Despite a recent three-game winning streak, the first month of the season has been a struggle for the Beloit Snappers and first-year manager Fran Riordan. Oakland’s Low-A Midwest League franchise wrapped up the first month of the season by losing two of three games at Peoria and are heading northeast for a weekend series against Kane County.
Outside of lackluster performances out of their starting pitchers, there hasn’t necessarily been one category that’s defined the Snappers’ 9-12 record through the opening month, as the team has ranked in the bottom-third of the MWL in most statistical categories.
What’s particularly troubling is the staff’s 4.81 ERA, which is next-to-last in the 16-team league. A stout starting rotation comprised of four of the A’s top five picks in last June’s draft was supposed to provide hope that the Snappers could keep opponents off the board, but that hasn’t been the case. Beloit’s 1.49 WHIP is also 15th in the MWL and its pitchers have surrendered a league-high 14 home runs.
To say the Snappers’ high draft picks have gotten off to a slow start would be an understatement; fourth-rounder Jordan Schwartz’s 5.40 ERA is the lowest of the four. Daniel Gossett and Brett Graves, second- and third-rounders last year, have identical 5.57 ERAs across 21 innings. The four heralded draft picks have combined to go 1-8 through their first 16 starts.
Beloit is slightly better on the offensive side of the equation, but not by much, ranking ninth in batting average (.238), 10th in on-base percentage (.306), 11th in slugging (.319) and 12th in runs scored (74). The Snappers are in a three-way tie for eighth with just six homers, and have stolen a league-low eight bases through 21 games.
Heading into the second month of the season, Beloit currently sits in a tie with Kane County for fifth place in the MWL’s Western Division. After this weekend’s three-game set at the Cougars, the Snappers will head home – where they are 5-4 this season – for series against Burlington and Cedar Rapids.
Comings and Goings
The first month of the season saw very little player movement on the roster. Reliever Jerad Grundy spent two weeks on the disabled list before being activated on April 24th. The 2013 10th-rounder out of Kentucky made his season debut on April 26th on Clinton, pitching a scoreless inning while striking out one and walking a batter.
To make room for Grundy on the roster, Oakland promoted reliever Trevor Bayless to Stockton after he opened the season with four scoreless relief appearances. The right-hander struck out 11 and walked three while giving up just one hit in six innings of work.
Although he didn’t make an appearance with the club after starting the season on the disabled list, Josh Ludy was released by the A’s organization on April 17th. With younger catchers Jose Chavez and Argenis Raga already on the active roster, there was no room on the roster for Ludy, who spent 17 games with the Snappers last summer after being summoned from the Independent Leagues. On May 1, reliever Tyler Holstegge was sent back to Beloit from High-A Stockton and reliever Rob Huber was placed on the team’s disabled list.
After returning to Low-A ball for the first time since the 2013 season, Brett Vertigan went on a three-week long hot streak that saw him post a slash line of .324/.407/.365 during the month of April. The centerfielder has been a steady presence atop the lineup and has drawn 11 walks to just 12 strikeouts in 74 at-bats.
Outfielder Shawn Duinkerk picked up where he left off in Arizona this spring by posting a slash line of .306/.377/.387 in April. He has three multi-hit games in his last seven starts, including a pair against Clinton. Duinkerk hit a pair of doubles and a homer in the opening three weeks of the season. The left-handed hitter is punishing righties to the tune of a .346 batting average.
Although he went hitless on Thursday night against Peoria, shortstop prospect Yairo Munoz had posted a seven-game hitting streak that saw his average rise to a season-high .284. He launched a three-run homer April 29th and also had a solo shot six nights earlier against Burlington. Munoz’s slash line now sits at .268/.299/.380 through his first 71 at-bats.
After two rough outings to open the 2015 season, reliever Jose Torres has been a shutdown pitcher out of the bullpen. The Venezuelan product has allowed just two hits over his last 8.1 innings and posted a 12:1 K:BB rate in those four appearances.
Another Venezuelan reliever, Carlos Navas, also endured a pair of lackluster appearances to open the season and has settled down since. The right-hander has pitched 3.2 scoreless innings across his last three appearances, allowing just one hit while posting a 3:3 K:BB rate.