Originally created 09/08/01

A final look at the 2001 GreenJackets

They sat around the clubhouse awhile and thought about what might have been.

What if Tony Blanco didn't get hurt? What if Seung Song and Rich Rundles still headlined their starting rotation. What if they still had Justin Sherrod's bat in the lineup and his leadership in the clubhouse?

Ten minutes later, the Augusta GreenJackets were finished looking back and were already looking ahead.

Such is the beauty of minor-league baseball.

"It's always tough to lose like this and know your season is over, but it was a great year for all of us," said shortstop Kenny Perez after the Jackets' season ended Thursday night with a 9-2 loss to the Asheville Tourists in Game 3 of the South Atlantic League divisional playoffs. "Now it's time to get ready for instructional league and start looking ahead to next year."

But before moving forward, here is one final look at the 2001 GreenJackets, who posted a 74-65 record and made the South Atlantic League playoffs for the seventh straight season.

Most Valuable Player

Justin Sherrod

The versatile 22-year-old carried the club offensively in the first half, batting .290 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI in 87 games to earn a much-deserved trip to the SAL All-Star Game and an eventual promotion to high-A Sarasota. The 2000 19th-round pick played a number of positions, including third base, first base and the corner outfield spots. Not bad for a guy who lost his starting third base job in early May when Tony Blanco arrived in Augusta.

Most Valuable Pitcher

Dan Giese

The Augusta rotation was loaded with prospects, but no one had a greater impact on the club's success than the 24-year-old reliever with the uncanny command. Giese led the club in appearances (46), posted a 6-4 record and nine saves in 74 innings, issued only eight walks and struck out 95.

Biggest turnaround

Mauricio Lara

The 22-year-old left-hander entered the year as one of the Red Sox's up-and-coming pitching prospects, but his development was derailed by inconsistency and injuries at the start of the season. But after losing his first three decisions and posting an ERA above 4.00 in the first half, Lara came back strong after the all-star break and showed why he is projected as a big-league setup man, finishing 7-6 with a 3.02 ERA in 19 starts.

Biggest surprise

Rene Miniel

You knew the 20-year-old righthander had a good fastball and curveball, but no one could have predicted the command he displayed and how quickly he matured in 2001. Miniel started the year in the bullpen, but by year's end emerged as one of the top starters in the SAL. He finished 10th in the league with a 2.73 ERA, posted an 8-4 record, while striking out a club-high 114 batters and walking 38 in 122 innings.

Top pitching prospect

Seung Song

The 21-year-old South Korean was probably too advanced for the SAL, but what he did in a Jackets uniform solidified his standing as one of the brightest young pitching prospects in the low minors. Song posted a 2.04 ERA, struck out 79 and walked only 18 in 75 innings, and was even better after a promotion to high-A Sarasota. His stuff is good, his command is great, and his makeup is outstanding.

Top position prospect

Tony Blanco

Just when the 19-year-old Dominican slugger gave the Red Sox a glimpse of his vast potential, he was shut down for the season, undergoing shoulder surgery two weeks ago. In his first full pro season, Blanco slumped in late June and July, but showed his phenomenal power during a torrid August. Blanco finished with a .265 average, 17 home runs and 65 RBI in 96 games, and has one of the strongest throwing arms in the game. He should make a full recovery from a slightly torn rotator cuff and continue on the fast track to the big leagues in 2002.

Biggest disappointment

Rick Asadoorian

Great kid, but so far, the 1999 first-round pick by the Red Sox has been a bust. Asadoorian batted .212 in 116 games with the Jackets with six homers and 40 RBI. He struck out a club-high 139 times, and mentally beat himself up after every whiff. While he's proven to be an above-average defensive center fielder, he has a long way to go as a hitter. Don't be surprised if he starts the 2002 season back in Augusta.

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or robm99@hotmail.com.


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