Tom Brennan – MAJORING ON THE MINORS – SAVANNAH SAND GNATS SEASON PREVIEW
The Gnats kicked major butt last year, led by a truly lethal 2014 bullpen, including Akeel Morris and Dario Alvarez (combined 11-2, 1.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP with 184 Ks in 118 innings). Mindboggling.Both were promoted, so how do Gnats look in 2015? Good…AND TALL!
I referred to the 2014 bullpen above. So I’ll start with the 2015 pen.
6’2” Shane Bay was a fine lefty reliever in Brooklyn last year, as was 6’9” lefty Brad Wieck and 6’8” righty Josh Prevost. 6’6” Jimmy Duff relieved well at Kingsport in 2014, while “short” guys like lefty 6’3” David Roseboom and 6’3” Cameron Griffin (who I am guessing might also start) also tossed very nicely in rookie league pen work. 6’6” Gaither Bumgardner was quite good too.
The bullpen should be outstanding in 2015.
In rookie ball in 2014, Martirez Arias had a great 2014; fellow 6’7” Casey Meisner surged down the stretch; 6’4” Corey Oswalt was terrific in Brooklyn, almost keeping pace with Marcos Molina (who skipped Savannah to pitch in St Lucie); 6’3” righty Scarlyn Reyes was also terrific in limited innings. 6’3” Chris Flexen had Tommy John in mid-2014 and is on the roster, but doubt he is ready. He was doing very well up to that point in 2013 and 2014.
Great starter quality for 2015.
So let me pause for a second and ask: why weren’t these guys playing in the NCAA basketball tournament? Taller than a lot of hoops teams.
Catchers Tomas Nido and Tyler Moore both had modest hitting results in 2014. It will be interesting to see if they can step it up beyond slugging %s in the .330’s this year.A shorter, slighter group will grace the Gnats’ infield. Slick fielding Luis Guillorme, who put up solid 2014 offensive #’s as well, will man shortstop. Jon Johnson at 2nd base, Pedro Perez at first base, and Jean Rodriguez, who had a very nice season offensively last year, will man the hot spot.
So the infield overall looks like it will be modest offensively.
Outfield:Exciting to see 6’4” Wuilmer Becerra and Vicente Lupo skip from Kingsport over Brooklyn and short season ball to play in Savannah this year. Both hit well last year, with a late surge by Lupo to garner him the Sterling Award for that level. Both need to whittle down on the strikeouts, but both have potential big power. John Mora was solid all season (.390 on base, .390 slug %) but at 5’10”, 165, his power projection is limited (no homers in over 700 career at bats – he did steal 17 of 23 last year).
Speedy Patrick Biondi (41 steals in two years, covering the equivalent of a 162 game season) and light hitting Stefan Sabol round out the outfield squad as likely reserves. The latter 2 are repeaters in Savannah.
So this team looks like it will have great pitching, but moderate hitting. The hitting dip is due to unusual success: Urena, Conforto, and Rosario are all skipping Savannah this year and heading straight to St Lucie.
The Gnats should be better than a .500 team. We'll see by how much.