Earning a spot in the Midwest League playoffs has almost become an expectation for Oakland A's Low-A affiliates. Following two seasons of playoff runs in Burlington, the A's switched affiliates to Beloit in 2013 and the Snappers would go on to the postseason under first-year manager Ryan Christensen, a former A's outfielder.
Although this year's squad came up short of a MWL championship, the Snappers took it one round further than Burlington in the two previous campaigns. Beloit swept Clinton to advance to the second round, before being eliminated by Quad Cities on Monday night in a decisive third game.
Christensen's squad finished 16 games above .500 on the year with an 80-64 mark, including the postseason. The Snappers earned a playoff spot by going 43-27 in the first half, finishing three games ahead of second-place Cedar Rapids.
Oakland's Low-A club sported a much different look in the postseason than it did in the first couple months, as it lost top starting pitchers Raul Alcantara and Michael Ynoa and relievers Ryan Dull and Tucker Healy to Stockton promotions. Starting catcher Bruce Maxwell was also summoned to the California League after a solid first half.
Snappers' Batters: Top prospects, surprising Bostick get extended look
Although the Snappers lost some highly regarded players, they had their fair share of mainstays in top prospect infielders Daniel Robertson, Matt Olson and Renato Nunez. And then there was the breakout season from 2011 44th-round pick Chris Bostick.
Addison Russell's everyday role in Stockton opened up the shortstop position for Daniel Robertson in Beloit and the 34th overall selection in last year's draft took advantage, posting a slashline of .277/.353/.401 in 101 games. Robertson hit nine homers and drove in 46 runs, striking out just 71 times while drawing 49 walks. He saved his best for the final full month of the season, hitting .314 in August with an 877 OPS.
Olson never hit for average as a first-year professional, but his power tool began to shine as the season wore on. He hit 10 homers and drove in 30 runs in 28 August games, giving himself 23 and 93 for the season. Olson finished with a slashline of .225/.326/.435 in 134 games. He will look to cut down on his strikeouts next season at High-A Stockton after whiffing 148 times in 2013.
After a promising first half of the season, Nunez slumped down the stretch with a second-half average (.238) that was 40 points lower than in the first half (.278). He hit 13 homers and drove in 48 runs in his first 64 games, but saw those numbers drop to six and 37 in the final 64. Questions also persist about Nunez's ability to remain at third base after he made a team-high 39 errors this season.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise offensively for this year's club was the play of Bostick, whose .282 batting average, .452 slugging percentage and 806 OPS were the best of all players who finished the season with the club. After barely hitting over .200 in April, Bostick heated up with averages of .300 in May and .391 in June. He closed out the season on a high by leading the Snappers with a .429 postseason average to go along with two homers and eight RBIs.
Wooten, a 37th-round selection in 2012, led the team in games played with 133, hitting .257 with 20 homers and 69 RBIs during the regular season. Rickles had the best month of any Beloit player. In July, he posted a slashline of .400/.416/.624 across 22 games. The 2011 14th-round selection caught fire following Maxwell's promotion to Stockton. Mathews posted a slashline of .260/.337/.446 in 122 games, while Vertigan hit .243/.333/.321 in 123 outings. Vertigan stole 21 bases in 27 chances.
Before his promotion, Maxwell earned a spot on the Midwest League's mid-season All-Star team with a .286/.360/.387 slashline in 57 games.
Centerfielder Aaron Shipman began the year in a deep slump and then missed two months with an injury. He returned with a refined approach and helped lead the Snappers during the second half. He finished the year with a .279/.397/.324 line and he stole 17 bases in 68 games.
Sam Roberts provided a steady glove and a patient approach at the plate as a back-up to Bostick and Robertson throughout the season. In 206 at-bats, he posted a .204/.302/.306 line. Roberts had a homerun during the post-season. Catcher Ryan Delgado shared the catching duties with Maxwell down-the-stretch. He hit .215/.307/.299 in 43 games with Beloit.
Snappers' Pitchers:Fourteen pitchers start at least one game
Following the departures of All-Stars Alcantara (7-1, 2.44 ERA, 58:7 K:BB in 77.1 innings) and Ynoa (2-1, 2.14 ERA, 48:18 K:BB in 54.2 innings), the starting rotation became a little more unsettled. By the time Beloit took the field in the postseason, the team's two leaders in innings pitched were lost to injury and trade.
Eight pitchers started at least nine games for the Snappers, led by right-hander Seth Streich's 21 appearances. Streich finished 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA, posting an 82:41 K:BB ratio in 110.2 innings before being sidelined for the season with an elbow injury. Dakota Bacus pitched a team-high 121.1 innings while making 16 starts and compiling a 9-5 record and 3.56 ERA. The right-hander was sent to Washington in the Kurt Suzuki trade late in the season.
That left Derek DeYoung, Dylan Covey, Andres Avila and Kyle Finnegan as the postseason starters. DeYoung appeared in 27 games this season, making 16 starts and finishing with an 8-5 ERA and 4.22 ERA. A fourth-round selection in this year's draft, Covey made 10 starts for Beloit down the stretch and posted a 1-1 record and 4.75 ERA. Deyvi Jimenez played a hybrid role for the Snappers late in the year, posting a 6.02 ERA in nine starts and three relief appearances during the second half for Beloit.
While relievers Dull (2.10 ERA and a 35:3 K:BB in 25.2 innings) and Healy (0.94 ERA and 43:5 K:BB in 28.2 innings) dominated the headlines early in the season, their promotions coincided with the emergence of 2012 second-round pick Nolan Sanburn. The former Arkansas standout posted a 1.38 ERA in 14 relief appearances. He posted a 20:9 K:BB rate in 26 innings after recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in the spring.
Austin House and Tyler Vail took over roles in the back-end of Beloit's bullpen. House made 36 appearances, including nine starts earlier in the season. He picked up nine saves and recorded a 3.97 ERA in 99.2 innings. Vail returned to Low-A ball for the first time since 2011 and finished with a 4.15 ERA while pitching in a team-best 39 games.
Vince Voiro was a workhorse for Beloit, making 12 starts and 18 relief appearances. In 100.2 innings, he posted a 3.67 ERA and had a 69:44 K:BB. Chris Lamb, Kris Hall and Stuart Pudenz threw the majority of the other innings out of the Beloit bullpen. Lamb, one of the few lefties to pitch for the Snappers this season, had a 4.53 ERA and a 39:22 K:BB in 49.2 innings. Hall had a 4.92 ERA and a 56:35 K:BB in 53 innings. Pudenz's season ended early with injury, but he pitched well before getting hurt. He had a 2.40 ERA and a 35:15 K:BB in 41.1 innings.