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Beloit Snappers 2016 season review: A bounty of starting pitching

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Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Now that the Oakland A’s 2016 season is over, it’s time for a look back. There’s a long offseason ahead and plenty of dreary winter days for dreaming on the future, but first we need to digest all that has happened over the last six months.

On Monday we reviewed Low-A Vermont, so the next step up the ladder brings us to the Single-A Beloit Snappers. This is the lowest full-season minor league affiliate, as they play 139 games beginning in April (as opposed to Vermont, which plays a shorter schedule beginning in June).

I’m going to be upfront: This is the least interesting of all five of the A’s affiliates we’ll be looking at. That’s partly by design — the best prospects often skip this level entirely, so the rosters are made up of whatever’s left ... and then the remaining standouts make their way up to High-A quickly.

Fortunately, the A’s uncovered a few of those standouts this year. Their starting rotation blossomed and helped the club allow the fifth-fewest runs in the 16-team league. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t capitalize, scoring the second-fewest runs and sinking the Snappers to a division-worst 59-80 record.

But fear not. Like with Vermont, the final record of a Single-A team is not really important in any way. What matters is identifying the quality players who slipped through the cracks and getting them shipped up to higher levels with tougher competition. And in that sense, Beloit had a productive 2016 season.

Top prospects

Hitters

Name Pos PAs Avg/OBP/SLG HR BB% K% wRC+
Chris Iriart 1B 316 .231/.320/.451 16 9.2% 28.2% 126
Brett Siddall OF 542 .241/.321/.356 9 8.7% 18.1% 103
Skye Bolt OF 402 .231/.318/.345 5 10.4% 21.9% 97
Trace Loehr SS 386 .249/.292/.350 1 5.2% 19.9% 87
Jesus Lopez 2B 331 .202/.259/.278 2 7.3% 26.6% 60
Luis Barrera OF 76 .286/.320/.443 1 5.3% 22.4% 121

There were a couple other regulars I didn’t list who managed above-average lines, but Iriart was by far the best hitter on the team — and arguably the best slugger in the whole league. Barrera is listed at the bottom because he only played a handful of games, but he picked up right where he’d left off in Vermont.

But there wasn’t much else going on in the lineup. Siddall started hot in April but cooled down after that, and Bolt was in and out of the lineup with a lingering hamstring injury (though he did make the All-Star team). Infielders Loehr (a high school pick in 2014) and Lopez (a 19-year-old from Nicaragua) didn’t make any progress at the plate this year, though Loehr did show signs of life in the final month.

A few others:

  • 1B/3B Ryan Howell (2015, 15th round) posted a 113 wRC+, but it was entirely based on a high walk rate; he struck out a lot with a low average and mediocre power, so he still doesn’t make my list above
  • OF Mike Martin (2015, 33rd round) briefly posted a 118 wRC+ but spent a long time on the DL
  • One of my sleepers from last year’s draft, 10th-round outfielder Steven Pallares, washed out back down to Vermont (where he also didn’t hit). Walks more than he strikes out, plays some defense, and steals some bases, but so far can’t hit at all.

Pitchers

Name R/L Games ERA IP K BB HR FIP
Kyle Friedrichs R 10 1.25 50⅓ 31 6 2 3.42
Evan Manarino L 22 2.15 121⅔ 103 20 1 2.43
Dustin Hurlbutt R 19 2.57 98 78 24 6 3.51
James Naile R 15 2.66 88 64 19 2 2.96
Angel Duno R 24 2.68 121 76 16 7 3.44
Brendan Butler R 9 3.14 51⅔ 46 15 4 4.04
Boomer Biegalski R 28 3.70 151⅓ 115 38 14 3.96
Michael Murray R 12 4.28 61 53 13 6 3.66
... Bullpen ...
Jared Lyons L 41 1.72 52⅓ 61 16 1 2.37
Nolan Blackwood R 13 4.05 20 20 5 1 2.87

Starters kept getting called up to higher levels, and new ones just stepped into their places. I’ve listed eight who did pretty good jobs, seven of them from the 2015 draft. Granted, the competition isn’t great in Single-A, but they mowed down what was put in front of them.

The biggest ones were Friedrichs, Manarino, and Naile. All three of them wound up on the postseason roster for Double-A Midland, which is quite a jump for a trio of hurlers in their first full pro season. Manarino even did enough to be named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Year by Baseball America, and he, Biegalski, and Duno were named All-Stars.

Most of these guys will burn out between here and MLB, because them’s the odds when it comes to fringe pitching prospects. But at least Beloit pumped out a lot of interesting lotto tickets, which is all you can ask for from your Single-A club.

One guy who didn’t join in the success this year was Dustin Driver, a high-ceiling but raw and oft-injured high school pick from 2013. His wildness continued, with more than a walk per inning and two per strikeout, and he eventually spent time on the DL as well.

2015 draft review

Just as Vermont’s roster was mostly made up of this summer’s draft class, Beloit’s ranks were heavy with members of the 2015 haul.

It’s easy to be down on this group because the top guys have been disappointing. Of the first six picks: infielders Richie Martin and Mikey White struggled at the plate for most of the year; Bolt was mediocre when healthy; pitcher Kevin Duchene was injured and barely pitched; and Bubba Derby was traded (and wasn’t great with his new team). The highlight is the untapped promise of teenage hurler Dakota Chalmers.

But the later rounds are proving to be full of intriguing names. Here’s a rundown:

7. Kyle Friedrichs, RHP: Only took him until the end of May to move up to High-A Stockton, where he became one of their better pitchers. Pitched a great game in the Double-A playoffs to help Midland to a victory. He’s 24 years old, but that’s still rapid progress in one year.

9. Jared Lyons, LHP: Dominated out of the pen. Another in a growing line of shutdown relief prospects in the A’s system.

12. Chris Iriart, 1B: Tied for third in the league in homers, and the two guys above him had nearly twice as many plate appearances. He moved up to Stockton for the final couple weeks and bombed away there as well. If he can keep his strikeouts from getting any higher — the classic “if” — he might just be a legit power prospect.

13. Brett Siddall, OF: He showed a well-rounded offensive game, with some power, speed, and decent plate discipline.

14. Boomer Biegalski, RHP: One of the bale of quality Snappers starters. (A bale is the word for a group of turtles, according to Google.)

15. Ryan Howell, 2B: I pooh-poohed him earlier, but he at least didn’t suck.

16. Dustin Hurlbutt, RHP: Good stats, even better name.

19. Seth Brown, OF: Played all year in High-A.

20. James Naile, RHP: Pitched well at three levels, and ended his season by starting and winning the clinching game in the Texas League Championship Series. He tossed six scoreless innings in that one. In a Double-A title game. Fifteen months after being drafted.

25. Evan Manarino, LHP: At this point in the draft you’re mostly hoping the player didn’t actually mean to sign up for basketball, with a clerical error putting them in the wrong sport. Instead, the A’s got the Midwest League Pitcher of the Year. He also impressed in a handful of outings for Stockton at the end of the year, and then got the call from Midland (though he didn’t make it into a game in Double-A).

30. Brendan Butler, RHP
32. Michael Murray, RHP
33. Mike Martin, OF: For the brief time they played, they were good. The pitchers posted strong K/BB rates, and Martin displayed good plate discipline as well as some speed.

That’s 13 mid-round picks who did enough to at least merit an occasional eyeball next year. Heck, I have four of them on my current Top 30 prospect list. All it takes is one or two of them reaching MLB for this class to have made its mark, and that’s leaving aside top guys like Martin and Chalmers who still have plenty of time to pan out. It’s entirely possible that the 2015 class will eventually be defined by some mid-rounder who beat the odds.

Conclusion

The little Snapper hatchlings emerged from their eggs, and a surprising number of them reached the water safely. There’s still a long way for them to go, but that successful first step made it a relatively sunny year in rainy Beloit.

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