Beloit Notebook: Snappers In Need Of A Run

The Beloit Snappers were the Oakland A's best minor league affiliate last season, but this year the A's Low-A club is off to a slow start. Bill Seals checks in with the Midwest League squad.

Overview

While the Beloit Snappers have received some solid individual performances early in the season from the league's second-leading hitter Boog Powell and starting pitchers Kyle Finnegan and Ronald Herrera, as a team the Oakland A's Low-A affiliate in the Midwest League has not seen much in terms of results through a little more than a month of the campaign.

Boog Powell has been a force.

Heading into a three-game series in Peoria Monday night, the Snappers sat in the cellar of the Western Division at 11-18. Manager Rick Magnanate's club started to show some life at the end of its most recent home-stand, taking two of three from Quad Cities for a rare series victory. Beloit has played a majority of its games in the friendly confines of Pohlman Field, but the Snappers sport just a 7-10 home record (compared to a 4-8 road mark).

When explaining the Snappers' opening to the 2014 season, one can't necessarily blame the offense or defense, as the team has struggled in many facets of the game.

Beloit's 4.63 ERA ranks 13th out of 16 MWL teams, while a 1.51 WHIP is 14th on the list. Pitchers have struck out a league-low 195 batters across 256.1 innings, which means plenty of balls in play against the defense. Finnegan and Herrera have been the bright spots on the starting rotation, with the former posting a 2-1 record and 2.67 ERA in six starts and latter sitting at 2-3 with a 3.46 ERA across five appearances.

Offensively, Beloit has just two full-time players hitting better than .300 – Powell at .372, which places him second in the league, and Jaycob Brugman at .323. Then there's a big drop-off to former Futures Game participant and MWL All-Star Chih-Fang Pan, who comes in at .259. As a result, Beloit ranks 12th in team batting average (.249) and 11th in on-base percentage (.325). However, thanks to having the league's third-highest home run tally (19), the Snappers are at the middle of the pack in OPS at 698.


Comings and Goings

Injuries have plagued many of the A's minor-league affiliates thus far, but for the most part the Snappers have avoided being a part of this disturbing trend.

Bobby Wahl has missed time with an oblique.

The biggest injury news thus far has been the loss of Opening Day starter Bobby Wahl, who has been out with an oblique injury since mid-April. Oakland's fifth-round pick in last year's draft out of Ole Miss, Wahl was knocked around in his third start of the season against Great Lakes, allowing eight runs (six earned) on four hits and walking six in 3.1 innings. Wahl is working his way back into form and will hope to bounce back after a rough start.

Magnante has also been without a pair of middle infielders in recent weeks, Pan (lower back contusion) and Melvin Mercedes. Pan had posted a .259/.317/.352 slash line after missing the entire 2013 season due to shoulder surgery. Mercedes had gotten into just four games and had six hits in 15 at-bats prior to his injury.

Reliever Matt Stalcup, a ninth-rounder in last year's draft, rounds out the list of injured Snappers. Prior to his injury in early April, the left-hander had pitched 5.2 scoreless innings in two games, allowing just three hits, no walks and striking out nine batters.

In order to restore depth to the middle infield, the A's called on shortstop Luis Baez in spite of his struggles with the bat in Vermont last season. Baez has played 24 games since his assignment, but is hitting just .227 with an OPS of 563. He has just six hits in his last 37 at-bats.

Short on catchers at the lower-levels, the A's demoted Jose Chavez from a short-term stint in Midland to Beloit in mid-April to replace Iolana Akau, who returned to extended spring training. Despite moving from Double-A to Low-A, Chavez is still the youngest player on the Snappers' roster and won't turn 19 until Thursday. Chavez has gotten consistent at-bats as the Snappers' catcher, but he has managed just a .194/.256/.194 slash line through his first 12 MWL games.

Brugman was reinstated from the disabled list on April 10th after opening the season on the shelf, and has fared well since his return. In addition to ranking second in average, Brugman has six extra-base hits and his .484 slugging percentage is tops on the team.


Who's Hot

There's even more space reserved for former Brigham Young standout and Oakland's 17th-round selection in last year's draft Brugman, who recorded two hits each in Beloit's victories over Quad Cities Saturday and Sunday. Brugman has shuffled between the second and third spots in Magnante's order while posting a .368 average over the past 10 games. Six of his 14 hits during that span have gone for extra bases, contributing to a 1063 OPS.

Sam Bragg has pitched well thus far.

It's pretty much been a season-long hot streak for Powell, who has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games and posted an outstanding .419/.591/.516 slash line with four stolen bases in six attempts. The starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter, who was the A's 20th-round selection in the 2012 draft, has drawn 13 walks and struck out just seven times during his hot streak.

Oakland's eighth-round selection in last year's draft out of North Florida, outfielder Tyler Marincov, has also heated up over his last 10 games, hitting safely in eight of those contests and slashing .275/.310/.525. In Beloit's series-clinching victory over Quad Cities yesterday, Marincov launched a fourth-inning grand slam.

In Wahl's absence, Finnegan has stepped up to become the ace of the Beloit staff. In his most recent start, May 3rd against Quad Cities, the right-hander allowed just one run on three hits over five innings. Finnegan hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his six starts, although free passes have plagued him as his K:BB rate sits at 16:13.

It's safe to assume the Peoria Chiefs don't want to see Beloit right-hander Dylan Covey again for a while. After a rocky start to his first full professional season, Oakland 's fourth-round selection in last June's draft has turned it around in a big way. Covey tossed eight innings of shutout ball Monday night at Peoria , scattering three hits and one walk while striking out a batter. This came on the heels of a seven-inning, one-earned run effort on May 30th against the same Chiefs squad. In that outing, Covey also surrendered just three hits while striking out three and walking one.

Prior to his appearance yesterday against the River Bandits, reliever Sam Bragg had posted a streak of eight consecutive scoreless innings in which he had struck out eight and allowed three hits with two walks. An 18th-round selection in last year's draft, Bragg has been a staff workhorse as a long reliever and has already thrown 20.2 innings across eight appearances, posting a stellar 2.08 ERA along the way.


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