With a disappointing first-half stretch run in the rearview mirror, the Beloit Snappers are focused on posting better results in the final two months of the season. After finishing with a 32-37 record, Oakland’s Low-A affiliate in the Midwest League has opened the second half with a 7-7 mark, but already sit four games behind the red-hot Clinton LumberKings which has run off wins in 11 of 14 games.
As the weather warms up in the Midwest League, so do the offenses, and it only makes sense that the Beloit pitching staff’s ERA has continued on a steady rise. Through Tuesday, Snappers ranked sixth in the 16-team MWL with a 3.32 ERA and ninth in WHIP at 1.28. Snappers' pitchers have struck out a league-low 549 hitters in 703 innings, while issuing the third-fewest walks (226).
The offense has slightly trended upward as Beloit’s team batting average rose from .229 one month ago to .236 as of Wednesday morning, which is 14th in the league. The team has scored the fifth-fewest runs in the league with 299. The only saving grace for Beloit had been its power numbers, but even those fell off over the past few weeks as it now ranks eighth with 35 homers. The Snappers’ OPS now ranks in the bottom-third of the league at 655.
The Snappers will wrap up a four-game set at Quad Cities Thursday night, before heading home to begin a brief home-stand against Burlington on Friday.
Comings and Goings
Beloit’s rotation got a huge boost on Wednesday with the activation of right-handed starter Angel Duno off the disabled list. The 22-year-old Venezuelan had a solid first half and was named to the MWL All-Star Game, but sat out due to the injury. He threw two scoreless innings on Wednesday, striking out two. Duno is 5-2 this season with a 2.22 ERA. He’s posted a stellar 46:9 K:BB rate in 69 innings of work.
A pair of other Snappers that missed the mid-season classic in Cedar Rapids was outfielder Skye Bolt and catcher Jose Chavez. Fortunately for manager Fran Riordan, the Snappers got those two back in late June.
Bolt, a fourth-round draft pick in last June’s draft out of North Carolina, was activated on June 23rd and has 13 hits in 37 at-bats in the 11 games since his return. That’s enabled Bolt to raise his season slash line to .253/.333/.353 across 48 games. Meanwhile, Chavez has struggled to regain his form and has just four hits in 17 at-bats since being activated on June 25th.
Right-handed pitcher James Naile has been moved around a lot during his first full professional season, but he returned to where 2016 started on June 25th when he was re-assigned to Beloit after a stint with Triple-A Nashville and Double-A Midland. The 20th-round selection out of UAB made a pair of starts each at Midland andNashville, but has been at his best with the Snappers where he’s compiled a 2.74 ERA in 69 innings and posted a 47:15 K:BB rate.
Oakland’s seventh-round pick in the 2013 draft, right-hander Dustin Driver returned to the Beloit staff for the second time this season on June 23rd. But he’s had a tough go of it, even after being sent to the bullpen, allowing six earned runs on eight hits in 3.2 innings, although he did throw a scoreless inning on Wednesday. Fellow reliever Tyler Willman also arrived in Beloit on the same day, and the 2014 12th-rounder has found more success by working 4.1 scoreless innings and striking out five across four appearances.
A pair of former Snappers left the A’s organization altogether, with catcher Tom Gavitt retiring and reliever Mike Fagan getting released. A 19th-round selection in 2014 out of Bryant, Gavitt played at his highest level this summer with the Snappers and went 5-for-16 in five games, but chose to retire instead of return to Arizona following his brief stint at Beloit. Fagan was another 2014 draft pick, a ninth-rounder from Princeton, but failed to master Low-A ball in his second go-around this year. The left-hander saw his ERA balloon to 9.45 in seven appearances out of the bullpen.
Reliever Victor Veliz was sent down from High-A Stockton in mid-June and made a couple of appearances with Beloit, allowing just one hit in 7.1 scoreless innings before being returned to the California League. However, Veliz was recently put on the seven-day DL at Stockton.
As short-season Vermont got its season underway, a number of Snappers were sent east to open play in the New York/Penn League. That list included pitchers Kevin Johnson (0-1. 3.42 ERA in 26.2 IP; he has since retired), Marc Berube (0-1, 15.43 ERA in 2.1 IP) and Jesus Zambrano (1-2, 7.04 ERA in 23 IP); infielder Jesus Lopez (.190/.251/.291 in 56 games); and catcher Miguel Guzman (3-for-10 in three games).
Infielder Trent Gilbert continues to produce as he did during the 2015 season prior to his call-up to Stockton. Oakland’s 15th-round pick in 2014 out of Arizona has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games and is hitting .316 during the stretch. The recent stretch has pushed his season slash line to .287/.346/.395.
As previously mentioned, Bolt has been the Snappers’ hottest hitter since returning to the squad following the All-Star break. The outfielder has seven hits in 16 at-bats during the month of July, including three doubles, and has five RBIs.
Shortstop Edwin Diaz suffered through a slump late in the first half, but has bounced back nicely of late. The Puerto Rican who was taken in the 15th round of the 2013 draft has 11 hits in 35 at-bats during his last 10 games, helping push his season slash line to .248/.333/.337.
Outfielder Mike Martin, who joined the Snappers at the start of June, has been a spark for Beloit since arriving from extended spring training. In 28 games, he is batting .300/.377/.350 with five stolen bases.
Starting pitcher Evan Manarino was named to the MWL All-Star Game, and the former UC-Irvine standout has been solid in his most recent two outings of the second half. Oakland’s 25th-round selection in last year’s draft allowed just one run on five hits in seven innings against Cedar Rapids on July 3rd, striking out five and walking none. Manarino was just as solid five days earlier against Peoria when he went seven innings and allowed a pair of runs on six hits.
Right-hander Dustin Hurlbutt opened 2016 at extended spring training and was originally pegged for the Beloit bullpen after being assigned to the club in early-June. But the 16th-round selection the 2015 draft out of Tabor College was moved to a starting role after three relief appearances, and has flourished in the role. Hurlbutt has gone at least five innings in each of his past three outings, allowing just two runs on 15 hits and posting a 12:2 K:BB rate during the span.