With only two weeks remaining in the South Atlantic League season, opportunities are running out to see the Savannah Sand Gnats.
As is always the case with baseball, theres never a guarantee to see your favorite player back with the same team next year. Some of the younger Gnats may be back at Historic Grayson Stadium for 2005, but many will be moving on to bigger and better things.
Heres a look at the Sand Gnats they way they might be in a year.
Pitchers have the most potential to make a leap up the minor league ladder over an off-season. Daryl Thompson is likely to remain with Savannah for a second season, however, because he is so young.
The right-hander from Mechanicsville, MD., wont turn nineteen until November, and while he has shown signs of brilliance, he has been inconsistent. He has a record of 4-8 with a 4.84 earned run average, mostly as a starter.
A couple of current Sand Gnats catchers may also remain on for 2005. Devin Ivany and Erick San Pedro are the only Gnats that were chosen in the 2004 draft, Ivany in the sixth round and San Pedro the second. Both played their college ball in southern Florida and are known for solid hitting and working well with pitchers.
In their limited time in Savannah, Ivany and San Pedro have not displayed their full potential. Expect to see at least one of the two catchers back next season.
Its possible that Josh Whitesell, the Sand Gnats leading power man this season, could be assigned to Savannah next year. If not, Victor Hamisevicz could get a shot at being the everyday first baseman.
The Expos selected Hamisevicz out of Gonzaga High School in Virginia with their tenth pick of the 2003 draft. Still only nineteen, the young left-hander may need more time before Sand Gnats fans get to see him.
The Vermont Expos are one step below the Sand Gnats on Montreals minor league ladder. In terms of offensive success for Vermont this season, Brad Ditter has been the top producer.
The left-handed hitting second baseman has a .336 average, including batting .364 against right-handed pitchers. Older than the average Gnat due to his time at New Mexico State University, Ditter is a line-drive hitter with solid potential.
Ian Desmond could be the next shortstop to call Grayson Stadium home. The 18-year old played high school ball in Sarasota, Fla., and was selected in this years third round.
He is said to be solid defensively with a good arm and the potential to grow into a power hitter.
The hot corner could provide a familiar face for Gnats fans, although it likely wont be current third baseman Kory Casto. With Castos likely advancement, Ofilio Castro could make his Savannah return.
Castro played in ten games with the Gnats at the beginning of 2004, but has been Vermonts regular third baseman and occasional shortstop fill-in.
The majority of the outfield slots will likely go to players who have been with Savannah this season. Antonio Sucre batted .286 in the first month of the season, but has hovered around .240 recently.
Sucre is currently out of the lineup with a minor injury, but should definitely be ready for a second go-round with the Gnats in 2005.
Edgardo Baez was essentially the everyday right fielder for Savannah for the first two months of this season, but he did not perform as well as hoped and was moved down to Vermont.
His average has been more than eighty points higher since the move, and last years fourth round pick has a great chance to be promoted again next year.
Rounding out the potential 2004 Gnats is a talented outfielder by the name of Marvin Lowrance. The Expos seventh pick of 2004, Lowrance is not yet a great defender but has batted over .300 for Vermont and is expected to develop into a power hitter from the left side.
While this will almost definitely not be the Sand Gnats exact 2005 opening day lineup, it may represent the majority of those players. Minor league baseball is all about developing potential, and with these players the Gnats coaches will have plenty to work with.