A streak of 11 wins in 13 games put the Beloit Snappers within a half-game of first place in the Midwest League’s West Division on August 3rd. Unfortunately, manager Scott Steinmann’s club has dropped four-straight and finds itself 4.5 games back in the division and a half-game behind Peoria for second place. If the Snappers, now 24-19 in the second half and 56-56 overall, can finish in second place in the division, they will clinch their first playoff appearance since the 2013 season.
Through Sunday, the Beloit pitching staff ranked fourth of the MWL in team ERA with a 3.45 mark, behind only West Michigan, Cedar Rapids and Kane County. The Snappers also ranked fourth in WHIP (1.27). The staff continues to keep the ball in the park, as Snappers hurlers had allowed the third-lowest homers this season (66). Not known for racking up a lot of strikeouts to start the season, Beloit has come on strong in recent months and are now fifth in the league with 954 punch outs. The Snappers have issued the fifth-fewest walks (344).
Offensively, the A’s Low-A squad sat near the middle of the MWL pack in many categories through Sunday, including batting average (.252/8th), home runs (74/10th), on-base percentage (.326/7th), slugging percentage (.375/9th) and OPS (.702/8th) and strikeouts (959/7th).
Beloit is in the midst of a critical four-game set at first-place Quad Cities, which concludes on Tuesday. The Snappers enjoy a rare day off on Wednesday before opening an eight-game homestand against Wisconsin and Clinton on Thursday.
Comings and Goings
The second half of the season typically sees plenty of transactions following the amateur draft, but this summer the Snappers have been largely unaffected as the A’s have only made 10 moves to their Low-A squad.
Infielder Trace Loehr suffered an injury last week and was placed on the seven-day disabled list on August 5th. Loehr was coming off perhaps the best month of his professional career in July, slashing .344/.364/.531 over 24 games. He went 2-for-3 against Peoria on August 3rd and had hit safely in seven of eight games before going down with the injury.
In late-July, the A’s activated Ty Damron from the disabled list. The A’s 15th-round pick in the 2016 draft out of Texas Tech, Damron spent nearly two months on the shelf. The left-hander was part of a hybrid starter/reliever at the beginning of the season, but returned to the club in a bullpen role. He’s allowed five earned runs on 12 hits in 5.2 innings across four games since being activated.
Oakland’s trade of Sonny Gray to the Yankees on July 31st for a package of prospects that included shortstop Jorge Mateo had a trickle-down effect felt down in Beloit. With Mateo assigned to Double-A Midland, Richie Martin returned to High-A Stockton while Edwin Diaz made the trek back to the Snappers. After posting a miserable .089/.160/.133 slash line in 13 games with Stockton, Diaz has just four hits in 18 at-bats since returning to the Midwest League.
In another move of infielders, Josh Vidales was transferred from High-A Stockton to Low-A Beloit and Jesus Lopez was promoted to the Snappers from short-season Vermont.
Since the move on July 12th, Vidales has been on a hot streak of sorts with hits in nine of his past 10 games. A 28th-round pick in the 2016 draft, he has a Low-A slash line .273/.415/.379 after mustering just a .206 batting average with the Ports.
Despite a rough 12-game stretch with the Lake Monsters earlier this summer, Lopez has managed to turn things around at a higher level. The Nicaragua native has a slash line of .305/.354/.356 in 17 games with the Snappers. It’s been a nice turnaround for Lopez, who struggled mightily last season in 89 Low-A games.
In a span of five days in the middle of July, Beloit outfielder Luis Barrera and pitcher Miguel Romero were sent to High-A Stockton.
Barrera spent time with the Snappers in each of the past two seasons and finally graduated to the next level after slashing .277/.320/.406 in 73 games this season. However, the Dominican Republic native has struggled in 21 games since his promotion, going just 16-for-75 with an OPS of .640.
Romero, a 23-year old Cuban, made just three starts and allowing two earned runs on three hits in eight innings with Beloit before being moved along to the next level. Likewise, Romero has seen his fair share of struggles in the California League, posting a 14.54 ERA through four appearances (one start) with the Ports.
Pitcher Mitchell Jordan spent two weeks on the disabled list in late June and was activated on July 5th. Oakland’s 10th-round selection in the 2016 draft, Jordan returned to the team in a long relief role and has seen mixed results. The right-hander allowed eight earned runs on 12 hits in four combined innings against West Michigan on July 19th and South Bend on July 24th, but has rebounded with six scoreless innings where he’s scattered five hits against Burlington on July 30th and Peoria on August 3rd.
Oakland’s 21st-round pick last year out of Eastern Kentucky, first baseman Kyle Nowlin has spent all of 2017 with the Snappers and has started to figure things out in the second half. Nowlin is now hitting .325 with nine multi-hit games and 10 extra-base hits since July 10. During that same span, he has driven in 21 runs, which is the third-most in the league. The recent uptick in production has boosted Nowlin’s season slash line to .247/.354/.393. His 59 RBIs lead the team and he rates third with 10 homers.
Fellow Snapper first baseman Miguel Mercedes is also on a hot streak as the season enters its final month. The Dominican Republic native has 13 hits in his last 44 at-bats, including four multi-hit games over his past 10, which is good for a .300 batting average. The recent stretch has pushed Mercedes’ season slash line to .240/.292/.414. Mercedes’ 15 homers this season are a team-high and he ranks third in RBIs (53).
An untimely injury sidetracked Mike Martin for two months in Beloit early this season, and the 33rd-round pick in the 2015 draft would end up landing back at short-season ball to open the season with Vermont. But Martin is finally regaining the form he had with the Snappers one year ago, racking up 15 hits in his past 44 at-bats to push his slash line to .292/.358/.370 in 52 games. Martin now has six multi-hit games in his past 10 outings.
After being picked in the 31st round of the 2015 draft, reliever John Gorman is getting his first taste of full-season ball with the Snappers. After being called up from Vermont in late-June, he’s made the most of it by allowing just two earned runs on seven hits in 13.2 innings. He has a stretch of six scoreless innings – across four appearances – in which he’s scattered four hits, striking out five and walking none.
Before allowing Peoria to score against him on August 4th, Sam Sheehan enjoyed a stretch of 12 consecutive outings without surrendering an earned run. Oakland’s 31st-round pick in the 2016 draft started his dominating stretch back on June 15th and lasted 18.1 innings, as he allowed just seven hits and struck out 24.
Despite a rough start on Monday, it’s been an impressive 2017 season for Zack Erwin in the Midwest League. Before Monday’s rough outing, he had been at his best over his past six outings. Traded to the A’s from the Chicago White Sox in the Brett Lawrie trade in December 2015, Erwin has settled in with the A’s organization after a rough 2016 that ended with him undergoing off-season elbow surgery. The 2015 fourth-rounder out of Clemson has allowed just seven earned runs on 30 hits in his past 35 innings while posting a 43:7 K:BB rate. In 14 starts this season, Erwin has posted a 5-3 record and 2.27 ERA, with 70 strikeouts and 17 walks.