Augusta was the Must Watch roster in the system this year, giving last year’s 1st and 2nd rounders Heliot Ramos and Jacob Gonzalez challenging full season assignments. A college heavy rotation from the 2017 draft pushed the team to great success early on -- they had the league’s best record through the first two months of the year -- but promotions chipped away at that strength and the team struggled badly through the middle months before rebounding to a near .500 record. That staff ended up featuring four different 100 strikeout pitchers -- the first time in the Giants’ Sally league history that they’ve had such a group.
This was the first season in Augusta’s new stadium, and while the lighting was indisputably improved from old Lake Olmstead Stadium, the new home field did not appear to be much more hitter-friendly than the old, as the team had generally low offensive production across the roster.
Season Summary: Overall Standings - 67-70, 3rd place in the South Atlantic League South division
Roger - Ryan Kirby, 23 yrs. old, 1b, .232/.331/.403, 14 HRs
Taking his second shot at Augusta following an All Star campaign in the NWL in 2017, Kirby ended up leading Augusta in HRs (14), doubles (32), SLG, OPS, and RBIs (61) while being second on the team in Walks. Kirby gives the team one of its few, genuine 1b prospects, offering some power, good patience and a very smooth glove at 1b.
Kevin - Manuel Geraldo, 21 yrs old, SS, .294/.337/.385, 24 SBs
Let’s be honest, this was a team that didn’t have a real standout leader all season. Kirby and his power was a fine pick, but I’m going with the streaky Geraldo. Geraldo had two huge months that really powered his stats, particularly a May where he hit six of his nine home runs and stole 11 of his 24 bases. Geraldo may not look like a shortstop long-term defensively, and seems to be a candidate to shift to second at some point, but definitely showed his upside offensively.
Rookie Of The Year
Kevin - Heliot Ramos, 18 yrs. old, OF, .245/.313/.396
Yeah, there wasn’t going to be much of a surprise here. There’s no doubt that Ramos had numbers that won’t impress anyone, but Ramos stayed healthy and showed a couple of streaks of better play, particularly to finish out the season’s final month. He was young and raw, and the numbers weren’t really a surprise to me. What mattered was seeing how he worked through his struggles on-field and responded to adversity. From the first-hand reports, such as Augusta’s David Lee, it sounds like he passed that with flying colors.
Roger - Heliot Ramos, 18 yrs. old, OF, .245/.313/.396
Much of conversation among Giants’ prospect fans in 2018 revolved around how to interpret the 18 year old’s full-season debut. While the numbers weren’t eye-popping, Ramos led the team in TBs with 192, and finished with the team’s 3rd best OPS, just 26 points behind 1b Ryan Kirby. His 11 HRs, 24 doubles and 52 RBIs were all second best on the team (again behind Kirby). And he gave the team strong up the middle OF defense. All while playing as the third youngest hitter in the league.
Best Returning Player
Roger - Manuel Geraldo, 21 yrs old, SS, .294/.337/.385, 24 SB
Geraldo was pushed straight to full season ball from the Dominican Summer League back in 2016 and the challenging assignment proved too much for the then 19 year old. But after two successful seasons with Salem-Keizer, the switch-hitting SS finally broke out in an All Star season in the Sally, including a torrid May when he was the league’s Player of the Month. Oddly, Geraldo hit 6 of his 18 career HRs in that lone month, but hit just two the remainder of the year. Still his .722 OPS was a career best as he appeared stronger and more physical this year. He also finished 7th in the league in SB.
Kevin - Manuel Geraldo
You know how many players were at SRP Park that had experience playing at Lake Olmstead? Maybe a half-dozen! Well, I took Garaldo for MVP, but I’ll have to put him here again. Geraldo had hit in the .160s in two previous attempts at taking on Augusta, so his breakout this year was much-needed.
Best Starting Pitcher
Kevin - John Gavin, 22 yrs old, LHP, 2.08 ERA, 111 Ks, 37 BBs, 95 IP, .167 BAA
There’s no doubt that pitching was the strength of Augusta’s team, especially in the first half. While the now-traded Jason Bahr was probably the top prospect of the group, Gavin will be my pick here. Gavin showed an exceptional ability to miss bats while he was in Augusta. He struggled on that end in six starts at San Jose, but the Bay Area native should bounce back going forward.
Roger - Aaron Phillips, 21 yrs old, RHP, 3.72 ERA, 120 Ks, 16 BBs, 101.2 IP
There’s a lot of competition for this honor, between the departed Jason Bahr and 2018 Sally All stars Joey Marciano and John Gavin (both of whom played the second half of the year in the Cal League) and the electric-armed Jose Marte. But I’ll go with Phillips, who spent the entire year in Augusta, posting an extraordinary 120 to 16 K:BB ratio. Phillips doesn’t have the life on his fastball that teammates Jose Marte, Garrett Cave, or Bahr had, but he combines with a good biting curve and has some late-bloomer type potential.
Roger - Camilo Doval, 20 yrs old, RHP, 3.06 ERA, 78 Ks 27 BBs 53 IP, 11 Saves
Doval carries one of the most explosive arms in the organization, though he’s uber-raw and has little idea how to harness that electricity as of yet. Doval opened the year by walking the first four batters he faced and eight of the first 19 over three appearances. But he straightened out and went on an epic run striking out 40 batters (to 6 walks) while not allowing a run over the next eight weeks and 24 IP. At his best he combines a plus fastball and a wicked plus slider into a lethal late innings combination.
Kevin - Frank Rubio, 23 yrs old, RHP, 1.55 ERA, 32 Ks, 6 BB, 29 IP, 11 Saves
Doval was the best reliever, but I’d like to throw a highlight here to Frank Rubio. The 29th round draft pick from last season was electric in the first half in Augusta, but his stats look a bit awful in San Jose. That’s mostly from two games he got pounded (remove one game where he got no outs, and his ERA in San Jose is 3.19. Rubio doesn’t have the strikeout numbers to look like a closer going forward, but he could be a middle relief guy.
Other Interesting Players
Roger - Jacob Gonzalez suffered a miserable second half, reminiscent of Ryder Jones time in the Sally, and perhaps the Ryder plan will be Gonzo’s guide going forward. Malique Ziegler’s year was interrupted by a long stint on the DL with a core muscle strain but the exceptional athlete showed flashes of excitement prior to the injury. The question will be whether he gains needed strength to go with his athleticism as he matures. Jeffrey Parra never got over the Mendoza Line, but the 20 year old Catcher combined soft hands, a rocket arm, and true raw power into an intriguing blend. Jose Marte pitched in the 95-97 range with life as a starter.
Kevin - Jacob Gonzalez is one of the most intriguing players here, a lot because of his bloodlines. His power is real, and there’s a bit of his swing that looks like what Bart has. But Gonzalez’s biggest issue is that he doesn’t have the reflexes to be an infielder, and I wonder when that change will happen. Logan Baldwin really made an impression on me with a lot of hustle in the outfield, and led the team with 26 steals and decent power 22 double, 10 triples and 6 home runs. He just needs to improve the hit tool and cut down on the team-leading strikeouts.