In spite of the annual roster turnover that takes place this time of year, the Beloit Snappers have still managed to play solid ball in the weeks following the All-Star break.
Snappers manager Ryan Christenson was tasked with replacing his best two starters (Raul Alcantara and Michael Ynoa) and top relievers (Tucker Healy and Ryan Dull), who departed for Stockton last month. He also lost starting catcher Bruce Maxwell, who had the team's highest batting average by a full-time player at the time he was promoted to High-A.
But that hasn't fazed a team that entered the All-Star break on a hot streak as Western Division champs, and has proceeded to win 16 of 24 games in the second half. Beloit, which has already clinched a playoff appearance, is tied atop the division with Cedar Rapids. The Snappers are tied with South Bend for the Midwest League's best overall record at 59-35.
Since returning from the break, the Snappers have been a streaky team with two four-game winning streaks and another of six games. They've also suffered through a four-game losing streak and dropped a pair of games at home to Fort Wayne to finish their most recent series.
Beloit's offense continues to rate near the top of the league in the usual categories, ranking second in the league with a slugging percentage of .399 and 734 OPS. Beloit hitters have launched 79 home runs, tied with Cedar Rapids for most in the MWL, while scoring the second-most runs in the MWL with 452.
The pitching staff is certainly holding up its end of the deal, ranking second in the league with a 3.52 ERA and fewest home runs allowed (38). Beloit is winning a majority of its close games, as evidenced by the team's 32 saves (second in the MWL).
Beloit had Tuesday off while traveling to Dayton for the start of a three-game set on Wednesday. The Snappers then head to Bowling Green for a weekend series, before returning home to face Kane County.
Comings and Goings
Much of Beloit's roster remained intact as the team rallied to a first-half division championship, but that all changed in the days that followed the All-Star break. Alcantara and back-end reliever Healy were promoted to Stockton on June 20th. Ten days later, Ynoa and closer Dull were also summoned to the Ports.
Alcantara made 13 starts in his second Low-A stint, finishing with a 7-1 record, 2.44 ERA and 58:7 K:BB ratio in 77.1 innings. Ynoa saw the first extended action of his professional career and responded with a 2.14 ERA across 54.2 innings and 48:18 K:BB ratio. He was eased into action as a starter, and didn't pitch enough innings to qualify for a win until late in his Beloit run.
Healy and Dull formed a dominant one-two punch at the back end of the bullpen. In 18 games out of the 'pen, Healy allowed just three earned runs on 20 hits in 28.2 innings. He struck out 43 and walked just five. Dull's K:BB ratio stood at 35:3 in 25.2 innings as Beloit's closer. He recorded 12 saves in 20 appearances, with an ERA of 2.12.
In the midst of all of the pitching moves was Maxwell's promotion to High-A ball on June 25th. The catcher played in 57 Low-A games and finished with a slash line of .286/.360/.387. Fourteen of his 57 hits went for doubles, as Maxwell displayed solid gap power.
A trio of Beloit players was sent the other direction to short-season ball in Vermont. Shortstop Wilfred Solano spent much of the first half on the shelf and will try to regain his stroke in the New York-Penn League. He went 1-for-7 in just two games for the Snappers. Pitcher Devyi Jimenez was sent out after appearing in four games (two starts) and compiling a 5.06 ERA in 16 innings. Brent Powers struggled with his command during eight appearances with the Snappers, and is trying to regroup with Vermont. Powers compiled a 6.00 ERA and 16:11 K:BB ratio.
A pair of marquee names from the A's past two drafts has breathed life into a staff that lost its four best pitchers. Right-hander Nolan Sanburn, Oakland's second-round pick in the 2012 draft, is finally healthy after shoulder problems kept him in Arizona this spring. He has made two appearances in the Snappers bullpen and has allowed just one run on one hit in four innings, while striking out three.
RHP Dylan Covey, a fourth-round pick this year, made his first MWL start on July 14th going five innings and allowing just one earned run on three hits. A former first-round selection by the Brewers in 2010, Covey is the next in a long line of Oakland picks out of the University of San Diego.
Injuries have again been the story for Beloit outfielder Aaron Shipman, Oakland's third-round pick in the 2010 draft, as he spent two months on the disabled list during the first half. After a successful rehab stint in Arizona, Shipman returned to the Snappers earlier this month. He's currently one of the few hot bats in the lineup, sporting a .364/.512/.485 slash line over his past 10 games. The recent hot streak has allowed Shipman's average to rise to .237. He's also walked more (27) than he's struck out (21) this season.
Finally getting regular playing time behind the dish after Maxwell's promotion, catcher Nick Rickles has found his stroke. Oakland's 14th-round selection in the 2011 draft, Rickles has 13 hits in 34 at-bats over his last 10 games. During that stretch he has posted a slash line of .382/.405/.529.
Reliever David Mota has seen action across three levels this season, and is settling in as a member of Beloit's bullpen. The right-hander hasn't allowed a run in his past four appearances, a span of 6.2 innings in which he's struck out eight and allowed just three hits.
RHP Tyler Vail has found his niche as a reliever this season, after struggling to stay healthy as a starter early in his professional career. In his past 10 games out of the bullpen, Vail has a miniscule 0.54 ERA and allowed just one earned run on 10 hits in 16.2 innings.
A sixth-round selection by the A's in last June's draft, Seth Streich has quietly been one of the most consistent Beloit pitchers this season, compiling one quality start after another. He hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his past eight starts dating back to late-May. Streich's most recent appearance was a seven-inning gem against Lake County in which he allowed just two unearned runs on three hits while striking out five. His nine wins this season are a team-high.