Walter Triebel spent 15 years as an adjunct faculty member at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has had an extensive career in business and as a textbook and reference book author. Triebel’s “Road-Tripping the South Atlantic League: A Guide to the Teams, Ballparks and Cities“ was published by McFarland in 2016. It’s available for purchase on their website as well as Amazon.
Enjoy all of his 2018 Greensboro Grasshoppers coverage on Fish Stripes.
The South Atlantic League all-star break, which took place from Monday June 18th through Wednesday June 20th, marked the transition from the first half to second half of the league’s season. Here I will look back at the players that led the offense and pitching staff of the Miami Marlins class A affiliate in the SAL, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, at the end of the first half of the 2018 SAL season.
As the second half of the season unfolds, traditionally the players in a team’s offense and pitching leaders group evolve and in some cases change dramatically. One of the key reasons is that players who had an outstanding first half season may get promoted within the Miami Marlins Minor League system. Alternately, a team leading player may get injured and miss a large number of second half games or occasionally a player gets traded to another Major League Club. For those reasons, their team leading stat total might get passed up by other players that remain active as the South Atlantic League season continues or they may no longer meet the minimum qualifications for statistic categories such as AVE, OBP, SLG, OPS, ERA, WHIP, or W-L%.
For that reason, it is interesting to take a look at the players that had a great start during the first half of the Grasshoppers Minor League season and recognize the role they served in their team’s success.
*Minimum of 186 plate appearances to qualify (based on 69 games and an average of 2.7 plate appearances/game)
First, I will identify the players that ranked #1 on the Greensboro Grasshoppers team in one or more of thirteen traditional offense statistic categories listed on the team’s official website. Then, I will highlight a few of those players. The table of Figure 1 lists each of the offense stats I examined and the Grasshoppers player or players that ranked number 1 on the team in them at the close of the first half of the South Atlantic League season. The information provided in the table includes the name of the player(s) that ranked #1 in the stat, the value of his team leading statistic, the position he played most frequently during the first half of the season, whether he throws right or left handed, bats from the right or left side of the plate, and which year the 2018 season is of his Minor League career.
As mentioned earlier the AVE, OBP, SLG, and OPS stat categories have a minimum plate appearance requirement for a player to qualify as the team leader. The caption for Figure 1 identifies that the Greensboro Grasshoppers played 69 games during the first half of the 2018 South Atlantic League season. Note that a player must have averaged 2.7 plate appearances (PA) per team game, which gives a minimum requirement of 186. The Grasshopper website includes a player’s at bats (AB), not their PA. The formula for calculating a player’s plate appearances is: PA= AB(at bats)+BB(base on balls)+HBP(hit by pitches)+SF(sacrifice flies)+SH(sacrifice hits/bunts).
A look at the table of Figure 1 shows that at the all-star break two of Greensboro’s field players were having excellent seasons with the bat and each led or was tied for #1 on the team in four offense statistic categories. They are shortstop Jose Devers and left fielder Jhonny Santos. Devers is an International player from the Dominican Republic that was signed by the New York Yankees as a free agent in July 2016 at the age of 17. In 2017, he played briefly for the DSL Yankees in the Dominican Summer League; came to the United States for the start of the Gulf Coast League 2017 season; and was the opening day starting shortstop and leadoff hitter of theNew York Yankees rookie class team—the GCL Yankees East. However, during the 2017 offseason, he was one of the players received by the Miami Marlins in the trade that sent Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees.
Jose Devers, who is currently ranked the #21 MLB prospect in the Marlins Minor League organization, was assigned to the Greensboro roster shortly after the start of the 2018 South Atlantic League season. He immediately took over a starting role. Devers regularly plays short for the Grasshoppers, but occasionally fills in at second base. Moreover, he typically hits in the two hole in their batting order and serves as a tablesetter in their lineup. Figure 2 is a photo of Devers leading off first base at First National Bank Field in Greensboro, NC.
The table in Figure 1 shows that at the close of the first half of the 2018 South Atlantic League season Devers ranked #1 among all qualifying player on the Grasshoppers roster in runs scored (27-tied with center fielder Thomas Jones), hits (59), triples (4), and batting average (.284). However, at that point in the season, he also ranked number 2 on the team to Jhonny Santos in on-base percentage (.326), slugging percentage (.365), and on-base plus slugging percentage (.691). Based on his excellent performance during the first half of the season, Jose Devers was selected to represent the Greensboro Grasshoppers on the Northern Division All-Star Team. In fact, he was the designated hitter in the North’s starting lineup and hit in the #2 slot in their batting order.
Similar to Devers, Jhonny Santos is an International player; however, he is from Panama. The Miami Marlins signed Santos as a free agent in July 2013 at the age of 16. The next season he began his professional baseball career playing for the Marlins rookie class team in the Dominican Summer League—the DSL Marlins. Therefore, 2018 is his 5th season playing in Miami’s Minor League organization. In fact, Santos had also played parts of the 2016 and 2017 season with the Greensboro Grasshoppers in the South Atlantic League.
Santos has had a breakout season in 2018. On opening day of the season, he was Greensboro’s starting left fielder and #9 hitter. Early in May he got hot with the bat; moved up in the Grasshopper’s batting order; and then typically hit in the #3 hole. The photo in Figure 3 shows Santos at the plate taking a cut at a pitch in a home game earlier this season at First National Bank Field.
As shown in the table of Figure 1, at the mid-season break Jhonny Santos ranked #1 on the team in stolen bases (12), on-base percentage (.335), slugging percentage (.443), and on-base plus slugging percentage (.778). Moreover, he finished the first half of the season ranking #2 on the team in doubles (14), triples (2-tied with 1 other player), runs batted in (23-tied with 1 other), total bases (81), and batting average (.279). Like Devers, Jhonny Santos represented the Greensboro Grasshoppers on the Northern Division All-Star Team in the 2018 South Atlantic League All-Star Game. Santos also was a starter for the North. He played center field and batted 9th in their lineup.
After the start of the second half season, Jhonny Santos expanded his leadership role relative to the Greensboro Grasshoppers offense. As of July 7th, he still ranked #1 on the team in SB, OBP, SLG, and OPS stats, but has taken over the team lead in the doubles, runs batted in, total bases, and base on balls offense statistic categories. However, on that day, Santos was promoted to the Jupiter Hammerheads—the Miami Marlins advanced A class team in the Florida State League.
At this point in time, three of the Greensboro Grasshoppers mid-season offense leaders have departed for the Jupiter Hammerheads: Aaron Knapp (promoted May 1), Lazaro Alonso (promoted June 27), and Jhonny Santos (promoted July 7). Who will the Grasshoppers end of season offense leader be? Jose Devers is a primary candidate; however, other current leaders, center fielder Thomas Jones or shortstop Marcos Rivera, might take the lead in more stat categories. Finally, some other player might have a great second half and move into contention. Only time will tell.