2012 Year-In-Review and 2013 Outlook
With the Oakland A's front office taking a different approach to the 2012 amateur draft, its lower level minor league affiliates figured to take on a new look this spring.
That's exactly the case at Beloit, where the Midwest League squad will feature 15 selections from a 2012 draft that was heavy on high school talent. The Snappers aren't just young when it comes to its players. Rookie manager Ryan Christenson takes over the managerial duties of the A's Low-A club from Aaron Nieckula, who earned a promotion to Double-A Midland. Christenson is joined by hitting coach Casey Meyers and pitching coach John Wasdin, who returns for his second year in the Midwest League.
The A's are also settling into some new digs in the state of Wisconsin, after signing a player-development contract with Beloit following two seasons in Burlington, Iowa.
Many of the regulars in the Bees' lineup at the end of 2012 have moved up a rung in the minor league chain, including infielders Addison Russell, Max Muncy and Wade Kirkland, and outfielder Bobby Crocker who moved on to High-A Stockton. Starting catcher Nick Rickles opens the season at Double-A Midland.
Three members of the Burlington starting rotation (Drew Granier, Blake Hassebrock and Tanner Peters) have moved up to High-A Stockton, while another (A.J. Cole) was sent back to the Washington organization in an off-season trade and will open at High-A Potomac.
The Snappers open the season Thursday with a four-game set at Cedar Rapids, and head to Peoria for three games next week, before returning to Beloit for its home opener on April 11th.
The Beloit Infielders and Catchers
Several highly regarded A's prospects can be found in the Beloit infield. Corner infielders Matt Olson and Renato Nunez were born less than a week apart in the spring of 1994 and will be 19-year-olds getting their first taste of full-season ball.
Olson was selected 47th overall in last June's draft and wasted little time showing his power potential. In 46 games with the AZL A's, Olson hit .282/.345/.520 with eight homers, 41 RBI and 16 doubles. He received a promotion to short-season Vermont for the final week of the season and posted three hits in 11 at-bats, including a homer.
After spending all of 2011 with the A's Dominican Summer League team, Nunez showed he was ready for a full-season affiliate by hitting .325 with 25 extra-base hits and 953 OPS in Arizona rookie league action. The A's front office is expecting big things from Nunez, who received the second-largest international amateur free agent bonus given out by the team when he signed with Oakland for $2.2 million in 2010.
Although he hasn't shown much offensively in brief stretches with the AZL A's and Vermont the past two summers, the 20-year-old Solano will get a big opportunity with the Snappers. In 2012, Solano played in 54 games at Vermont and posted just a 549 OPS.
Roberts got a brief taste of the Midwest League last summer, playing in 11 games down the stretch and posting a slash line of .225/.311/.325. As a 44th-round pick in 2011, Bostick was one of the biggest stories on the AZL A's later that summer, hitting .442 and posting a 1.136 OPS in 14 games. He cooled off at Vermont last summer, hitting .251 with a sub-700 OPS in 70 games, although he had a solid first six weeks of the season before slumping late. Tanis moves onto Low-A ball after spending the past two summers in Vermont. He posted a line of .261/.333/.336 last season in 61 games with the Lake Monsters.
Catcher Bruce Maxwell, the A's fourth overall pick last season, turned heads with 11 hits and five walks in 21 at-bats over six games with the AZL A's shortly after being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft out of Birmingham Southern. The left-handed hitting backstop was quickly sent to Vermont, where he posted a modest line of .254/.329/.316 over 61 games.
Fellow '12 selection Phil Pohl is the Snappers' right-handed hitting complement and posted a line of .301/.375/.469 in 32 games with the AZL A's, before being sent to short-season Vermont for a three-game stretch at summer's end.
The Beloit Outfielders
Headlining the Snappers' outfield is Aaron Shipman, who is looking to pass the Midwest League test in his second go-around. The 2010 third-rounder mustered a slash line of .206/.319/.261 in 108 games with Burlington and will repeat the level in 2013. Known for his plate discipline and excellent BB:K ratios, Shipman battled injuries throughout the 2012 season but is still just 21 years old.
Oakland's 27th-round pick in 2012 out of North Carolina State, Ryan Matthews gets the call to Low-A ball after a 21-game stint with the AZL A's in which he put up a line of .250/.303/.483. Fellow 2012 draftee Brett Vertigan, a 10th-rounder out of UC-Santa Barbara, spent last season exclusively at short-season Vermont, playing 67 games and posting a line of .266/.338/.375. Vertigan tied for the team lead in steals and finished third in doubles. He should bat lead-off for the Snappers. Another '12 selection, 37th-rounder John Wooten spent a week with Burlington and managed just two hits in 17 at-bats, but he was the Lake Monsters' top hitter with a .286 average.
The Beloit Pitching Staff
During his first year in the organization, Alcantara split time as a starter and reliever with Burlington, as the A's kept him on a strict innings limit. He made 17 starts and 10 relief appearances for the Bees, posting a 5.08 ERA and 57:38 K:BB ratio in 102.2 innings.
Ynoa finally gets his first taste of full-season ball after getting a record signing bonus from the A's in 2008. The 6'7'' right-hander will try to stay healthy and build up his innings as a starter for the Snappers after throwing 30.2 innings across 14 appearances with the AZL A's and Vermont. He is still a work in progress, however, and will need to improve upon his 1:1 K:BB ratio and 6.46 ERA.
Vail, a fifth-rounder in 2010 out of high school, finally gets another crack at Low-A ball after a 13-game stretch in 2011 led to a demotion and more struggles at short-season Vermont. Vail opened 2012 with three dominant appearances with the AZL A's before heading to Vermont, where he finished 3-4 with a 4.20 ERA over 12 appearances (seven starts).
A 15th-round selection last June, Voiro spent all of his time with the AZL A's and finished 3-2 with a 3.62 ERA. The 6'3'' righty posted a 41:8 K:BB ratio across 37.1 innings. Lamb returns to the rotation at Low-A after starting 11 games with Burlington and posting a 3-3 record and 5.03 ERA.
An eight-man bullpen is made up completely of 2012 draft picks, including six pitchers who saw time last season in Vermont.
A 14th-round selection last June, Austin House struck out 33 in 25.2 innings, posted a miniscule 1.05 ERA and saved a team-high five games for Vermont, before being summoned to Burlington for a two-game cameo.
Right-hander Ryan Dull pitched 21 games across two levels, including an impressive stretch at Vermont where he was 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA and 34 Ks in 25.1 innings. Another reliever who posted more than one punch-out per inning was Tucker Healy, a 23rd-rounder. The righty struck out 45 batters in just 29.1 innings in 22 relief appearances.
Chosen in the first eight rounds last June, Seth Streich and Kris Hall are a couple of prospects to watch in Beloit's bullpen. A sixth-rounder out of Ohio University, Streich posted a 2.60 ERA in 15 games at Vermont, striking out 42 in 34.2 innings. Lee University product Hall, an eighth-rounder, posted an ERA under one in 27.1 innings with the Lake Monsters, striking out 24 and walking 14.
Stuart Pudenz (2-1, 2.59 ERA), a 13th-rounder out of Dallas Baptist, rounds out the list of Vermont graduates available out of the ‘pen.
Right-handers Dakota Bacus and Derek De Young are skipping a level, moving from the AZL A's to Beloit. A ninth-round selection out of Indiana State, Bacus posted a 3-0 record and 1.20 ERA in 18 rookie-league appearances. He struck out 35 batters and walked just five in 30 innings. De Young gets quite a step up in competition after appearing in just one rookie league game as an 18th-rounder from Oakton Community College.