Beloit Notebook: Snappers In A Funk

The Beloit Snappers have mostly had a first-half to forget in 2014. Luckily, the second half of the 2014 season is just around the corner, and, with it, a clean slate in the standings. Bill Seals checks-in with the Oakland A's Low-A squad.

Overview

The Beloit Snappers found themselves in an early hole after a slow start to the season, and things haven't gotten much better lately for manager Rick Magnante's group. The Snappers are losers of six of their last seven heading into the first of a three-game series tonight against Peoria. Beloit is currently 13.5 games off the pace in the Midwest League's Western Division with a 24-33 record.

Through two months of the season, Beloit has been keyed by some solid individual performances from outfielder Boog Powell – the MWL's batting average leader – and right-handed starter Kyle Finnegan, who currently ranks as one of the top pitchers in the league. But the other bright spot early in the season, starting pitcher Ronald Herrera, was recently traded to San Diego to complete the Kyle Blanks trade.

Beloit's offense picked up the pace a little over the month of May and now resides near the middle of the MWL pack in many offensive categories. Magnante's club ranks 10th in batting average (.249), ninth in on-base percentage (.3330) and eighth in slugging percentage (.370). Beloit does rank second in the league with 220 walks.

Just as the offense has heated up with the weather, the pitching has markedly declined. The staff's 4.69 ERA currently ranks next-to-last and 1.44 WHIP is 13th in the 16-team league. Beloit has struck out a league-low 370 batters in 495.1 innings pitched. Those pitching deficiencies have never been more apparent than during the recent slide, when the Snappers have surrendered 67 runs in seven games.


Comings and Goings

Perhaps the biggest addition to the Beloit roster was the mid-May return of Opening Day starter Bobby Wahl from an oblique injury. Oakland's fifth-round pick in last year's draft out of Ole Miss, Wahl has had uneven results since returning to the mound. Most recently, he allowed seven runs (five earned) on nine hits in just 4.1 innings at Quad Cities on May 28th. He has posted an 0-4 record and 7.01 ERA through seven starts this season, with a 20:13 K:BB ratio in 25.2 innings.

Former All-Star Futures Game participant Chih Fang Pan battled back from a lower-back contusion to make his return in late-May. The infielder has posted a solid .286/.349/.390 slash line in 22 games this season.

After beginning the season with the Snappers, catcher Philip Pohl was elevated to Triple-A Sacramento where he played eight games and filled in admirably for then-injured catcher Stephen Vogt. Pohl returned to Low-A on May 22nd and has shared duties with fellow catcher Jose Chavez. Oakland's 28th-round selection in the 2012 draft has posted a slash line of .216/.326/.243 through 12 games with Beloit. Pohl replaced catcher Andy Paz, who was re-assigned to the A's extended spring training.

The pitching staff underwent a big facelift in the month of May, with the bullpen undergoing a lot of changes. In addition to the aforementioned Wahl, Beloit pitchers Stuart Pudenz and Matt Stalcup were activated from the disabled list. Tyler Hollstegge moved down from High-A Stockton. Tyler Vail recovered from injury and was promoted from extended spring training, while Blake McMullen also joined the team from extended.

Pudenz was out briefly with a concussion and has not had much success since returning on May 28th, allowing five earned runs on five hits in 3.1 innings across two appearances. Stalcup appears to have landed a spot in the rotation after five successful relief appearances and had a solid debut on June 2nd, allowing one earned run on three hits in 3.2 innings. His peripherals bode well for future success, as he's posted an 18:2 K:BB rate in 14.2 innings.

After battling inconsistencies in Stockton, Hollstegge hasn't fared much better with Beloit. The 21st-round selection in 2012 has allowed 10 earned runs on 14 hits in nine innings as a member of the bullpen. Vail, who has spent time in Low-A ball during three of the past four years, has made five relief appearances and allowed just two earned runs on four hits in eight innings. A fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft, Vail has posted a 7:2 K:BB rate. McMullen hasn't made much of an early impression, allowing nine earned runs on nine hits in nine innings across six appearances since making his debut on May 17th.

The A's sent out three additional struggling players to Arizona, including first baseman Ryan Huck and pitchers Trevor Bayless and Lee Sosa.

A 27th-round selection in last year's draft, Huck posted a slash line of just .202/.312/.311 in 35 games with the Snappers. The latest in Oakland's long line of draftees out of the University of San Diego, Bayless couldn't pull it together in eight relief appearances, allowing nine earned runs on 14 hits in nine innings. Sosa was equally ineffective, pitching to a 9.75 ERA in 10 appearances and walking 13 batters while striking out 10 in 12 innings.


Who's Hot

On his way to leading the MWL in batting average, Powell has had a remarkably consistent season. After batting .348 in the month of April, Powell hit .330 in 25 games in May, and already has three hits in his first eight June at-bats. A 20th-round selection in the 2012 draft, Powell is back on another hot streak having hit safely in nine of his last 10 games. The centerfielder has posted a slash line of .350/.447/.475 during that span.

After an underwhelming 2013 campaign at short-season Vermont, infielder Melvin Mercedes has made the adjustments and had a solid beginning to the 2014 season in Beloit. The 16th-round selection in the 2012 draft has a pair of three-hit games over his past four, including a two-triple performance on May 30th at Quad Cities. Over his past 10 games, Mercedes has slashed .306/.435/.500. The breakout has raised Mercedes' average to .302 and his OPS is approaching the 800 threshold at 798.

Outfielder Tyler Marincov, an eighth-round selection in last June's draft, has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games and slashed .303/.465/.455 during that span. The recent hot streak has pushed his season average to .251. Of Marincov's 48 hits this season, 21 of those have gone for extra bases (12 doubles and six homers).

Outfielder Jaycob Brugman had a two-homer game last week and has an 879 OPS over his last 10 games. The BYU alum missed some time with injury early in the season, but he has a solid .279/.374/.449 line in 147 at-bats this season.

Right-hander Kyle Finnegan has been a mainstay at the top of the Beloit rotation, pitching to a 2.51 ERA in 11 starts and winning five of six decisions. The 2013 sixth-round selection put together a pair of quality starts in front of the home crowd on May 26th against Cedar Rapids (two earned runs on four hits in seven innings) and again on May 31st versus Clinton (one earned run on five hits in six innings).

With the exception of a May 26th appearance against Cedar Rapids in which he allowed three earned runs in one-third of an inning, reliever Sam Bragg has been a consistent performer out of the bullpen. The 2013 18th-rounder pitched two innings of one-hit ball and struck out three batters last night against Clinton. He also made scoreless appearances on May 30th at Quad Cities, May 23rd versus Wisconsin and May 21st at Cedar Rapids. Bragg has compiled a 2.91 ERA and allowed 11 earned runs on 27 hits in 34 innings of relief this season. He's also posted 35:11 K:BB ratio.


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