Record: 48-18 (.727); 1st Place, 7 games ahead of 2nd Place Columbus
Things weren't as close as they seemed they might be, and Augusta made it final in front of their Hall-Of-Fame owner.
Augusta swept a three game series from the formerly second place Asheville Tourists at home after taking three of four from them in Asheville the previous week. Combined with a four game sweep of Savannah, and a streak that continues where the GreenJackets have won 14 of 15 games, the GreenJackets put Asheville and the Columbus Catfish away easily.
The clincher came on Tuesday, June 12th, as the GreenJackets took both sides of a doubleheader after Monday's game was rained out. Game 2's first pitch was thrown out by future Hall-Of-Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., who owns the team as part of Ripken baseball.
"I couldn't think of a better scenario than us clinching with Cal in the stands," GreenJackets general manager Nick Brown said.
Now that a playoff spot is no longer in question, the question is whether or not this is the team that the South Atlantic League will see in post-season play?
A number of promotions and shuffling often happens around this time of year, with the second half of June signaling both the ends of the first halves for the Single-A teams, the signing periods for the new year's draftees, the end of extended spring training and the start of Short-Season ball.
Whatever shuffling might happen, it probably won't be too significant. It's unlikely many of Augusta's players will be sent down as Salem-Keizer starts up. The most likely candidate is James Simmons, who was pressed out of spring training after a rash of outfield injuries in San Jose and Augusta. Some of those outfielders are back, and Simmons only played in the rookie league last year, so Salem-Keizer should be on schedule for him. As he's batting just .195, he's clearly overmatched for the time being in the South Atlantic League.
There could be some movement downward in under-performers Ryan Rohlinger, Michael McBryde and Sharlon Schoop, with the youngster Schoop being the most likely, but in all the cases there'd be some depth questions that'd have to be answered, making such moves unlikely.
As for promotions, few of the hitters have really forced the issue. The team's best hitter, Emmanuel Burriss, only started hitting after being demoted from San Jose, so he's not likely to be going back up anytime soon. Dayton Buller has also looked very good, but at this point he's more of an organizational soldier and wouldn't play behind Adam Witter and Pablo Sandoval in San Jose. There's also outfielder Matt Weston, but he'd only get a promotion if one of the starting three in San Jose, Antoan Richardson, Michael Mooney and Ben Copeland, get moved upwards. With the sudden shallow depth in the outfield at the lower levels, that again seems unlikely.
Where there could be movement is out of Augusta's star-studded rotation. San jose lost their best starter, Dave McKae, to promotion, so there's a hole. Joe Martinez and Paul Oseguera have been steady, but the other ends of their rotation (Gregorio Martinez and Ronnie Ray been underwhelming. San Jose has gotten back Darren Sack, who had a superb 2006 in San Jose but struggled at Double-A, and also has former Augusta dynamo Sergio Romo in the bullpen, seemingly ready for another starting chance. But there could be room for someone to move up. Henry Sosa has been the best, but Adam Cowart could make a case with his overall experience, as could Ben Snyder.
Since most of the Giants' high draft picks were high schoolers, it's unlikely any of them will make an immediate impact in Augusta.
So there you go. It looks like this team that won the playoffs may be mostly intact for them when they finally come around. If that's so, the rest of the South Atlantic League had better watch out.
Player of the Week: Ben Snyder
Snubbed from the All-Star game? No worries. How about being the SAL pitcher of the week for that week with a seven inning, one run, no walk, eight strikeout outing? Easy as pie. Snyder also gave up three runs the next game, but that seemed like more of a fluke, as he gave up just four hits and again walked no one in six innings.
By The Numbers: 101-24 (.808)
That's the GreenJackets record since the start of the second half last season. The GreenJackets, obviously, won both the second half last year and the first half this season.
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