by Ryan Christoffersen / A’s Farm Beloit Correspondent
Hi there! My name is Ryan Christoffersen and I will be contributing to Athletics Farm this season from Beloit, Wisconsin. Beloit is the home of the Oakland Athletics’ Low Single-A affiliate, the Beloit Snappers (#OhSnap).
Working as a Stats Stringer and Official Scorer at Pohlman Field in Beloit, I am going to be at almost every home game. That means I will be able to keep everyone updated on what is happening and what I am seeing from the prospects playing for the Snappers. This is actually my second year working in the Pohlman Field press box. Last season, I was the Pitch F/X Operator for the Snappers, so I am already familiar with about ten of the players on the current roster.
Don’t forget to read the main source of news for the Beloit Snappers at snappersbaseball.com, where new Media Relations Manager Garrett Mansfield is doing some great work. And speaking of snappersbaseball.com and Garrett, check out his article on the Snappers opening day roster. That article and my following thoughts should work together to give Oakland A’s fans a very good idea of what prospects are in Beloit to start this season and why they should be very excited!
Ten Snappers making a return trip to Beloit this season…
RHP Boomer Biegalski: Real name is “Leon.” I prefer “Boomer.” It makes me think of Tom DeLonge’s character from the blink-182 music video First Date. Boomer Biegalski actually led the 2016 Beloit Snappers with 153 1/3 innings pitched. He finished with a respectable 3.70 ERA (3.96 FIP) and a 1.19 WHIP. He was even selected to play in the Midwest League All-Star Game. The problem with Biegalski last season was how poorly he pitched in the second half. Not only was his ERA about a full run higher after the all-star break (first half: 3.21 ERA, second half: 4.15 ERA), but his home runs allowed ballooned from 4 in the first half to 10 in the second half. It has got to be frustrating to return to Beloit after a full season there, but I would bet he is one of, if not the first, Snappers moved up this season.
SS/2B/3B Trace Loehr: Here is an interesting case. Loehr, like Biegalski, spent all of last season with the Snappers. A 6th-round pick out of high school in 2014, Loehr was the #26 prospect in the A’s organization according to MLB Pipeline going into the 2016 season. But it was a season full of speed bumps for this slick-fielding infielder. Loehr did not hit well in the first half, batting just .211/.241/.283. He had a short stay on the disabled list in late April/early May. And then, in late July, Loehr was arrested and was placed on the temporarily inactive list for almost two weeks. With limited information available on the incident, I have to assume Loehr was cleared of any wrongdoing. When he came back in August, he started to play really well, hitting .338/.372/.513 in 21 games with 4 stolen bases and numerous “web gems” in the field. If Loehr can continue to play closer to what he did last August, we could have a post-hype breakout player.
3B/SS Edwin Diaz: Spent all of last season with the Snappers. Has some potential with the bat, but a high strikeout rate (29.7%) is part of the reason he is back in Beloit.
LHP Andrew Tomasovich: Side-arm lefty reliever has some nasty swing-and-miss stuff (11.34 K/9 in 39 2/3 innings), but has trouble controlling it (1.64 WHIP, 5.67 ERA).
RHP Michael Murray: Made 12 starts for the Snappers last season. ERA was a little high at 4.28, but probably more representative of his season is the fact that he had a 3.66 FIP in 61 innings.
RHP Brendan Butler: Pitched well in 9 starts for Beloit in 2016 with 3.14 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 51 2/3 innings. Can he build off of successful 2016 season? If so, he could move up quickly.
OF Mike Martin: Pleasant surprise for Snappers in 2016 before getting hurt in July and missing the rest of the season. Hit .298 with a .372 OBP and 7 stolen bases in 34 games for the Snappers.
OF Luis Barrera: Young outfielder with exciting potential is going into his age-21 season. Hit .310/.361/.428 between Vermont and Beloit last season while playing all three outfield spots.
RHP Xavier Altamirano: Strong start to 2016 in Beloit, but struggled in May before being put on DL. Once healthy, he pitched in Vermont the rest of the year and had a 2.48 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 65 1/3 innings.
C Collin Theroux: 32nd-round pick in 2016 had a brief cameo in Beloit at the end of the season. In 21 at-bats, Theroux struck out 15 times and did not record a hit. Nowhere to go but up!
Top five new Snappers ranked in order of how excited I am to see them play this season…
RHP Dakota Chalmers: Only Snapper ranked on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Oakland A’s prospects at #14. I figure there is a good chance he spends the entire season in Beloit because he is just 20 years old and needs to work on his control.
- OF/3B/2B JaVon Shelby: An article from last year here on Athletics Farm talks about the 2016 A’s draft class with Athletics Scouting Director Eric Kubota. In the article, Kubota talks about how Shelby is capable of playing the outfield as well as third base and second base. He is described as a versatile, “toolsy” player with a lot of potential. Kubota even says he is “a Josh Harrison (of the Pirates) type of player.” Harrison is a versatile, productive and overall exciting player to watch – he also hit .337 in 79 games in the Midwest League in 2009. If Shelby even slightly resembles Josh Harrison, the Snappers are getting a fun player to watch.
- 1B Miguel Mercedes: Listed at 6’4”, 255 lbs., this power-hitting first baseman should be knocking home runs out of homer-friendly Pohlman Field all summer long. HOT TAKE ALERT! – Mercedes will finish in the top three in home runs in the Midwest League.
- LHP Will Gilbert: A college closer at North Carolina State, this guy looks to be the best bet as the Snappers best reliever to start the season. I have always heard one of the quickest paths to the majors are for left-handed relievers. From his good stats in Vermont to his high draft spot for a reliever (8th round), I could see Gilbert playing for the Oakland A’s in the big leagues in the not-too-distant future, provided he pitches up to his potential in Beloit.
- OF Cole Gruber: I am always pumped to see a player with blazing speed. Whether it is base stealing, running the bases, or making plays in the outfield, speed kills. Gruber led the Arizona League with 28 stolen bases while being caught just twice last season.
I hope you enjoyed my opening thoughts on the opening day Snappers roster! Growing up here in the midwest as a huge baseball fan, it was inevitable that I would take interest in the Midwest League. I really started to follow the Midwest League starting in 2004. In my experience, I have found that the Midwest League is a place for players to have their breakout seasons. While 2016 was a tough year in the standings, I am very excited for the 2017 Beloit Snappers. While lacking in top prospects, this team is full of players with breakout potential. #OhSnap
You can find the complete Beloit Snappers opening day roster here.
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