Single-A is a land of opportunity. Rosters churn with great frequency as teams strive to look at as many players as possible, with the goal of identifying which of their fringier prospects could develop into wheat and which ones are pure chaff. Even players from the very bottom of the draft can hope to eventually hear their numbers called, and at that point it's up to them to answer that call.
In the month of June, two such late-round guys have made the most of their opportunities: RHP Michael Murray and OF Mike Martin. Drafted in the 32nd and 33rd rounds, respectively, these two have really taken the
bull by the horns turtle by the shell and gotten off to hot starts for the Beloit Snappers.
Michael Murray (2015, 32nd round) joined the starting rotation at the end of May when Kyle Friedrichs got the call up to High-A Stockton. The right-hander has made seven starts so far, and he's yet to have a particularly bad one. At his best he's gone seven shutout innings, and at his worst he's still managed to finish five frames and allow no more than 3-4 runs. Over at Scout.com, Bill Seals has more to tell us about what Murray brings to the table. He doesn't light up the radar gun with his 89-90 mph fastball, but he does flash a pair of breaking balls:
"I learned a slider that's a lot sharper and harder than it used to be," Murray said. "Now I have two distinct pitches, a curveball and slider. In spring training it was kind of a mesh of both. That new pitch has helped me have success up here."
Murray's overall numbers, which include four strikeouts for every walk:
Murray: 7 starts, 3.12 ERA, 40⅓ ip, 33 Ks, 8 BB, 3 HR
Snappers Michael Murray pitched excellent going 7 innings, 5 h, 5 K's pic.twitter.com/Q3K8GcqMrT— Dave Baker (@dbaker1221) June 14, 2016
A week after Murray joined the Snappers, outfielder Mike Martin (2015, 33rd round) found his way up as a replacement for the injured Skye Bolt in center field. Bolt has since returned from the DL, but Martin is playing so well that he's held onto his everyday spot in the lineup (though he's moved to the corners on defense). The right-hander, who played four years of college ball at Harvard and graduated with a degree in government, has hit safely in 18 of his 24 games so far, good for a .322 average. He's also shown good plate discipline (10% Ks, 15% BB) and stolen five bases, all of which has helped him take over the leadoff spot in the order. Martin, who struggled in his pro debut last year in Rookie Ball, credits coaching with his improvement, via Tyler Maun of MiLB.com.
There's still a lot for Martin to prove, especially since he's already 23 years old. He's not hitting for any power, and his high average is fueled by a .380 BABIP, so he'll need to show that he can keep getting hits at a high rate if he's to remain a productive hitter. His highlights so far include a 5-for-5 day in only his third game for Beloit, and later a walk-off hit in the 12th inning of a marathon against Peoria. His overall numbers through 100 plate appearances:
Martin: .322/.398/.379, 137 wRC+, 1 HR, 10.0% BB, 15.0% Ks
Beloit Snapper Mike Martin pic.twitter.com/RMxFWvOWZe— Dave Baker (@dbaker1221) June 29, 2016
Midwest League All-Star Game
The number of reps Beloit sent to the All-Star Game depends on how you want to look at things. There were five total names, but two of them were on the DL and therefore didn't participate. Of the remaining three, two more of them didn't end up playing in the actual game, leaving pitcher Boomer Biegalski as the only Snapper who actually appeared in the West Division's 11-10 loss. The full list:
RHP Boomer Biegalski: 1 ip, 1 run, 1 BB, 1 hit
LHP Evan Manarino: did not pitch
RHP: Angel Duno: did not pitch (DL)
C Jose Chavez: did not play
OF Skye Bolt: did not play (DL)
Biegalski pitched the 7th inning, and his run cut his team's lead to 8-7. Some other dudes blew it in the 9th. Here's the full Gameday box score.
Transactions: Bolt returns
When we last checked in on Beloit a month ago there were lots of transactions to catch up on, and there are some more this time around. Four players are out, and five are in. The active roster now stands at 24 players, with three more on the DL.
As mentioned in the last section, RHP Angel Duno hit the DL in the middle of June and has not yet returned. Meanwhile, three youngsters were sent back down to Low-A Vermont: RHP Jesus Zambrano, RHP Marc Berube, and 2B Jesus Lopez. Zambrano and Lopez are each just 19 years old, so it makes sense for them to keep developing at the lowest level until/unless they force their way up. Berube (2015, 28th round) looks like filler at the moment.
To replace them, OF Skye Bolt (2015, 4th round) returned from his nagging hamstring injury and LHP Andrew Tomasovich (2015, 21st round) came back from the DL too. Bolt finally looks back on track, going 8-for-24 with good plate discipline, and Tomasovich has been dominant since returning with six scoreless relief outings (9⅔ ip, 14 Ks, 1 BB). RHP James Naile (2015, 20th round) came back from his adventures in the high minors -- he acquitted himself well in a couple of starts with each of Triple-A Nashville and Double-A Midland, but now he's back down to continue his normal development. Still, it wouldn't be surprising to see him continue to be fast-tracked as opportunities arise.
Finally, RHP Dustin Driver and RHP Tyler Willman were brought up from Low-A. Driver entered the year at No. 26 on our Community Prospect List due to his huge potential, but it's been another lost season so far for the 21-year-old. He pitched for Beloit earlier this year, but he was ineffective and ended up on the DL. He's back on track now health-wise, but his numbers are still pretty gross: 13 innings, 8 Ks, 17 walks. Yikes. Meanwhile, Willman (2014, 12th round) has thrown four scoreless frames in his first three relief outings for the Snappers.
RHP Dustin Driver
RHP James Naile
LHP Andrew Tomasovich
RHP Tyler Willman
OF Skye Bolt
|RHP Marc Berube
RHP Angel Duno (DL)
RHP Jesus Zambrano
2B Jesus Lopez
Other than Duno, the disabled list still includes catcher Nick Collins (2015, 8th round) and 1B Chris Iriart (2015, 12th round). Iriart was the team's best hitter before getting hit in the face by a pitch a month ago.
Hitters (thru 79 games)
1B/3B Ryan Howell (2015, 15th round) has a 131 wRC+, but for some reason I'm not buying it quite yet. He's not hitting for a high average or a ton of power, and most of his production seems to come from a high walk rate. Normally I wouldn't mind that, but against this low level of pitching I'd like to see more -- after all, they're gonna throw more strikes at higher levels and you need to be able to do something with them. His power is picking up lately, though, and if that keeps up then he could start to get interesting. SS Trace Loehr (2014, 6th round) is still doing nothing, with a 67 wRC+ and a batting line that bears no good news.
|... Bullpen ...|
The Snappers keep cranking out good starting pitchers. They've lost Duno to the DL and Friedrichs to a promotion, but that hasn't slowed down the rotation at all. We already talked about Murray, but Hurlbutt (2015, 16th round) is stepping up as well. Only four of his seven outings have been starts, and he hasn't yet gone past the 5th inning, but that K/BB rate is enough to get my attention for now.
All five affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: LIVE, Zach Neal vs. Oklahoma City
Double-A Midland: LIVE, Corey Walter vs. Arkansas
High-A Stockton: 7:05 p.m., Kyle Friedrichs vs. Rancho Cucamonga
Single-A Beloit: LIVE, Evan Manarino vs. Cedar Rapids
Low-A Vermont: LIVE, Brendan Butler vs. Staten Island
Walter threw another four scoreless innings, like clockwork, as he adjusts to starting. He hasn't given up a run in his last four starts, spanning 17 frames. Butler also went four scoreless, lowering his ERA to 0.90 in four starts for Vermont.