Photo by David Malamut

Beloit Notebook: Snappers looking for a late playoff push

The Beloit Snappers need a hot streak to get into first-place as the first-half of the Midwest League season enters its final stretch.

Overview

(stats through 6/1/2016)

A little under three weeks remain in the first half of the Midwest League schedule, and the Beloit Snappers remain in the thick of things but will need a final push in order to pull out a first-place finish in the Western Division. At 25-27 going into Thursday night's game, the Oakland A's Low-A club sits in a three-way tie for fourth place alongside Burlington and Kane County, five games behind Cedar Rapids with 17 left to play.

After a remarkable start to the season, Beloit’s pitching staff became slightly more hittable as the weather warmed up during the month of May. The Snappers now rank fifth in the 16-team MWL with a 3.11 ERA and seventh in WHIP at 1.25. Pitchers have struck out a league-low 340 hitters in 439.1 innings, while issuing the fourth-fewest walks (146). Due to injuries and performance-issues by some in the hybrid starter/reliever system, Beloit had pretty much gone away from tandem roles heading into the month of June.

The offense also dealt with its fair share of struggles during the month of May, as Beloit’s team batting average fell to .229, which is 13th in the league. The team has scored the second-fewest runs in the league with 176. Perhaps the only saving grace is the Snappers’ ability to rack up extra-base hits (they rank fourth in homers with 23 and sixth in doubles with 85), which has enabled them to rate 11th in OPS.

Beloit wraps up a crucial home series against first-place Cedar Rapids Thursday, before finishing the home-stand with three against Quad Cities over the weekend.

Comings and Goings

There was a flurry of activity amongst all of Oakland’s minor-league affiliates in May, and Beloit certainly saw its fair share of player movement.

Starter James Naile left Beloit long enough to make a spot start with Triple-A Nashville. The 2015 20th-rounder out of UAB fared well and picked up the victory against Salt Lake City, going 5.1 innings and allowing three earned runs on 6 hits. He walked three and struck out none. Naile was then sent back to Beloit where he’ll start Friday night’s game against Clinton. Starting in eight of nine games this season for the Snappers, Naile has pitched to a 3.28 ERA and posted a 36:11 K:BB rate in 46.2 innings.

A pair of other transactions were announced on May 31st, as a pair of bullpen arms swapped places. Corey Miller earned a promotion to Stockton after appearing in 15 games and posting a 2.31 ERA with Beloit. Miller allowed six earned runs on 21 hits in 23.1 innings, striking out 16 and walking eight. Rob Huber was demoted back to Beloit after getting roughed up to the tune of a 10.45 ERA in 15 appearances with the Ports. Huber returns to the level where he spent the entire 2015 season and recorded a 3.02 ERA in 37 outings. 

Three days earlier, 19-year-old Jesus Zambrano was activated off the seven-day disabled list. The right-hander made his first appearance in five weeks on May 30th, a relief outing at Kane County during which he allowed two earned runs on four hits in 2.1 innings. Zambrano struck out three and walked none.

Zambrano’s return triggered the promotion of right-hander Kyle Friedrichs, who would later go on to win MWL Pitcher of the Week thanks to his effort against Quad Cities on May 24th. The 2015 seventh-rounder out of Long Beach State pitched eight shutout innings in that game, allowing just four hits and no walks while striking out four. It lowered his season ERA to 1.25 with Beloit. However, it was tough sledding for Friedrichs in his first outing in the California League, as he surrendered nine earned runs on eight hits in 1.2 innings.

After reporting to Nashville to fill a catching void for a brief stint out of extended spring training, 2015 26th-rounder Jordan Devencenzi was assigned to Beloit. He is off to a quick start with the Snappers, recording three hits and four walks in his first 11 plate appearances.

Right-hander Xavier Altamirano and outfielder Steven Pallares were assigned to extended spring training on May 25th after struggling through their first taste of full-season ball. Altamirano posted a 4.85 ERA in eight appearances (five starts), striking out 18 and walking 11 in 26 innings of work. Pallares could never find his hitting stroke despite being given ample opportunity, slashing just .132/.313/.170 in 106 at-bats.

Reporting to Low-A ball out of extended that same day was right-handed starting pitcher Mike Murray who made his first appearance on May 28th at Kane County. The 2015 32nd-rounder out of Florida Gulf Coast allowed one earned run on five hits in 5.1 innings, striking out five and walking none. The game was his professional debut, as Murray didn't appear in a game after signing with the A's last season. Murray will take the hill Thursday as Beloit tries to take two of out three from Cedar Rapids.

Infielder Jesus Lopez spent the minimum number of days on the disabled list and was activated on May 24th, but has just three hits in 24 at-bats since and is now slashing .203/.254/.350 in 36 games with the Snappers. Fellow infielder Jean Carlo Rodriguez was assigned to Beloit out of extended when Lopez went on the DL and has remained with the club. The 20-year-old Venezuelan has slashed .220/.278/.340 in 13 games.

Who’s Hot

For most of the season, first baseman Chris Iriart has been a force in the middle of the Snappers' line-up. In May, Iriart bashed five homeruns and seven doubles. He also walked 13 times and posted a solid .253/.355/.484 line. 

Returning to the form that earned him a promotion to Stockton in 2015, infielder Trent Gilbert has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games and is hitting .333 during the stretch. The 2014 15th-rounder has five multi-hit games during the hot streak to push his season slash line to .278/.333/.380.

Youngster Edwin Diaz struggled to hit above .100 for the Snappers last season, but he has shown a lot more offensively this year. In May, the 20-year-old hit .303 with a .380 OBP. He also hit his first two homeruns of the season.

Infielder Ryan Howell hasn't hit for power yet, but he has 25 walks in 42 games this season. In May, he maintained a 13:14 BB:K and hit .274 for the month.  

After a semi-rough outing on May 26th at home against Quad Cities in which he allowed five earned runs on seven hits over six innings, 2015 14th-rounder Boomer Biegalski returned to form five days later against Cedar Rapids. The former Florida State standout pitched into the eighth frame for the first time this season, allowing just one earned run on five hits in 7.1 innings. 

On May 18, RHP Angel Duno had his first poor outing of the season when he allowed five runs in five innings. Sine then, Duno has responded with two quality outings, allowing just three earned runs in 13 innings in those two starts. He has a 2.55 ERA and a 36:7 K:BB in 53 innings for the Snappers this season.

On Wednesday, LHP Evan Manarino allowed more than two runs in a start for the first time all season. Despite the three earned runs allowed, Manarino still went seven innings, extending his streak of pitching at least into the seventh inning to three starts. The lefty struck-out six and walked one on Wednesday. For the season, his ERA is 1.46 and he has a 49:7 K:BB in 55.1 innings.


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