Before suffering through back-to-back rainouts at Kane County late last month, the Beloit Snappers had been playing pretty good baseball and had run off six wins in seven games to push their season record to 11-11. However, taking two days off in the Chicago suburbs slowed the team’s momentum greatly as the Oakland A's Midwest League affiliate lost a pair of three-game series at home to Bowling Green and Dayton over the last week. The Snappers rebounded with a series-opening win over Lake County on Monday and through nearly one month of the season, the Snappers sit in fourth place at 14-15 and are 3.5 games out of first in the West Division.
Going into Monday, Beloit pitching staff resided in the top one-fourth of the MWL in team ERA with a 3.00 mark, while ranking fifth in WHIP (1.24). An area the staff has performed remarkably in is keeping the ball in the park, as Snappers hurlers have allowed a league-low nine homers this season. As expected, manager Scott Steinmann’s club isn’t racking up big strikeout numbers (they rank ninth with 266 punch outs), but they’ve also issued the second-fewest walks with 79.
Keeping with the defensive theme, Snappers' infielders are doing their part to keep those pitching stats among the best in the MWL. Through 29 games Beloit has turned 41 double plays to tie Midland for second in all of minor league baseball.
Offensively, the Snappers were in the top-half of the MWL standings in most categories going into Monday, including batting average (.245/8th), on-base percentage (.318/7th), slugging percentage (.381/6th). While Beloit pitchers are keeping the ball in the park, the position players are knocking them out of the park. Their 23 homers tie for third in the league. The only notable category the Snappers rank in the bottom-half is strikeouts (266/6th-most).
The Snappers have now hit the road for a pair of series against MWL East Division foes, starting with three games against Lake County and continuing with a trio versus Fort Wayne.
Comings and Goings
Late last week, right-hander Jesus Zambrano joined the Beloit staff. He came from Midland after he was summoned to the Texas League from Extended Spring Training. Zambrano appeared in a game at San Antonio on May 1st and allowed five earned runs on five hits in three innings, striking out three and walking one. Zambrano was then sent down to Low-A and has since pitched in one game with Beloit and allowed two runs on three hits in four innings.
The Zambrano move was part of a trio of moves one day earlier, as pitchers Will Gilbert and Andrew Tomasovich were promoted to High-A Stockton and hurler Yordy Alejo arrived from Extended Spring Training.
Gilbert and Tomasovich were perhaps the Snappers’ top two relievers through the first four weeks of the season. Gilbert allowed just one earned run on seven hits in 8.2 innings, recording six strikeouts and issuing just one walk. Tomasovich has yet to allow an earned run this season. He gave up just four hits in nine scoreless innings with the Snappers, striking out 13 and walking none. That success has continued with the Ports, as the left-hander has thrown two perfect innings and struck out four.
Alejo appeared in his first game with the Snappers on May 3rd, allowing an unearned run on two hits in one inning of work. The 23-year-old has been a part of the A’s organization since the 2011 season. He had thrown 4.2 scoreless innings in five Low-A relief appearances last summer.
After being lost to the disabled list during the first week of the season, outfielder Mike Martin returned to the active roster on April 26th, just as fellow outfielder Luis Barrera was going on the shelf with an injury. Martin has recorded 10 hits in 23 at-bats since returning from the DL, including a 3-for-4 game against Bowling Green on Sunday and a 4-for-5 effort on Monday against Lake County. On the season, Martin is now batting .357. Having played in 19 games this season, Barrera was slashing .266/.329/.328 prior to his injury.
Veteran right-hander Boomer Biegalski, a MWL All-Star in 2016 who was forced to repeat the Low-A level coming out of spring training, finally earned a long overdue promotion in mid-April. The former Florida State product had made two appearances and pitched eight innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with a 6:2 K:BB rate prior to heading to Stockton. Biegalski hasn’t found the same level of success in California, posting a 9.22 ERA and 15:5 K:BB rate after five games (three starts).
Replacing Biegalski on the Snappers’ roster was Mitchell Jordan, who had been at extended spring training in Arizona. The 2016 10th-rounder out of Stetson moved into a hybrid role and has made four appearances, including two starts, and allowed just one earned run on 13 hits in 12.2 innings, striking out nine and walking three.
The initial transaction of the season for Beloit was Martin’s being sent to the DL. Outfielder Luke Persico arrived from Extending Spring Training and has remained on the roster since. The 2016 12th-rounder out of UCLA currently ranks second on the team in batting average (.278) and slugging percentage (.443). Although it’s only a 20-game sample size, Persico’s early-season success is encouraging especially since he slashed just .201/.266/.287 in 48 games last summer at short-season Vermont.
It was a tough first six games for Persico, who managed just a pair of hits in his first 22 at-bats at the Low-A level. After recording two hits in each of his next three games, the outfielder has seen his number rise greatly. He’s never been hotter than he was in this weekend’s three-game series, as he racked up eight hits in 15 at-bats and had a 4-for-5 outing on Friday night. On Monday, Persico had four RBI.
A slow start plagued infielder Trace Loehr for the first two months of the 2016 season at Beloit. This spring was no different as he managed just four hits in his first 33 at-bats. But the 2014 6th-rounder has figured things out much sooner this season. He has multiple hits in four of his past seven games and was 8-for-23 during the team’s recent homestand.
Fellow infielder Eric Marinez has hit safely in his last five games and is slashing .444/.524/.667 during the month of May. The recent surge has pushed Marinez to second on the team with a .278 batting average.
Starter Dalton Sawyer has allowed just five earned runs on 16 hits in his past 26.1 innings. During that six-game span he has posted a remarkable 27:4 K:BB rate. Oakland’s ninth-round selection in the 2016 draft now has a 2.10 ERA on the season to rank second among Beloit’s tandem pitchers.
Hybrid pitcher Brandon Bailey endured a rough start to the season, but has settled down remarkably well. The 2016 6th-rounder out of Gonzaga has allowed just one earned run on seven hits in his last 11 innings, which has enabled him to drop his ERA to 3.43 through six appearances. During his hot streak, he has struck out 13 and walked three.
When Dakota Chalmers has been good, he’s been really good. However, when he’s been bad, his numbers have been really bad. Oakland’s third round pick in 2015 out of a Georgia high school has been on the uptick of late, notching three consecutive scoreless appearances where he’s scattered four hits across eight innings. Command seems to be the only thing keeping Chalmers away from dominating Midwest League competition. He has struck out 30 in 18.1 innings, but has allowed nearly one walk per inning.