A recent run of six losses in seven games has put the Beloit Snappers nearly out of contention for a top-two finish in the Midwest League Western Division and berth in the Midwest League playoffs. The Snappers currently sit at 31-32 and four games in back of second place Kane County. Cedar Rapids holds a half-game lead over the Cougars in first. Beloit had stood at 29-26 following a 4-3 win in the first game of a doubleheader at Wisconsin on June 4th. However, the Snappers would lose the second game of the twin bill and go on to drop three of four at Burlington and at home against Quad Cities. Manager Scott Steinmann’s team rebounded to shut out the River Bandits last night, 1-0, but now have a lot of ground to make up over the next week.
The Beloit pitching staff currently resides in the top one-fourth of the MWL in team ERA with a 3.51 mark, but have seen that mark increase by half of a run over the past four weeks. The Snappers rank seventh in WHIP (1.30). The staff continues to keep the ball in the park, as Snappers hurlers have allowed the third-lowest homers this season (36). The past month was a big one for strikeouts, as the Snappers climbed from ninth in the MWL at last report to third with 569 punch-outs. However, those have come at a price as they’ve gone from the second-fewest walks issued to ninth with 214.
Offensively, the Snappers continue to reside in the top-half of the MWL standings in most categories, including batting average (.252/6th), home runs (46/6th), on-base percentage (.328/6th), slugging percentage (.383/7th) and OPS (.711/5th). One of the few notable categories where the Snappers rank in the bottom-half of the league is strikeouts (553/5th-most).
Beloit hit the road this morning for a brief three-game series at Clinton, which begins tonight with right-hander Brandon Bailey taking the hill against the Lumber Kings’ Robert Duggar. A three-game set at home this weekend against Quad Cities will wrap up the season’s first half. Beloit will have two players represented at next week’s MWL All-Star Game, infielder Nate Mondou and outfielder Luke Persico (Brendan Butler and Dalton Sawyer also made the team, but both have since been promoted out of the MWL).
Comings and Goings
A pair of young hurlers, Panamanian Abdiel Mendoza and Venezuelan Jhenderson Hurtado, were sent out to extended spring training on Monday after brief stints with the Beloit Snappers. Mendoza started on Sunday against Quad Cities and allowed four earned runs on three hits in 2.1 innings, striking out two and walking three. Mendoza filled in for Dalton Sawyer, who was summoned to Nashville for a spot start. Hurtado came in in relief that same day and the results were much the same as Mendoza’s, as he surrendered two earned runs on four hits in 2.2 innings, striking out two and walking a pair.
Taking the place of Mendoza and Hurtado were two other pitchers, former Chicago Cubs 13th-round pick Kyle Twomey and right-hander Joseph Camacho.
Twomey, who was released by Chicago in the spring and soon signed by the A’s, pitched two seasons in the Cubs’ organization and put up solid numbers for short-season Eugene and Low-A South Bend. In 96.1 innings with the Cubs’ organization, Twomey had a 3.18 ERA and a 97:41 K:BB with a .237 BAA. Twomey was selected out of high school by the A’s in the third round of the 2012 draft, but went unsigned and chose to pitch at USC.
Camacho had spent the first two months at Extended Spring Training after debuting with the AZL A’s last summer and posting a 3.03 ERA in 19 relief appearances. In 29.2 innings, the El Paso, Texas, native allowed 10 runs on 27 hits while posting a 22:6 K:BB rate.
After being activated from the disabled list on June 7th, Beloit lost reliever Nick Highberger just three days later when he was re-injured. Highberger made a relief appearance a day after being activated and allowed one earned run on two hits in an inning of work. He was placed back on the DL June 10th.
The A’s summoned one of the staff’s top starting pitchers, right-hander Brendan Butler, to High-A Stockton on June 6th. Being forced to repeat Low-A at the start of the year, Butler had shown the organization all he needed by posting a 2.32 ERA across 12 appearances (nine starts). He compiled a 64:13 K:BB rate in 54.1 innings before heading west.
In corresponding moves on May 31st, the Snappers lost outfielder Michael Martin again to a second DL stint and called up infielder Jean Carlo Rodriguez from extended spring training. In his second year at Low-A Beloit, Martin has been unable to match his 2016 production largely due to injuries. The former 33rd round selection out of Harvard has slashed just .256/.323/.360 in 22 games this season, after going for .298/.372/.347 a year ago. Rodriguez, who is back with the Snappers for a second season, has appeared in eight games at the Low-A and Double-A levels in 2017. His combined slash line at both levels is .190/.244/.357.
Oakland swapped out struggling starting pitcher Dakota Chalmers for Zack Erwin on May 27th. A third-round selection out of high school in 2015, Chalmers, who will open with short-season Vermont once its season begins, threw remarkably well in some spots but could never pitch consistently due to command issues. He posted a 4.34 ERA in 10 appearances (five starts) and 29 innings, striking out 47 but issuing 29 walks.
A 2015 fourth-round pick by the Chicago White Sox out of Clemson, Erwin is holding his own with Beloit. The 23-year old right-hander has allowed just two earned runs on 14 hits and posted a 17:4 K:BB in 15.2 innings. Erwin is trying to re-establish himself as a prospect following a forgettable 2016 in which he posted 4-10 record and 6.32 ERA in 23 appearances (20 starts) across the High-A and Low-A levels. He had off-season elbow surgery and began the year completing his rehab at Extended.
A minor groin injury forced Bailey to the DL from May 12-18, which afforded reliever Sam Sheehan the opportunity to get the call from extended spring training. A 31st-round selection last June out of Westmont College, Sheehan is getting his first taste of full-season ball and has responded relatively well with a 3.38 ERA in his first nine relief appearances. He has an 18:8 K:BB rate in 13.1 innings of work.
One of the returning starting pitchers from 2016, right-hander Michael Murray was lost to injury in mid-May and will be out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Prior to the injury, Murray had posted a 2.54 ERA in eight appearances (four starts) and 28.1 innings of work. To replace him, the club called up reliever Seth Martinez from extended spring training. A 2016 17th-round selection out of Arizona State, the right-hander has served as the long man in the bullpen. He’s posted a minuscule 1.76 ERA and 12:6 K:BB in 15.1 innings of work.
There’s not much doing with the Snappers offense since the slide of six losses in eight games began, as the team has scored just 21 runs during the slump. One of the few bright spots of late has been infielder Edwin Diaz, who has gone 6-for-14 over his past four games to raise his season slash line to .287/.376/.479. His 855 OPS is 62 points higher than any other member of Beloit’s roster.
After some mixed results during much of the season, first baseman Miguel Mercedes has started to heat up. The 21-year-old native of the Dominican Republic has gone 10-for-32 in his past 10 games, good for a .313 batting average. His season slash line now resides at .230/.295/.451.
Right-handed reliever Xavier Altamirano has become a force out of the Beloit bullpen, and now has a scoreless streak of 23.1 innings following his lights-out appearance on Monday night against Quad Cities that pushed his season ERA to 1.88. Altamirano’s scoreless streak covers his past seven appearances, a span in which he’s scattered 16 hits and posted an 18:6 K:BB rate.
Following a rough outing at home against Clinton on May 30th, fellow reliever Heath Bowers has recovered nicely with two scoreless outings at Wisconsin and Burlington in which he allowed just one hit in five innings.
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