to throw to what hitters, that's something that makes him a good pitcher," Valdes added.

Johnson would later return to Savannah for a brief extent, rehabbing with the Sand Gnats after a shoulder sprain in his throwing arm.

Following the trend of Savannah aces being promoted to the sunshine state was Chris Schwinden, who was promoted to the Mets on August 26 after posting a 9-6 record in 21 games with the Sand Gnats.

In two starts with St. Lucie, Schwinden finished 2009 with a 1-0 record and a 3.97 ERA.

As for Gnats that spent all year in Georgia's first city but still saw major success and development, Savannah's big four starters helped Savannah achieve the stellar numbers their staff was able to accumulate this year.

Jeurys Familia, the hard-throwing right-hander, finished with a 10-6 record, the best on the team and a low ERA of just 2.69, the third best in the Sally League.

Familia only allowed two earned runs in his last three starts for the Gnats and recorded 12 strikeouts during that period.

Speaking of strikeouts, Eric Beaulac, another key to the Gnats pitching successes this year, sat down a team high 133 batters on strikes this year.

Beaulac would get the start for the final game of the season for the Gnats, but only pitched one inning before leaving with what is currently diagnosed as biceps tendonitis, giving up no runs on just one hit to close out his first full-season of baseball.

Robert Carson, Savannah's only lefty in the starting rotation, struggled down the stretch, posting a record of 2-5 with an ERA of 4.84 in his last ten starts.

Despite the rough ending, Carson would finish the year 8-10 with a 3.21 ERA and a 2.40 ERA against left-handed hitters. Carson's high velocity fastball and improved off-speed pitches makes him an arm to look out for in the future.

Rounding off the stellar starters, is 19-year-old Kyle Allen. Allen posted a 4-2 record and a 2.37 ERA over his last ten games and finished '09 with a 9-6 overall record, the second highest on the team behind Familia.

As impressive as the Savannah starting pitching was, there were definitely highlights from the Gnats bullpen this season, the most notable of which being Rhiner Cruz.

Cruz finished the year with a 1.92 ERA, the lowest on the team, and a team high 22 saves. Cruz performed exceptionally well in save opportunities in '09, coming through night after night in pressure situations.

Cruz's fastball was enough to fan 55 batters this year, the most among all Savannah relievers.

In a league full of big young bats, the arms shined through for Savannah in '09. With many players already promoted, and certainly more to come during the off-season, New York can take pride in the pitching factory that developed prospects in the south Georgia coastal empire. Recommended Stories