Weather has been the biggest news in the early going throughout the Midwest League. Although the league is famous for poor weather the first month of the season, this year has been particularly tough, as freezing conditions, rain and snow have combined to cause massive postponements.
The Beloit Snappers have had as much bad luck with the weather as any team in the league. The Oakland A's Low-A affiliate has already had seven games postponed, including three in a row from April 17-19. The Snappers have already played three double-headers, with more on the schedule.
Despite the poor weather and fielding one of the youngest rosters in the league, the Snappers are holding their own in the early going. Through Tuesday, the Snappers were an even 8-8 and in third place in their division, 3.5 games out of first. Beloit has been playing especially well lately, winning four of their last five games.
The Snappers' series finale at Clinton was rained out on Tuesday. After Wednesday's scheduled off-day, the Snappers will be back at it again (weather-permitting) on Thursday at home against the South Bend Silver Hawks. That will be the first game of a six-game homestand that will take the team through the end of April.
The Beloit offense is ranked in the middle of the pack through the first 16 games of the year. The Snappers have scored 70 runs (4.4 per game), good for 10th-most out of 16 teams. Beloit has 11 homeruns and a .375 SLG as a team, both good for fourth-best in the league. They have struggled to get on base consistently, however, posting a .311 mark in the early going. The Snappers have not been particularly active on the basepaths, with 11 stolen bases in 17 attempts as a team.
On the mound, the Snappers have a team ERA of 3.66, good for eighth in the league. Beloit pitchers have walked 55 in 130.1 innings and they have struck-out 102 (second-fewest in the league). They have allowed only four homeruns, however, the third-best mark in the league.
Comings and Goings
There have been only a handful of transactions impacting the Snappers' roster in the early going. That could change next week, as A's 2012 supplemental first-round pick Daniel Robertson is expected to be sent out to Beloit from extended spring training. The infielder is completing his rehab from off-season knee surgery at extended.
Robertson is expected to see time at shortstop when he is activated. The Snappers' Opening Nigh shortstop, Wilfredo Solano, has been on the disabled list since April 12 with a right elbow injury, although he was hurt even before that date.
On April 12, pitcher Stuart Pudenz was placed on the disabled list. The right-hander made only one appearance before landing on the shelf. He was replaced on the roster by right-hander Drew Tyson, who was activated off of the DL himself on April 12.
Behind the plate, the Snappers began the year with Bruce Maxwell and Phil Pohl as the two catchers on the roster. When David Freitas was sent to Double-A from Triple-A, Nick Rickles was moved from the Double-A Midland roster to Low-A Beloit. To make room for Rickles, Pohl was sent back to extended spring training.
The Snappers' best three hitters in the early going have been Renato Nunez, Sam Roberts and Ryan Mathews. Nunez, the 19-year-old third baseman, leads the team with 11 RBI and a 968 OPS. He has a .319/.373/.596 slash line in 47 at-bats and his three homers are tied with Mathews for the most on the team. Nunez hasn't shown the plate discipline the A's preach as of yet (11 strike-outs against four walks), but it has otherwise been an outstanding start for the highly touted teenager.
Roberts has provided manager Ryan Christenson with a veteran presence in the Snappers' infield. The VMI alum split last season between Low-A and short-season ball. Roberts has always had a strong sense of the strike-zone, and that has continued this season. Through 15 games, he has walked 12 times and he sports a .423 OBP. Roberts has five extra-base hits and an 873 OPS in 40 at-bats.
Mathews began the year as a fourth outfielder, but he has quickly played himself into a more regular role. The NC State alum has a .273/.313/.523 slashline with those three homers. He has also stolen three bases in three chances. Mathews is riding a three-game hitting streak into Thursday's game. Like Nunez, he could stand to walk more (two walks against 12 strike-outs in 44 at-bats), but Mathews has provided a strong power-speed combination in the Beloit line-up. He has been particularly effective against lefties, hitting them at a .308/.333/.923 clip.
Bruce Maxwell is also off to a solid start at the plate. The left-handed hitting catcher, who was the A's second round pick last season, has a .275/.339/.412 line over 51 at-bats. Maxwell connected on his first pro homerun on April 9 and he has four doubles. He has made contact regularly, striking out just six times in 14 games.
Several Beloit pitchers are off to fast starts, but perhaps no pitcher has been better than Dakota Bacus. The right-hander has been a tandem starter with Michael Ynoa, although Bacus has exclusively been the second pitcher in the tandem arrangement thus far. Bacus has worked 15 innings and the Indiana State alum has a 21:4 K:BB ratio and a 2.40 ERA. He has yet to allow a homerun and has a 1.13 WHIP.
Ynoa has also pitched well, although he has been limited to two-to-three innings an outing. In eight innings thus far this year, Ynoa has a 1.13 ERA. He has walked five, but he has struck-out seven and has allowed five hits.
Right-hander Raul Alcantara has recovered from a poor first start on Opening Night to put together three solid starts in a row. Alcantara has a 3.68 ERA in 22 innings. He allowed five of his nine earned runs in his first start and has given up just four runs over his last 18.1 innings. He only has nine strike-outs on the year, but Alcantara's command has been much improved and he has walked only four.
Right-hander Tucker Healy has put together three solid outings. In 7.1 innings, he has allowed two runs on five hits. The Ithaca College alum has struck-out 10 and he has yet to walk a batter.
Ryan Dull has allowed three runs in 7.1 innings, but he has struck-out eight and has walked only one out of the Beloit bullpen. Lefty Chris Lamb has given up two hits and three walks in five relief innings, but he has yet to allow a run and he has four strike-outs.