Savannah Sand Gnats Roundup – Plus, The 2012 Brooklyn Cyclones’ Sensational Six; How Are They Doing Now?


Entering Saturday’s action down in Savannah, the trio of first baseman Jayce Boyd, catcher Kevin Plawecki, and center fielder Brandon Nimmo continue to rake in the South Atlantic League.  Jayce  Boyd remains the lone Sally League player hitting above .400, with a robust .420 average.  Kevin Plawecki is second in the league with a .390 average, while Nimmo is sixth in the circuit at a .367 clip.  Boyd ranks second with twenty-two runs batted in, while Plawecki places fourth with twenty.  Kevin Plawecki still leads the league in slugging with a .688 mark.  Jayce Boyd is fourth with a .608 slugging average, while Boyd at .505, and Brandon Nimmo with a .463 mark both lead the Sally League in OBP.

February 27, 2012; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; A general view of baseballs during New York Mets spring training workouts at Digital Domain Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

As of 6:00pm this evening, Rainy Lara took the mound for Savannah in game two of a four game set against Orlando Castro and the West Virginia Power.  At the time of this posting, he was through three innings, had allowed one hit, and fanned four in a scoreless game.  The Sand Gnats won Friday evening 4-2.  Julian Hilario earned the win pitching in relief of starter Steven Matz and reliever Tim Peterson.

After attending Brooklyn Cyclones games for the last twelve seasons, I can tell you with certainty that the New York Penn League is a pitcher’s league.  Many young hurlers thrive at the level only to eventually short circuit at AA-Binghamton.  Generally speaking, batters in this circuit are still trying to learn how to make adjustments at the plate and hit breaking pitches.  So with command of a lively fastball, and proficiency with a secondary pitch, hurlers have a very distinct edge over hitters.  While superlative pitching ultimately didn’t translate into a 2012 NYPL championship, runner-up Brooklyn’s starting rotation dominated the New York Penn League last year.  Any one of six Brooklyn starting pitchers were capable of climbing the hill, and shutting down the opposition.

This season, four members of Brooklyn’s former rotation are pitching in Savannah, while the other two are in high-A Port St. Lucie.  Starting with the Sand Gnats Four, this evening’s starting pitcher, Rainy Lara, 22, made twelve starts last season, posting an 8-3 record with a 2.91 ERA.  In sixty-eight innings pitched he limited opponents to fifty-three hits and only issued twelve walks, good for a stellar 0.96 WHIP.  He struck out seventy-seven batters.  After three starts this season, and 16.2 innings, his record stands at 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA.  Lara so far has allowed sixteen hits and walked three for a 1.14 WHIP.  He has fifteen strikeouts.

Julian Hilario, 22, pitched two innings of scoreless relief for Savannah Friday evening, allowing no hits, one walk, and striking out two en route to picking up his second win of the season.  In 2013, Hilario has been utilized strictly out of the bullpen, making seven appearances so far over 11.1 innings.  His ERA is up at 3.97, with 2-1 record, and one save.  He has allowed eleven hits and two walks for a 1.15 WHIP.  He didn’t shine perhaps as brightly in Brooklyn as his other teammates last season.  In ten games and twelve starts, he pitched 55.2 innings and posted a 4-4 record to go along with a solid 3.23 earned run average.  He allowed sixty-two hits and twenty walks for a somewhat lofty 1.47 WHIP.  He struck out forty-five batters.

Luis Cessa, 21, made thirteen starts in 2012, and posted a 5-4 record with a 2.49 ERA.  In seventy-two innings pitched, he limited opponents to sixty-four hits and only issued thirteen walks – good for a 1.06 WHIP.  He struck out forty-four batters.  To begin 2013 in Savannah, Luis is 2-0 after three starts and 17.2 innings pitched.  He currently sports a stellar 1.02 ERA.  He has allowed fifteen hits so far, and walked only two batters for a 0.96 WHIP.  He’s fanned sixteen.

Still only nineteen years old and the youngest of the lot, Gabriel Ynoa is 2-2 after four starts this season for the Sand Gnats, with 21.1 innings pitched so far.  His ERA is a respectable 3.38, and he has nineteen strikeouts so far.  He’s allowed seventeen hits and walked six, for a 1.08 WHIP.  In thirteen starts last season for the Cyclones, Ynoa posted a 5-2 record with a 2.23 ERA.  In seventy-six innings pitched, he limited opponents to sixty-one hits and only issued ten walks, good for a stellar 0.93 WHIP.  He struck out sixty-four batters.

Down in Port St. Lucie, Hansel Robles, 22, is off to a 2-1 start after four appearances and 21.2 innings pitched.  His ERA stands at 2.49, while his WHIP is 1.06 after allowing seventeen hits and six walks.  He has sixteen strikeouts so far.  Last year in Brooklyn, he posted a 6-1 record, with a low 1.11 ERA.  In seventy-two innings pitched, he limited opponents to forty-seven hits and only issued ten walks, good for a 1.07 WHIP.  He struck out sixty-six batters.

Rounding out Brooklyn’s superlative six from a season ago, Luis Mateo, now twenty-three years old, had a stellar 2012 season in Brooklyn as well.  He made twelve starts and posted a 2.45 ERA in seventy-three innings pitched.  He limited hitters to fifty-seven hits, struck out eighty-five batters, and walked just nine.  This season, Mateo (who has missed some time due to injury)  has made one appearance at St. Lucie, and recently made his second appearance of the season in Binghamton.  He has eleven strikeouts in 9.1 innings pitched.

I believe it is safe to say that so far Brooklyn’s Class of ’12 is progressing quite nicely.  Judging pitchers out of the New York Penn League is no exact science, as I am still assessing Dylan Owen‘s progression through the Mets system, and pondering what went wrong.  He represents a classic example of promising careers gone awry.  During his first pro season with Brooklyn in 2007, he made thirteen starts, posted a 9-1 record, and finished with a 1.49 ERA.  In seventy-two innings, he limited opponents to fifty-one hits and only issued twelve walks – good for a 0.87 WHIP.  He struck out sixty-nine batters.  The numbers were remarkably similar to the one posted by Brooklyn’s rotation last season.  Dylan Owen then proceeded to regress more and more the further he advanced through the system.

Last season with Buffalo, he made twenty-eight appearances (ten starts).  In seventy-six innings pitched, he allowed eighty-one hits and issued forty-two walks, for a 1.65 WHIP while striking out a disappointing thirty-six batters.  This season, he has finally been relegated to the bullpen, or, should I say exiled?  After 10.2 innings this season all in relief, he currently owns an 8.44 earned run average.  That, not incidentally, represents the normal trials and tribulations of a young minor league prospect trying to make it in the bigs.

UPDATE: SATURDAY FINAL – Rainy Lara Pours Down on West Virginia, Short Circuiting The Power, 1-0 

The Savannah Sand Gnats defeated the West Virginia Power behind a combined 1-0 shutout effort led by starting pitcher Rainy Lara.  He pitched into the eighth inning (7.1 innings), allowing no runs on just five hits.  Lara walked no batters and struck out nine before exiting the game.  He earned his third (3-1) victory of the season, and lowered his ERA to 1.88.

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