June 1, 2010

Twins Minor League Month in Review: Beloit Snappers - May

Beloit Snappers (26-25, 5th in Midwest League Western Division)

             Team Leaders - Hitters                      Team Leaders - Pitchers    
             Hits: Aaron Hicks - 44                      Wins: Tom Stuifbergen - 4
Avg: Anderson Hidalgo - .316 ERA: Tom Stuifbergen - 1.09
OPS: Aaron Hicks - .793 IP: Miguel Munoz - 49.67
HR: Michael Gonzalez/Steven Liddle - 5 K: Miguel Munoz - 43
RBI: Angel Morales - 23 Saves: S. Blevins/K. Holbrooks - 6
SB: Angel Morales - 14 WHIP: Liam Hendriks - 1.06

(These stats are based on players being on the active roster only)

After getting off to a great start to the season, the Snappers found themselves at the top of the standings in the Midwest League Western Division. They were off to a 13-8 record and they were really playing well until a few promotions left the Snappers with a makeshift rotation. The thriving 2010 Beloit Snappers quickly turned back into the embarrassing 2009 Beloit Snappers, a team which finished with the second worst record in the Midwest League.

Upon first glance, it's easy to point fingers at the offense. After all, the Snappers offense ranks last in the Midwest League West in runs scored with 96 (an average of 3.84 runs per game). That number didn't change much as Beloit averaged 3.45 runs through the 31 games the team played in May. But what did change was that the pitching staff was giving up a lot more runs.

After giving up only 2.38 runs per game in April, the starters gave up 4.33 runs per game in May. Allowing two runs more per game will cripple any team, especially with this offense. Dan Osterbrock and Liam Hendriks (#42), the Snappers two best pitchers, were both promoted to Advanced-A Fort Myers in early May. Neither of their spots in the rotation have been adequately replaced, despite the promotions of top prospects Michael Tonkin (#30) and B.J. Hermsen (#12)

The 13-foot, 1-inch Tower of Tonkin and Hermsen has struggled to find consistency. Each has made four starts, one of which was good. Both Tonkin and Hermsen had 7 innings gems in which they didn't allow a run or a walk. But taking in account that both of these pitchers are a year younger than the league average, their combined 4.09 ERA in 40 innings looks pretty darn good. Their height gives them an advantage on the mound, and that advantage is that they're able to induce a good amount of ground-ball outs. The two have a combined 1.45 GB/FB ratio.

One player the Snappers expected were counting on was Michael Munoz. The 6'2'' right-hander from Venezuela was 0-0 with a 2.75 in four April starts. But in May, Munoz was 1-4 with a 6.30 ERA in six starts. Another player the Snappers were counting on was Tom Stuifbergen (#29). Stuifbergen was 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA in six appearances (five starts) until he strained his elbow after making just one start in May. He missed the remainder of the month, but thankfully he is now set to return after making an appearance as a reliever on May 27th. Stuifbergen is the Snappers best bet at replacing Hendriks.

While the rotation tries to find itself again, the bullpen continues to remain consistent. The bullpen had a 3.55 ERA through 109 May innings, lowering the units' season ERA to 3.67.

Eliecer Cardenas was recalled from Extended Spring Training on May 7th, and the 22-year-old right-hander has done a great job in his first month in the MWL. He is 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA in 15 2/3 innings. He has a "live arm" with a lot of movement on all of his pitches, so it's not surprise that he's walked eight batters. But on the plus side of that, he's struck out 18.

After not allowing a run in April, Kane Holbrooks started turning the heads of many Minor League fans. And he continued his consistency in May, posting a 2.16 ERA in 16 2/3 innings. Holbrooks allowed four runs, three of which came off of two home runs. He struck out 27 batters while only walking four, to give him a 41/7 K/BB ratio on the season. He also has been able to induce a lot of ground-ball outs thanks to a great repertoire consisting of a fastball, slider and change-up. He has only been pitching since 2008, so he's still a work in progress. But so far, so good.

Offensively, the Snappers saw a lot of slumping hitters in the month of May. With the exception of a couple batters, everyone saw their offensive production drop significantly.

The offense relies heavily on Aaron Hicks (#1), and unfortunately, May was a month he'd like to forget. The 2008 first-round pick hit .214/.321/.313 in 112 at-bats. The one-time patient Hicks struck out twice as many times as he walked, putting him on pace for 138 strikeouts through 450 at-bats. At the same time, he'd also walk 83 times in that span. In April, Hicks hit three home runs in half as many at-bats that it took him to hit one in May. His 2009 stats and 2010 stats are eerily similar, so hopefully Hicks takes a step forward in June.

The only consistent offensive player the Snappers have had this season is Anderson Hidalgo. Hidalgo isn't a player a lot of Twins fans may not know, but he might be someone worth paying attention to. Since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2006, Hidalgo has hit consistently at each level he has played, and 2010 is no exception. Hidalgo hit .317/.349/.475 in May with 14 extra-base hits. With 13 doubles in May, he is now one behind the league lead of 16.

Short Hops: Since getting hit on the head on May 22nd, Angel Morales (#6) is hitting .296/.367/.556 with a double and three triples.

James Beresford isn't considered an offensively-gifted player, most of his value comes from his outstanding defense and other intangibles that don't show up on stat sheets. However in May, Beresford hit .291/.345/.345 with five extra-base hits. Those numbers aren't anything to write home about, but it speaks volumes of how bad the Snappers offense actually was in May.

Since I went to Beloit, I figured it'd be appropriate that I provided some kind of recap/thoughts from my trip (NOTE: Remember, I only saw two games, so a lot of this is based on knee-jerk reactions. But with that said, I feel very comfortable with everything I'm about to say. But take it however you'd like):

  • I feel Seth Stohs summed up Beloit (as a city) pretty well here and here, so I won't really add anything else to that except that Chicago is only a couple hours away, so maybe try to get there (or even Milwaukee) during a long downtime. While Beloit's not a podunk town, it's not titillating either.
  • Seth and I share the same opinions on a lot of players, however I feel I should emphasize some of the things he said in case you didn't read it.
  • Aaron Hicks is very quick and has a great arm, those things are immediately clear to anyone. He stands over the plate and has a very quick swing, which he shows in this video:

  • He took a few bad routes to balls, but he looks to be able to handle both center and right field effectively. He needs to improve on his base-stealing ability. Overall, I was impressed with him, but he has a lot of work to do.
  • Angel Morales has a very nice swing and just missed on a few breaking pitches. He also is fast out of the box and has a good arm. Despite having a problem with strikeouts over his career, he didn't look inept against breaking pitches. As mentioned, he fouled a few of them off and just missed on several.
  • Danny Rams' (#22) power impressed me, especially his opposite field power. He took a few pitches to right field, and the balls kept carrying. Even on Saturday when the wind was blowing to left center. Against breaking pitches though, unfortunately he looked absolutely lost. In his last at-bat that I saw, he struck out on a slider that bounced in the left-handed batters box.
  • Reggie Williams (#46) looks pretty raw both offensively and defensively, but there's clearly potential. He made a few nice plays at third plays and a few plays that made me uneasy, but overall he held his ground. I'd think that his best defensive positions would either be second base or left field. He doesn't throw very hard, but he does have accuracy from third to first. He also has a very quick swing and he drove the ball several times.
  • As Seth mentioned, James Beresford was the most impressive player, hands down. He has a good approach at the plate and takes a lot of pitches. He hit the ball hard, but it doesn't travel very far, and he'd probably benefit from a two-handed follow-through. Defensively, there's no question about his ability. If the ball is hit to him, he will get to it. He also is a leader on the field and was apart of every pitcher-catcher conference on the mound. His intangibles are impeccable and I think that he's more than ready for a promotion.
  • Michael Tonkin threw his fastball a lot, and he left a lot of his pitches up. Surprisingly, he doesn't look 6'7'' on the mound, but off of it, there's no question (not sure if that means anything, just something I observed. Could be because signs in the background). He has a lot of things to work on.
  • Edgar Ibarra was probably the most impressive pitcher I saw. It might be because I didn't have high expectations before seeing him play, but he certainly knows how to pitch. He has good control of his pitches, despite (surprisingly) walking a lot of batters, and his delivery is very smooth. His stat line for the game looked bad, but Eliecer Cardenas gave up three inherited runners when he came into the game. He doesn't overpower anyone, but he has good movement on his pitches.
  • Short Hops: Daniel Santana doesn't belong in the MWL, but he does have a rocket arm. He's also my size, when I was in 7th grade.
  • Short Hops: Brian Dozier (#44) is a singles-hitter who looks like J.J. Hardy on the basepaths.
  • Short Hops: Michael Gonzalez has a very, very long swing. Which is why he's an all or nothing hitter.
  • Short Hops: Dakota Watts throws gas.
  • Short Hops: Eliecer Cardenas has a lot of movement on all of his pitches.
  • Short Hops: Tobias Streich is frustrating to watch at the plate and doesn't have a strong throwing arm.
  • Short Hops: Josmil Pinto (#27) can sting the ball.
  • As for the field? It's pretty bad. I wasn't expecting much, but the infield was very bouncy and balls took a lot of weird hops. The complex as a whole is alright, but they definitely need a new field.

What's Next?: The Snappers will play four series against the Midwest League East before facing the Midwest League Western division leaders Cedar Rapids in the middle of the month. They will then play six games against the Clinton LumberKings (separated by the MWL All-Star Game) before heading home to face the Cedar Rapids Kernals again....Tom Stuifbergen will make his return to the Snappers rotation on June 1st against Lake County....With the short-season Rookie Leagues starting this month, several players may be sent to either Elizabethton, TN to play in the Appalachian Rookie League or to Fort Myers, FL to play in the Gulf Coast League.


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