Beloit Notebook: Snappers Still Struggling

The Beloit Snappers won their third consecutive game on Monday, but they are still looking to get their season firing on all cylinders. Bill Seals checks-in with the Oakland A's Midwest League affiliate.

Overview

Note: stats and record are as of May 31, 2015

Beloit’s pitching staff continues to be a cause for concern as the club struggled to a 12-18 record through the month of May. Although Oakland’s Low-A affiliate entered the season with several intriguing prospects, that hasn’t led to results on the field and the Snappers, as of May 31, sat seventh in the eight-team Midwest League Western Division at 21-30.

Beloit’s team ERA of 5.09 is the worst in the entire MWL by more than half a run. Fran Riordan’s club also ranks last in WHIP (1.56) and the pitching staff is the only unit in the league that has yet to record a shutout.

A starting rotation comprised of four of the A’s top five picks in last June’s draft simply has not delivered the expected results, which is surprising given that Daniel Gossett, Brett Graves, Jordan Schwartz and Heath Fillmyer were all signed from the college ranks. In fact, the best starter to date has been 2013 16th-rounder Junior Mendez, who has pitched to a 4.78 ERA through nine starts and 49 innings.

The lowest ERA of the four 2014 draft picks in ERA has been Graves’ 4.94. The former Missouri draft pick has interestingly enough won all four of his decisions, but has posted a troublesome 1.57 WHIP and 28:28 K:BB rate in 51 innings. (Note: on Monday, June 1, Graves threw his best start of the season, allowing one run on four hits in six innings. He struck-out six, walked one and lowered his ERA to 4.58.)

Beloit is slightly below average when it comes to MWL offensive clubs, ranking 13th in batting average (.235), 11th in on-base percentage (.314), 10th in slugging (.347) and ninth in runs scored (212). One of the few bright spots has been the power the Snappers have flashed, as they currently sit fourth in the MWL with 31 homers.

After wrapping up a three-game series in Wisconsin on Monday afternoon, Beloit will enjoy a rare day off on Tuesday before opening a six-game home-stand against Fort Wayne on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. They will enter Wednesday's game carrying a three-game winning streak.

Comings and Goings

After finally making it out to a full-season affiliate for the first time since being drafted in the seventh round of the 2013 draft, Dustin Driver lasted just 11 days in the Beloit rotation before being sent to the disabled list on May 25th. The right-hander made a pair of starts and allowed six earned runs on 10 hits in seven innings, striking out eight and walking two.

In place of Driver, the A’s activated right-hander Heath Fillmyer, who missed a month with an elbow strain. The Snappers also added to their bullpen right-hander Tyler Holstegge, who joined the team from Stockton. The 2012 21st-rounder has pitched well in relief since arriving in Beloit, allowing just one hit in five scoreless innings. However, he has allowed five hits during that span.

Right-handed reliever Joey Wagman, who also joined the Snappers from Stockton, has given the bullpen a boost in Beloit. The former Independent League signee has seen action across three levels thus far in 2015. He has posted a 1.93 ERA through six relief appearances as a Snapper, allowing two earned runs on seven hits in 9.1 innings.

With Brett Vertigan’s promotion to Stockton on May 8th, Riordan was in need of a new lead-off man and center fielder. Enter James Harris, who was assigned to Beloit out of extended spring training. The 21-year old signed with the A's as a minor league free agent early this spring. The Oakland native is in his second run through the MWL after playing 70 games for Bowling Green in 2014. Harris started slowly with the Snappers, but has heated up nicely and posted a .256/.374/.476 line in 23 games.

Long-time Snapper Melvin Mercedes also earned a High-A promotion the same day as Vertigan, and he replaced Jose Brizuela in the California League. Brizuela, a 2014 16th-rounder out of Florida State, has played a full-time role since joining Beloit. He has posted a .208/.321/.389 line in 23 games.

Reliever Mike Fagan was re-assigned to extended spring training from Beloit on May 14th after struggling through 10 appearances. The 2014 ninth-rounder pitched to a 9.22 ERA and 15:11 K:BB rate in his first taste of full-season ball.


Who’s Hot

Second baseman Trent Gilbert is batting .314 over his past 10 games to boost his season average to .290, which ranks first for all current players on the roster. (Note: Gilbert added three doubles in a monster game on June 1.) The 2014 15th-rounder hasn’t flashed much extra-base power thus far, but he did hit a grand slam on May 28th in Burlington and had three consecutive multi-hit games, May 24-26.

Although he’s just 20 years old and playing with an affiliate for the first time in his career, first baseman Sandber Pimentel has been very consistent through his first 46 games. Over his last 10, the Dominican Republic native is hitting .278 – which matches his season batting average – and the power has come on strong of late. Pimentel homered in each of his three games in Burlington, which has helped raise his slugging percentage to .506 (fifth in the MWL).

Pimentel’s friend and teammate in the Beloit infield, Yairo Munoz has also enjoyed a hot streak and absolutely punished Burlington pitching in the three-game series. The shortstop went 3-for-4 and scored two runs in the opener, and followed that up with a triple and homer the following night. Over his last 10 games, Munoz is hitting .325 with three homers and eight runs scored.

Corner outfielders Joe Bennie and Harris have also enjoyed hot streaks over their past 10 games. Bennie, a 2013 28th-rounder, has 11 hits over his last 35 at-bats, which is good for a .314 average. The hot streak has helped raise his season slash line to .246/.350/.377. Harris has 10 hits in his last 35 at-bats, including four doubles.


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