Wednesday, September 4 - 7:05 p.m. (SAL First Round - Game 1)
Savannah Sand Gnats (34-35, 77-61)
Gabriel Ynoa (135.2 IP, 2.72 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 19.6 K%, 3 BB%, .278 BABIP)
Augusta GreenJackets (44-24, 82-55)
Martin Agosta (91.2 IP, 2.06 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 29.3 K%, 11.6 BB%, .254 BABIP)
The top two positional prospects on the Savannah roster are center fielder Brandon Nimmo and second baseman Dilson Herrera.
Nimmo entered the season ranked third in the New York Mets system by Baseball America. The Wyoming native never played high school baseball because the state doesn't offer it, so he played American Legion ball and proved enough of an athlete for the Mets to take notice, getting drafted 13th overall in 2011.
Nimmo is built like a rock at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds. He might eventually move off center field, as the rawness shows in his reads off the bat and routes to the ball, but he has the athleticism to play the position. He has an advanced feel at the plate, showing a solid approach and recording 71 walks in 480 plate appearances. But the power hasn't come around for the 20-year-old yet, hitting just two home runs and 16 doubles this season.
Savannah is the toughest park to hit a home run in the minor leagues, but Nimmo's lack of power has more to do with the swing than anything. His left-handed swing doesn't have much natural loft and is more line-drive oriented, which helps explain a line drive percentage at or above average so far in his pro career, as well as an above-average ground ball rate. Although he has the body to hit home runs, his swing might not allow it in the future.
Herrera was involved in a trade between the Mets and Pirates that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh on Aug. 27. Herrera, ranked 20th in the Pirates system prior to the season, is a small second baseman with surprising pop and some speed; he has combined for 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases this year. He hit .265/.330/.421 for West Virginia before moving to Savannah in the trade, so far hitting .316 in 24 plate appearances for the Sand Gnats.
Herrera is a 19-year-old with good skills at second base who won't wow anyone with numbers, but he shows solid instincts and athleticism.
Maikis De La Cruz is a small outfielder who has put together a good season for the Sand Gnats, hitting .261/.342/.372 with 20 doubles and 17 stolen bases. Cole Frenzel has some pop, hitting 24 doubles and seven homers, and can get on base, collecting 51 walks and a .333 on-base percentage. Eudy Pina has the most home runs among players who have been in Savannah all season, hitting 10 with 21 stolen bases and a .334 on-base percentage.
The numbers may not wow you, but the GreenJackets are hitting their stride offensively. They recently got Jesus Galindo back, which adds speed and a tough out at the top of the lineup. Combine that with Shawn Payne, and you have two athletic outfielders with the ability to get on base and disrupt a pitcher.
Mitch Delfino has come on strong down the stretch and has been a big reason for the turnaround in the second half, hitting .270/.324/.413 with 13 home runs. Joey Rapp isn't far behind after a poor start to the season, hitting .267/.328/.375 with six home runs.
Chuckie Jones shouldn't be forgotten, as he adds a third athletic bat to the outfield. He's now hitting .236/.321/.371 with 10 home runs and 12 stolen bases, flashing plus power at times and adding above-average speed.
Perhaps the biggest strength of the team is its defense. The GreenJackets make the routine plays more than any Class-A team I've ever seen, and that's all you can ask for at this level. They are steady up the middle with a combination of Alberto Robles and Travious Relaford, the catching has been excellent all season, and the outfield has good range. Making the routine plays shows up in the playoffs more than ever.
It's misleading because players come and go, but Augusta's team slash is .250/.320/.352, while Savannah's is .242/.333/.341. Both are pretty good indicators of the current hitting styles. The GreenJackets have a bit higher average and are getting hits at a higher rate right now, while the Sand Gnats know how to take walks and get on base in different ways.
Both ballparks rank at the bottom of the minors in home run difficulty, with Savannah at No. 1 and Augusta at No. 2. Grayson Stadium in Savannah is very spacious from left- to right-center, and the air is heavy at sea level. Hitters will have to poke it down the lines to get it out, but the gaps can play in their favor if they have speed.
Lake Olmstead Stadium is also spacious in the gaps and in center, and it takes near-elite power to go deep in center (two home runs to CF this year). The lines aren't as difficult to go deep on, especially to left field. Augusta is also one of the lower ballparks in the league in terms of sea level, and the wind off Lake Olmstead often blows in.