HAPPY RECAP - SAVANNAH SAND GNATS (Vol. 4 of 7) by Tom Brennan

Having recapped the season's efforts of our boys in Vegas, Eastern league champions Binghamton, and St Lucie, I now direct the Brennan MRI machine towards the last of the full season Mets teams, Savannah.  Let’s see what lurks inside.

Savannah had a mostly terrific season, a second-best 85-51, which culminated in a late season swoon with an 8 game losing streak and a first round playoff loss.  Chokers?  Hardly.  They were victims of their own great success. 

Simply put, early season igniters Lee Mazzilli, Jeff McNeil, and to a lesser extent Gavin Cecchini all got mid-season promotions.  The 3 averaged 60 games apiece and combined for the following while in Gnat Land: 119 runs, 46 doubles, 8 triples, 12 HRs, 108 RBIs, .295, and .361 on base % in 784 combined plate appearances.

Their replacements were not as productive offensively.  Period.

Their closer Robert Coles was promoted to St Lucie mid-season too, which thinned a lethal bullpen.  He was 1.95, 11 saves, and 32 Ks in 27 2/3 innings in 21 appearances.

Also promoted later in the season was one of the team's other bullpen aces, Dario Alvarez, who kept right on going from Lucie to Bingo to Citifield in a breathless month. While with the Gnats, Dario was 7-1, 1.32, and 95 Ks in 61 innings.  Amazing.  A few others were promoted too.

So a team that had gotten as high as around 40 games over .500 by early August simply couldn't sustain it with lesser talent.  To try to shore things up, the Mets promoted Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, and Luis Guillorme for the Gnats playoffs, but 'twas not enough, sad to say.

Still, what went right?  PLENTY.

First, the aforementioned Mazz/McNeil/Cecchini trio.  Great.

Next, Dario Alvarez, also discussed heretofore.  Brilliant.

Coles did a fine closing job.  See above.

Akeel Morris
This writer's 2014 Mets Minors favorite took over the reins as closer when Coles was promoted, and was simply lethal: 3 hits and 14 Ks per 9 innings, 16 saves in the half of the season that the team played less well and had less games to save.  Certainly, the only reason he stayed in Savannah was to acclimate to the closer's job. My guess is he closes for Binghamton next season.

Matt Oberste picked it up mid-season. Splitting the 1B chores with the following lad, he went .274/.320/.435 in 91 games.  Nice.

Dominic Smith, 2013 first rounder, spent the entire season in Gnatsville in a jump straight from rookie Gulf Coast ball the year before.  As a 19 year old, much younger than the age of the average dude in his league, he exhibited low power in a pitcher's park and league, with but a single dinger, so 2015 is the year we hope to see the power switch flipped on by him in St Lucie. .271 after flirting for a time with .300, after a very slow first few weeks.

Righty starter John Gant was a fine 11-5, 2.56 in 123 innings, with 114 Ks over 21 starts. 

His primary starting competition was righty Robert Gsellman, 10-6, 2.55 with 7.1 Ks per 9.  But there were other fine starter contributions, such as:

Robert Whalen, who missed a chunk of the season due, of all things, to a hand infection, but for the second year in a row he was outstanding: 9-1 in 11 starts, 2.01, 1.01 WHIP.

Each of the highlighted guys above will certainly continue with fine minor league careers in 2015 and my guess is at least half make the bigs.  They were the straws that stirred the Gnats' bug juice in 2014.

It takes more than them, though. Other notables included, but were not limited to, Champ Stuart (29 of 33 steals, 50 runs in 81 games); Miller Diaz (6-1, 2.25 before season-ending injury in early August); Kevin McGowan (4-2, 2.14 before he too was promoted to the Lucies); and Darwin Frias (5-2, 2.98, 12K/9 in 57 innings).

OVERVIEW: The South Atlantic League has 14 teams.
Offensively, Savannah ranked as follows: runs 619 (7th); 63 HRs (yuk - 12th); .255 average (10th); 154 steals  (4th).  Around middle of the pack.

So to win that many games, pitching-wise, Savannah had to be superlative. It was: ERA #1 at 3.03 – next team 3.49; just 6th in Ks at 1,089 (8.4/9)despite an abundance of Ks from Akeel, Dario and Frias; WHIP (1.26 – 1st).

In summary, if this team had not been weakened by several well-deserved promotions, it would have ended up about 50 games over and won the playoffs.  But it was a victim of early phenomenal success, hence the promotions, etc.

No matter how you slice it, a phenomenal year for this Georgia-based team.

Whaddya think, folks?


Mack Ade said...

The Mets gut this team early, but left the pitching basically intact because of they were blocked in Binghamton and St. Lucie.

I don't believe in playing for minor league championships, especially in towns where only 1,500 drunks come out on their biggest night, 'Buy One Get One Free Thirsty Thursday'

Thomas Brennan said...

Man, do I agree. If Alvarez, Morris and others like starters Gant and Gsellman were ready, I'd have promoted them (or in Dario's case, promoted him sooner than they did), and demote as needed to make space. Guys that could have gotten downward shifts in AA and St Lucie might have been Chism, Frazier, and Kolarek, and Peterson and Hilario. And Lannan could have resumed in Savannah and not St Lucie.

Reward those who really deserve it and, thru demotion, get the attention of those who probably need no reminder their career is sputtering. Always time for the sputterers to resume their upward climb in 2015 and not block guys who show they deserve faster tracks.

Mack Ade said...


why did 'we' keep Lannan all year?

Bill Metsiac said...

Excellent question, Mack! If he had at least performed adequately in Wallyville all season so he could've been an emergency call-up, I'd understand it. But he pitched like crap even before his mysterious disappearance.

I was all for signing him last Winter, on a no-lose MnL deal, but he didn't even justify that.

He declared FA yesterday, so I suspect we've seen the last of him, but who knows?

Thomas Brennan said...

Lannan was kept on as an innings eater. That is, eating the innings of kids who could have used the opportunity to develop more. Speaking of innings, saw Montero is pitching winter ball. Only 130 innings this year, the report said.

Mack's Mets © 2012