RECORD: First Half 39-31 (2nd Place); Second Half 53-16 (1st Place); Won the Southern Division Championship, Lost in the SAL Championship Series to Lakewood Blueclaws 3 games to 1.
SEASON IN REVIEW: The 2006 GreenJackets will be known for their second half burst, which made them almost as hot as the Volcanoes, but their first half wasn’t bad either. In the first half, the team ranked 5th in the SAL for both batting (.264 team average) and pitching (3.79 team ERA). After the 2nd half, Augusta was tied for second in team batting average (.271) and third for ERA (3.26). But it was the team’s speed (244 stolen bases, 2nd best in the SAL) that surprised. An athletic outfield was led by center fielder Antoan Richardson (66 SB, 3rd in the SAL), and followed by Michael Mooney (38 SB, 9th in the SAL) and Ben Copeland (30 SB, 14th in the SAL), and Rule 5 draftee Eugenio Velez added 64 stolen bases of his own (4th most in the SAL).
The team ran its way to a 53-16 record in the 2nd half, picking up an easy playoff berth. The team met the first half champion Rome Braves in the playoffs, and dispatched the Braves, sweeping the best of 3 series in the first round and picking up the South Division championship. But the team met their match in the Lakewood Blueclaws, whose top pitching bested the GreenJackets in four games out of the best of five series.
TEAM MVP: How about League MVP? Eugenio Velez was drafted in the Rule 5 draft by the Giants, and turned in a shocker of a season for everyone. Despite being a little older than ideal for the league, the 24 year old led the South Atlantic League in batting average (.315) and triples (20), while adding 29 doubles and 14 home runs, as well as the 64 stolen bases in 79 attempts. While he wasn’t a pure slugger, all his extra base hits led to a 2nd best slugging percentage (.557), and he was equally good at scoring runs (90) as he was at knocking them in (90). Velez’s well rounded game easily led a strong offensive attack in Augusta.
TOP PITCHER: Some of Augusta’s pitchers put up more eye-popping numbers, or had stronger individual appearances, but at the end of the day, no one was more consistent than Joseph Martinez. The 12th round draftee out of Boston College simply went out every game and pitched will, with a 3.01 ERA in 27 games, all starts. His 167.2 IP was tied for 2nd in the league, only to Matthew Maloney’s 168.2 IP. He had 135 strikeouts against 26 walks in that time. Through trades and injuries, Martinez was the rock of the rotation.
PLAYERS WHO STEPPED UP: The rotation had several players step up. Dave McKae’s 1.80 ERA in 18 games (14 starts) was the most impressive, with 71 K’s and 17 BB in 85 innings. Sergio Romo worked in the bullpen most of the year, and finished with a 2.53 ERA overall. However, he was much better as a starter, with a 7-0 record and a 1.91 ERA in 10 starts at the end of the season, including 7 innings of no hit ball in a combined no-hitter before breaking his hand late in the season. Kelvin Pichardo’s 3.19 ERA in 5 starts and 7 relief appearances seemed to contradict a 2-4 record.
The closing duties fell to Osiris Matos midseason, who had a 1.76 ERA and 13 saves in 44 games while he repeated the South Atlantic League. But it was middle reliever David Quinowski who mad the biggest bullpen impression. Quinowski’s 1.43 ERA in 44 games was a revelation for the 20 year old southpaw drafted in the 46th round of the 2004 draft.
Offensively, Anotan Richardson was the biggest surprise. Richardson always had speed, but his funky swing showed serious improvement, peaking with a .388 BA in July before leveling off. He’ll never be a power threat, but with a solid average and impressive plate discipline (54 BB vs 73 K’s, a .381 OBP), his speed became a real weapon.
Meanwhile, Michael Mooney followed up a big 2005 with a good all-around performance, posting the team’s second-best OPS among regulars (.795) and showing great baserunning skills, successful in his first 24 stolen base attempts and ending 38 of 48 on the paths. Mooney’s 11 home runs also were tied for 2nd on the team. Ben Copeland manned the other side of the outfield, and bounced back from a terrible April to post strong all-around stats himself, being both a threat on the basepaths and at the plate.
In the infield, the best news came from the emergence of infielder Anthony Contreras. Contreras moved around a lot, mostly playing third later in the season. He led the team in batting average most of the year, and finished with a respectable .296 average.
PLAYERS WHO DISAPPOINTED: There were two players who by far had high expectations but didn’t live up to them.
Pablo Sandoval came off of an impressive campaign in Salem-Keizer in 2005 and emerged as the organization’s top third base prospect. Not only did he lose that status with a .265/.309/.322 line in Augusta, but he didn’t even finish the season as a third baseman. The already-converted catcher had 17 errors and was moved to first base early in the summer.
Meanwhile, Dan Griffin came into the season with some high hopes after leading the 2005 NCAA Division I-A in strikeout rate. Griffin did manage 78 K’s in 72.2 innings, but a 6.35 ERA in May and an injury in early July cut short his season. The 4.46 ERA wasn’t terrible, but more was expected. It might have been better if he didn’t lose half the season to injury.
One other disappointment was Shairon Martis. Not in his performance, especially after a no-hitter in the World Baseball Classic. No, the only disappointment was in his being traded, although it did help the Giants in getting a veteran pitcher who filled in at closer.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT: The Giants have placed a premium on speed in the past two drafts, and the combination of 134 stolen bases in the Augusta outfield are a testament to that priority. With shortstop Marcus Sanders just a year ahead of the group, shortstop Emmanuel Burriss and center fielder Michael McBryde behind them, and infielder Velez part of the area, this might be a peek towards the planned future of the Giants.
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