On May 6, outfielder Skye Bolt was pulled from a game early by the Single-A Beloit Snappers. He grounded into a double play in his first at-bat that day, and reportedly looked injured after running to first. Indeed, the diagnosis was a tweaked hamstring, according to Josh Flickinger of the Beloit Daily News, making this a routine part of athletic life but an annoying setback nonetheless. After missing eight games, Bolt returned to the lineup on May 17 and has played most every day since. Players will always pull leg muscles now and then, but for now we can put this brief bang-up in the past.
That's good news for the Snappers, because Bolt is easily the most promising player on the team. Despite a winning record (24-23), there isn't much to follow in Beloit, which is not surprising for Single-A (or full-season Class-A ball if you prefer exact nomenclature). The best low-minors prospects end up in High-A, so Single-A is generally made up of whatever is left over. If you're lucky, there will be a few high-upside teenagers cutting their teeth against their first full-season competition, or maybe a new addition from next month's draft who makes his way up quickly.
Following that trend, this year's Snappers are mostly made up of the less interesting players from the 2015 draft class. With 1st-rounder Richie Martin and 2nd-rounder Mikey White up in High-A Stockton, and 3rd-rounder Dakota Chalmers patiently stretching out his 19-year-old arm in extended spring training, that makes 4th-rounder Bolt the top pick on this particular roster. Plus, 5th-rounder Kevin Duchene hasn't made his '16 debut yet, and 6th-rounder Bubba Derby was traded, so in terms of last year's draft Bolt is the only top-200 pick on the team. He's joined by 10 other draftmates, plus a couple of those raw teenagers like Jesus Lopez and Jesus Zambrano. The rest of the roster is essentially organizational filler.
So Bolt is the team's highest-profile player, and now he's back in action. Unfortunately he's struggled since his return, going 4-for-32 in nine games (4 BB, 10 Ks, .378 OPS), but overall he still has a healthy 111 wRC+ and solid plate discipline stats. The further down the minor league ladder you go, the less importance I place on the precise stats, and at this low level I mostly just look at K/BB numbers (and maybe slugging) to see which hitters are controlling the zone and which are getting overpowered (or, when it comes to pitchers, which ones can control their pitches and/or miss bats). Defenses seem shaky and many Single-A games devolve into Little League-type error-fests, so batting averages and ERAs may be even less reliable than we're used to.
Now that Bolt is healthy again in center field, the next step is to continue working his way toward Stockton. He'll need to do more than hold his own to move up the ladder, though. Even after losing slugger Tyler Marincov to a promotion, the Ports are well set in the outfield between James Harris (120 wRC+), Seth Brown (116), and B.J. Boyd (127), all of whom have earned their current playing time. Bolt will need to really force the issue if he wants to reach the next level, but given his pre-draft reputation as a raw bag of tools, it's probably not the worst thing in the world for him to take the slow road through Wisconsin and the Midwest League. Besides, as long as he remains in his current home, there will at least be one interesting thing to look at each day in the Snappers' box scores.
Hitters (thru 47 games)
Chris Iriart, 1B: .239/.332/.460, 9 HR, 10.2% BB, 23.5% Ks, 136 wRC+
Brett Siddall, OF: .273/.375/.353, 0 HR, 12.5% BB, 14.2% Ks, 125 wRC+
Skye Bolt, OF: .246/.336/.356, 2 HR, 10.2% BB, 19.0% Ks, 111 wRC+
Jesus Lopez, 2B: .217/.274/.358, 1 HR, 7.6% BB, 23.5% Ks, 87 wRC+
Steven Pallares, OF: .132/.313/.170, 1 HR, 20.9% BB, 14.9% Ks, 67 wRC+
Iriart leads the Midwest League in homers, and his strikeout rate is much more manageable than it was in his pro debut last year. Granted, in my eyes the only truly impressive thing you can do in Single-A is earn a promotion to High-A, so I'll refrain from getting too excited, but I do look forward to seeing what Iriart can do when he eventually gets that call. Siddall has settled into a more sustainable batting line, which includes good on-base skills but low power. Pallares' numbers baffle me, with enormous plate discipline but an absolute inability to actually hit the ball.
Meanwhile, 8th-round catcher Nick Collins (74 wRC+) is on the disabled list.
Evan Manarino, LHP: 10 games, 1.12 ERA, 48⅓ ip, 43 Ks, 6 BB, 0 HR
Kyle Friedrichs, RHP: 10 games, 1.25 ERA, 50⅓ ip, 31 Ks, 6 BB, 2 HR
Boomer Biegalski, RHP: 10 games, 2.60 ERA, 52 ip, 48 Ks, 12 BB, 4 HR
Angel Duno, RHP: 9 games, 2.74 ERA, 46 ip, 36 Ks, 6 BB, 1 HR
James Naile, RHP: 9 games, 3.28 ERA, 46⅔ ip, 36 Ks, 11 BB, 0 HR
The ERAs are pretty, but don't get drawn too close by their siren call. Instead, marvel at those K/BB rates:
These guys will give up more hits and homers as they move up the ladder. It's nice to see that, at least at this low level, they can throw strikes miss bats. Biegalski is still my favorite of this group, but I've become legitimately curious about 25th-rounder Manarino, whose numbers are becoming too incredible to ignore.
All four affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: 6:35 p.m., Dillon Overton vs. Salt Lake
Double-A Midland: 5:05 p.m., Joel Seddon vs. Tulsa
High-A Stockton: 6:00 p.m., Casey Meisner vs. Lake Elsinore
Single-A Beloit: 4:30 p.m.,
James Naile vs. Kane County
Pretty good pitching slate. Overton and Meisner are must-watch prospects, and for more on Naile check out this profile by Bill Seals of Scout.com. (UPDATE: Naile did not end up making the start, but I don't yet know why.) Seddon finally had his first truly good start of the year last time out, and he'll look to build on that success.
Bolt is batting in the leadoff position for Beloit.