Savannah Sand Gnats Roster Breakdown
The Savannah Sand Gnats were one out away from a South Atlantic League championship last year, but somehow let it slip away. This year’s team will look to do one out better and take home that championship in 2012. Let’s take a look at this year’s Savannah Sand Gnats. The Gnats have what is undoubtedly the deepest starting rotation in the organization. Logan Verrett will get the ball on opening day. He was the Mets third round pick last year out of Baylor but did not pitch last year after signing. Also making his professional debut for the Gnats this year will be ninth round pick Alex Panteliodis out of Florida. Tyler Pill, last year’s fourth round pick, and Jack Leathersich, last year’s fifth round pick, will also be part of Savannah’s staff. Those four guys should have the pitching tools and the experience to excel in the South Atlantic League. Verrett and Pill especially should be intriguing to watch. Also in the rotation will be international products Domingo Tapia and Rafael Montero. Tapia is still young and should be challenged in the SAL, but he throws serious heat and induces a lot of ground balls and we should learn a lot about him this year. Montero is a little older but he came out of nowhere last year and with a good year could become a leader of the next generation of Mets pitchers. Also a part of Savannah’s rotation, somewhat surprisingly, is Michael Fulmer. Fulmer only pitched 5.1 innings in the GCL last year so this is a big step, but he must have shown something in spring to make the Mets think he’s ready for this assignment. He has great stuff, but at this point the results don’t matter as much as the experience he’ll gain from facing this level of competition. Even with Tapia, Montero, and Fulmer being wildcards performance wise, the starters Savannah will throw out there have a chance to really dominate their competition and give the Sand Gnats a chance to get back to the South Atlantic League playoffs. The bullpen in Savannah is not quite as impressive, but should be solid. Tyson Seng should highlight the group, after dominating in Brooklyn last year. Estarlin Morel is taking a step backwards after pitching at St. Lucie last year, so he should be a reliable arm in the pen. Marco Camarena, Jeffrey Walters, and Carlos Vazquez all had solid but unspectacular seasons at Brooklyn last year as starters and will now have to adjust to coming out of the bullpen. T.J. Chism is a crafty LOOGY, who may be able to get on the radar a little more with a good season. Jared West is a hard throwing right who did well in Kingsport last year and could make a name for himself with a good year. The bullpen for Savannah may not blow people away like the starters, but it should be at least a solid and dependable compliment to a dynamic starting staff. From a prospect perspective, the Savannah infield is as boring as it gets. Third baseman Aderlin Rodriguez may be the only player worth keeping an eye on. He spent last year in Savannah, but he is still young enough to repeat the level, especially considering that Wilmer Flores is now right above him. Rodriguez has raw power, which he showed last year even in a pitcher-friendly ball park in Savannah, but he’ll have to do more than just hit homeruns this year if he expects his prospect status to remain high. Sam Honeck will play opposite Rodriguez at first base. He played in Savannah last year and was hitting everything early in the season before coming back down to Earth and putting up mediocre numbers. Brian Harrison will back up at the corner infield spots and try to carve out a niche as a utility player after spending the last two seasons in Brooklyn. The middle infield will be made up of Brandon Brown, Luis Nieves, and T.J. Rivera. Brown had a good season in Brooklyn last year and Rivera was solid as well, while Nieves returns to Savannah for another season. Those three guys aren’t exactly on-the-radar prospects, which makes the absence of Phillip Evans all the more noticeable. The bottom line is that this is not a strong looking infield outside of Rodriguez, and may not produce much for the Gnats this season. It’s also interesting to note that every member of the infield other than Rodriguez is older than Mets opening day shortstop Ruben Tejada. The outfield for the Gnats offers a little bit more promise. The name to watch and learn this year may be Travis Taijeron (pronounced like Tyrone). He his .299/.387/.557 with 27 extra base hits and 44 RBI’s in 56 games for Brooklyn last year. If he can repeat those types of numbers this year in Savannah he could start to draw some attention around the organization. Another outfielder to watch is Greg Pron, a guy with a big frame at 6’6’’ and good power potential, hitting 22 extra-base hits for Kingsport last year. Dustin Lawley is also moving to Savannah after having a great season at Kingsport last year, hitting 39 extra-base hits, including 9 homeruns. Doubles machine Charley Thurber and athlete Tillman Pugh round out the outfield for the Gnats. It’s tough to tell what to expect out of this outfield, because none of its members have any full-season experience, but all five members have talent and potential, so it’ll be interesting to see if any of them can have a breakout season and establish themselves as a prospect to watch. A noticeable absence from the outfield in first round pick Brandon Nimmo, who will be held back in extended spring training but should play in Brooklyn, possibly Savannah, later in the season. Catching for Savannah this year will be Albert Cordero and Cam Maron. In many ways it’s surprising to see Cordero back with the Gnats this year, after he spent all of 2011 in Savannah and had such a strong finish to the season. Cordero is the best catching prospect the Mets have, so holding him back is another sign that this front office is dedicated to showing patience with its best prospects. Maron, a graduate of Hicksville High School, will split time with Cordero behind the plate after hitting .318/.434./.413 at Kingsport last year, which has gotten him some recognition as a legitimate prospect. The combination of Cordero and Maron should make catcher a position of strength for the Sand Gnats this year, which is a great thing to go along with the great pitching staff Savannah has. Last year’s Gnats were one out away from winning a championship and this year’s team has a chance to match or exceed that. Last year’s team did it with pitching and this year’s team has as much if not more pitching than last year’s team. There is also a good collection position players sprinkled in, which should make Savannah an interesting team to watch in 2012.