Beloit Notebook: Playoff Hopes Fading

The Beloit Snappers were hoping that the second half would bring better results than the first half. Unfortunately, their struggles have continued.

Team Overview

After failing to qualify for the playoffs during the season’s first half, Beloit’s postseason hopes are fading thanks to another lackluster run through the Midwest League’s second session.

There isn’t one category that has defined Beloit’s 2014 season, as the team has struggled in all areas and continues to reside near the bottom of the 16-team Midwest League in many pitching and hitting categories.

Beloit’s 4.50 team ERA ranks 15th and team pitchers have struck out a league-low 686 batters across nearly 954 innings, which means a lot of balls in play. Snappers’ pitchers have allowed 358 free passes, which ranks seventh, but have surrendered 970 hits, good for 13th in the league.

As a team, the Snappers rank 14th in batting average (.243), 13th in on-base percentage (.319), eighth in slugging percentage (.369) and dead last in runs scored (421). They manage to rank sixth in home runs (69), which accounts for the slight increase in slugging percentage.

Having struggled in many statistical categories, the Snappers are a MWL-worst 44-67 overall this season after dropping three of four games at home to Cedar Rapids over the weekend. Heading into a seven-game road trip this week into the state of Iowa with stops in Clinton and Quad Cities, the Snappers also have the league’s worst second-half record at 14-27 and are 10.5 games out of a playoff spot.

Comings and Goings

The latest member of the 2014 A’s draft class to jump to the MWL is infielder Branden Cogswell, a seventh-rounder who joined the club on July 8. However, the Virginia product has struggled to replicate the success he had in the Cavaliers’ College World Series run and has slashed just .169/.270/.221 in 22 games.

Oakland signed a pair of independent leaguers to minor-league deals and assigned them to Beloit – pitcher Joey Wagman and catcher Josh Ludy.

A former Cal-Poly standout from Danville, Wagman joined the team by way of the Frontier League’s Rockford Aviators. Wagman posted a 3.05 ERA in 12 appearances (11 starts) and struck out a league-best 85 batters in 76.2 innings. He was drafted in the 17th round by the Chicago White Sox in 2013, but was given his release this April. Wagman made his first start for the Snappers on July 31st, going seven innings and allowing just one run on three hits while striking out seven and walking none.

Ludy also joined the organization by way of the Frontier League, and stood out during his short tenure with River City. The catcher led the league in the three triple-crown categories, batting .362 with 16 homers and 50 RBI. Ludy was originally drafted by the Phillies’ organization after a three-year run at Baylor, where he was a teammate of Oakland prospect Max Muncy. Ludy has struggled to get going in a limited run as Beloit’s backup catcher, mustering just one hit in his first 14 at-bats.

A few Snappers endured stints on the disabled list during the month of July, including top starter Kyle Finnegan who was out seven days. After missing a start, Finnegan returned to pitch four innings and allow one earned run on four hits. He struck out just one, while issuing a pair of walks. After a 14-day layoff, Finnegan made another start on August 1st but rain shortened his outing to just one inning. He walked two and struck out one before the rain came.

Third baseman Matt Chapman was injured in mid-July and spent the minimum seven days on the DL before returning on the 25th. Oakland’s first-round pick this year has struggled of late with the Snappers, slashing .235/.297/.382 over his last 10 games. Chapman sat out the final three games of the Cedar Rapids series.

Infielder Michael Soto returned from the DL on August 1st, and in doing so brought an end to former prospect B.A. Vollmuth’s tenure in the organization. Soto has played in three games since his return and went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and RBI in Sunday’s game against Cedar Rapids. A third-round pick in 2011 out of Southern Miss, Vollmuth never advanced beyond A-Ball and was slashing just .207/.278/.341 this season with the Snappers.

A pair of Vermont Lake Monsters received promotions to Beloit, including pitcher Joseph Michaud and left fielder Justin Higley. Michaud has made six appearances since joining the team, including one start. He’s allowed 11 earned runs on 25 hits in 23 innings and posted a 15:4 K:BB rate. Higley has played in 22 games with the Snappers since his promotion and is slashing .211/.244/.211.

Three Snappers were summoned to Stockton over the past four weeks, including one of the squad’s top hitters in outfielder Jaycob Brugman and two pitching prospects: Dylan Covey and Bobby Wahl.

Brugman’s .278 batting average was the best of all active players upon his promotion. Covey had an up-and-down season in Low-A, pitching to a 4.81 ERA and posting a 70:26 K:BB rate in 101 innings. Wahl made the transition from starter to reliever shortly after an early-season DL stint and finished in Beloit with a 5.06 ERA and 43:19 K:BB rate across 42.2 innings. Reliever Andres Avila was also summoned to the California League after posting a 2.67 ERA and 23:6 K:BB rate in 33.2 innings of work.

Who’s Hot

After returning to Beloit for the second consecutive season, Ryan Mathews was in search of his first hot streak of the 2014 season. Thanks to more consistent playing time, he’s put together a nice run of late and is slashing .324/.425/.441 over his past 10 games. With Brugman’s promotion to Stockton, Mathews now owns the highest batting average of all active players at .265. The former NC State product also has seven homers and 33 RBI in 63 games.

Outfielder Tyler Marincov has had a tremendous second half of the season and pushed his season average to .261. The eighth-round selection in the 2013 draft has a team-high 16 homers and 59 RBI. Over his past 10 games, Marincov has slashed .417/.500/.861 and hit three homers.

Reliever Brendan McCurry, a 22nd-round draft pick this year, has been virtually unhittable since his aggressive early assignment to Beloit. The former Oklahoma State closer has allowed just one earned run on nine hits and posted a 22:3 K:BB rate through 16 innings. Opposing hitters have managed just a .173 batting average against McCurry.

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