Photo by David Malamut

Beloit Snappers Notebook: Playoffs likely out of reach

A recent losing streak has all but ended the Beloit Snappers' hopes of a post-season berth. Bill Seals checks in with the Oakland A's Low-A affiliate.

Overview

A recent stretch of bad baseball in which they have dropped seven consecutive games has virtually ensured the Beloit Snappers won’t be competing in the Midwest League postseason for a third consecutive season. After a nice stretch of games against East Division competition, Snappers' manager Fran Riordan’s squad sat 11-11 on July 15th and very much in the hunt for a playoff spot. The wheels have fallen off since then, however, as the Snappers have lost 18 of 23 games and are currently alone in last place of the West Division with a 16-29 record. To add insult to injury, Beloit was no-hit by the Clinton LumberKings on Tuesday.

After a strong start to the season, the Snappers pitching staff have seen its share of struggles over the past month. Through Monday, the squad ranked eighth in the 16-team Midwest League with a 3.49 ERA and seventh in WHIP at 1.29. As they have for much of the season, Beloit pitchers rank last in the league in strikeouts with 776 in 963.1 innings pitched but have issued the fifth-fewest walks with 305.

After a couple months of increased production, the Beloit offense slumped over the past four weeks and now ranks 14th in batting average with a .234 mark. The team has scored the third-fewest runs in the league with 401. The only saving grace for Beloit early in the season had been its power numbers, but even those fell off in recent days. They now rank ninth with 52 homers. That’s very much reflected in the team’s power numbers (through Monday):  (.336 SLG/14th) and OPS (649/12th). The offense has really cooled off during the seven-game losing streak in which it’s scored just seven total runs.

The Snappers enjoy a much-needed day off on Wednesday before taking on Wisconsin for four games at home.

Comings and Goings

Hoping to jumpstart the Low-A team’s stagnant offense, the Oakland A's promoted outfielder Luis Barrera from Vermont on August 5th. Barrera had posted a slash line of .321/.379/.421 in 41 games with the Lake Monsters. This is the 20-year old Dominican Republic native’s second full year in the States after spending the 2013 and 2014 seasons in the DSL. Barrera is off to a solid start since joining the Snappers with six hits in his first 19 at-bats.

http://www.scout.com/player/171176-luis-barrera?s=304

Injuries have been an issue in recent weeks, as well. Infielder Michael Soto, who has battled leg issues for much of the summer, was placed on the seven-day disabled list on August 5th. Starting pitcher Michael Murray was also shelved just three days after returning from High-A Stockton. Soto has posted just a .150/.233/.188 slash line in 24 games. Murray got off to a great start after arriving from Extended Spring Training, but has fallen off of late as his ERA ballooned to 4.75 across 10 Low-A starts. He’s posted a 47:13 K:BB rate in 53 innings.

Beloit lost the rock of its starting rotation on August 2nd when left-hander Evan Manarino earned a long overdue promotion to High-A Stockton. One of two MWL All-Stars on this year’s team, the former UC-Irvine standout posted an 8-5 record and 2.15 ERA in 22 games (18 starts) for Beloit. In his 121.2 innings of work, the 23-year-old had an outstanding 103:20 K:BB rate.

Another solid foundation to the Beloit starting rotation, at least when he hasn’t been pitching in other levels of the A’s organization, has been right-hander James Naile. The 2015 20th-rounder out of UAB earned a promotion to High-A Stockton on August 20th after pitching to a 2.88 ERA in 88 innings of work for Beloit. He posted a 64:19 K:BB rate and had a WHIP of 0.98.

Just as he had started to find himself during the marathon MWL season, infielder Edwin Diaz was sent to the seven-day disabled list on July 30th. The 20-year-old Puerto Rican native was in the middle of an eight-game hitting streak in which he was 9-for-22 when he was shelved with the injury. Diaz has posted a respectable .252/.328/.345 slash line in 82 games this season.

http://www.scout.com/player/180022-edwin-diaz?s=304

Outfielder Mike Martin went on the seven-day disabled list in mid-July and has yet to return. The 2015 33rd-round selection out of Harvard had performed admirably in 34 games with the Snappers, posting a .298/.372/.347 slash line. Outfielder Robert Martinez arrived from the AZL A’s on July 17th to fill Martin’s void on the roster, although the 2012 19th-rounder out of Puerto Rico has struggled to a .159/.229/.318 slash line in 15 games.

Injuries have cost Dustin Driver numerous opportunities to establish himself as a prospect since joining the organization as a seventh-round pick in the 2013 draft. The right-hander hit the disabled list once again on July 20th and has yet to return. His ERA stands at 9.47 in 13 games this season at Low-A, this after faring well in a pair of appearances at Vermont in which he allowed two earned runs on four hits in 4.2 innings.

Driver’s loss paved the way for 2016 14th-round draft pick Nolan Blackwood to make the transition to Low-A ball. However, the former Memphis standout has been knocked around through much of his first five games at Beloit, allowing six earned runs on 14 hits in seven innings.

Who’s Hot

Stats as of 8/8/2016

Oakland’s ninth-round selection the 2015 draft out of Liberty University, pitcher Jared Lyons, has quietly put together a nice season in the Beloit bullpen. The left-hander is pitching at his best down the stretch, putting together a stretch of 12.1 innings of allowing just one earned run on eight hits and posting a 14:4 K:BB rate. The recent run has dropped his season ERA to 2.03. He’s appeared in a team-high 34 games.

http://www.scout.com/player/200637-jared-lyons?s=304

Fellow reliever Tyler Willman is also in the midst of a solid stretch, having allowed just one earned run on two hits in eight innings dating back to July 10th. Willman has pitched to a 2.03 ERA in 12 appearances out of the bullpen this season.

With Manarino and Naile off to High-A Stockton in recent weeks, the Beloit rotation is now being anchored by right-hander Angel Duno. The 22-year-old Venezuelan is now leading the league in ERA after his recent stretch of appearances. In two starts this month against Quad Cities and Clinton, Duno has allowed just one earned run on 11 hits in 12 innings of work. As a result, his 2.13 ERA is now tops in the Midwest League by two percentage points over Manarino.

RHP Brendan Butler has also helped to fill the void left by Manarino. Called up from Vermont in late July, Butler has been solid since joining the Snappers' rotation. He has allowed more than two runs in a start just once in four outings and he has one rain shortened complete game. Through 24 innings, he has a 3.75 ERA and a 21:8 K:BB.

After a rough go of it at Stockton earlier this season in which he owned a 10.45 ERA in 15 relief appearances, Rob Huber has regrouped nicely with the Snappers. Huber has allowed just one earned run on 11 hits in his last 12.1 innings dating back to July 9th. The 2014 26th-round selection out of Duke now has an ERA of 2.57 in 21 games at Low-A.

http://www.scout.com/player/191659-rob-huber?s=304

Although he got knocked around in a July 22nd start at home against Lake County, starter Dustin Hurlbutt has ran off three consecutive quality starts against BurlingtonQuad Cities and Clinton. In those three outings, he’s combined to toss 20.2 innings and allow just three earned runs on 19 hits.


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