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Individuals shine in lost season for G-Braves

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan . Gwinnett Braves Jose Constanza (17) congratulates Luis Durango (30) after scoring the first run of the game in the first inning against the Durham Bulls during opening day at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville on April 12, 2012.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan . Gwinnett Braves Jose Constanza (17) congratulates Luis Durango (30) after scoring the first run of the game in the first inning against the Durham Bulls during opening day at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville on April 12, 2012.

There's not much to wrap up for a season like this.

The Gwinnett Braves ended their fourth season in Lawrenceville way out of first, way out of the playoffs and with way more losses then wins -- a first for the Gwinnett franchise.

To wit: The team ripped off a franchise record 15 straight losses through June, a month that saw just five wins in 30 games. In that stretch the team went from being three games back and in second place to 11 games back an in last. They never fully recovered. By Aug. 24, the team was eliminated from playoff contention and finished 62-82 on the season.

But minor league baseball is a weird operation. It's not just, or hardly at all, about wins and losses. The real question is who got better and how what did the team provide the major-league club.

There was not a Freddie Freeman show of exponential growth, but Gwinnett had its share of individuals shine.

Tops on the board of consistency is Jose Constanza. Last year's fall sensation with the Atlanta Braves captured the International League's batting title with a .314 average in 88 games. He topped a Gwinnett All-Star from 2011, Mauro Gomez, for the honor and both are currently sitting in big league dugouts; Constanza in Atlanta and Gomez in Boston. Constanza ripped off a 22-game hitting streak, a franchise mark and the best in the IL since 2007.

And Constanza didn't just hit. The native of the Dominican Republic reached base in 38 straight games, coming 10 shy of the the franchise record of 48 set in 2009 by Wes Timmons.

Constanza wasn't alone in showing some individual fortitude in spite of a trying season. Ernesto Mejia was named the league's rookie of the year, leading the IL with 92 RBIs, 152 hits, 258 total bases and 514 at-bats. The speedy Luis Durango led the league with 46 stolen bases.

But in a losing season, there were plenty of troubles as well. And the trouble started with the regression of Julio Teheran.

Rookie of the year in the IL a season ago, the Braves' top pitching prospect struggled with consistency all season. A season after he lost just three games, the right-hander posted a 7-9 record with a 5.08 ERA. Compare that to 2011's 2.55. The coaches talked about his youth and his tinkering mechanics, and Teheran showed flashes of the pitcher he is supposed to be. He threw a complete game seven-hitter on June 3 and strung together 10 scoreless innings early in the year. But he also failed to get out of the fourth inning just as often, making every start a mystery.

His counterpart, Randall Delgado, another top pitching prospect, began the year in the big leagues but ended it with a 4-3 Class AAA record and a 4.06 ERA. Jair Jurrjens, a major league all-star in 2011, started 14 times for the G-Braves, being optioned twice from Atlanta.

But all three pitchers are in Atlanta now with Constanza and relievers Cory Gearrin and Peter Moylan. Moylan showed improvement in limited Class AAA action after battling back from shoulder surgery, and Gearrin earned pitcher of the year honors for the G-Braves with nine saves and a 2.30 ERA in his first minor league all-star season.

There's nowhere to go but up for the G-Braves season from here. If those on the 40-man can make an impact in Atlanta, the big Braves may get somewhere the G-Braves couldn't -- the postseason.