Day 2 in Beloit was a good day. Then again, it was a Friday and I wasnít at work and it was a day all about baseball. How could it be bad?!
In today's blog, I'll talk about the Snappers 8-1 win over Brian Buchanan and the Kane County Cougars. There are a lot of observations on players before and during the game and much more. This if a fun team to watch with a lot of good players and people!
Woke up fairly early and wrote yesterdayís Day 1 blog. Realized that it is now August which means that I need to write up my July minor league hitter, starting pitcher and relief pitcher of the month blogs. That means, doing quite a bit of research online. Expect to see those written over the next few days, and I was quite surprised for some reason at all of the very strong hitting during the month. Maybe it is something about the bats warming up as the temperatures continued to rise? That said, there were plenty of very good pitching performances for the month as well.
Anyway, there is not a ton to do in Beloit. Iím sure there are things, but I havenít really found there. We did go to lunch at Applebees, and I definitely recommend the Sizzliní NíAllins Skillet!! From there, we went shopping for shoes. I havenít bought shoes in a long time. My sandals are two years old and have no more sole. My work shoes both have cracks in the bottom from over-use. So, although it took us a while to find Payless, I got two pairs of sandals and new work shoes!
Alright, you probably couldnít care less about my shopping experiences in Beloit, so letís talk about baseball-related things. We left for the ballpark at about 3:15 but had to make a quick Walmart stop. My car had a temperature gauge in it and as we drove to Walmart, it read 100 degrees. That number got up to 102. Now, as we drove by the bank and later listened to the radio over the speakers at the ball park, it said they reached 95 degrees. Either way, it was incredibly hot.
When we arrived at the ballpark, we were again greeted by Chrissy Scaffidi. The Snappers work with a staff of six in their front office, and it is remarkable how hard they work. The grounds crew is incredible and have the field looking great. GM Matt Bosen, in his first year in that role after several previous years in other roles, coordinates it all and does it well. He spent a good 20 minutes chatting with us again on Friday afternoon about all kinds of topics. But he also worked with the grounds crew before, after and even during the game.
When we arrived, the Snappers were all on the field. And everyone was working on something. They ran a big round of infield and outfield. Then the pitchers came to the field and they worked through some Pitchers Fielding Practice, but it also turned into another full round of situational infield where manager Nelson Prada would hit the ball anywhere on the field to see where people would go based on runners on base and outs and such. It was very well run. Tommy Watkins walked around the field encouraging players and giving pointers. Gary Lucas talked to the pitchers who were fielding their position, covering first base or backing up a base.
Then came batting practice. Again, I can watch BP all day. The first group included Nate Roberts, Wang-Wei Lin, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano and Kennys Vargas. With Roberts and Lin, it was line drive after line drive. Rosario hits the ball so well, and itís remarkable, his ability to wait on a pitch and drive everything the opposite way. His bat speed is incredible, and despite his size (probably 5-9, maybe 175 pounds), he is able to generate incredible power to all fields. Sano just hits everything hard in batting practice. Yes, he can hit a few out to dead center field or over the scoreboard in left center, but he works on his swing and hits a lot of line drives. He is just a good all-around hitter, or will be. Vargas is still a little more raw. He has amazing power potential, but he does have a long swing. That said, he does work on staying short to the ball and taking a single to left. He definitely works.
During batting practice, the infielders do their work between pitches, getting ground balls from fungo hitters. Iíve likely said it before, but watching AJ Pettersen play shortstop is really something to see. He has very good range, but great hands. He also transfers the ball from glove to throwing hand remarkably quickly and makes a strong accurate throw to first or to second. When you have two raw, works-in-progress in Sano and Rosario at 3B and 2B, respectively, itís got to be nice to have such a steady glove in the middle of the infield.
Before the game, as players were starting to head to the field, it was great to get to meet reliever Dallas Gallant. People told me how nice and polite the kid was, and that was all quite true. I have talked to him via Twitter several times while he was rehabbing from his Tommy John surgery. Consider that he had the procedure done last April. He came to minor league camp in March and although his bullpens were closely monitored, he was pitching at 100% by the start of Extended Spring Training. He pitched in a handful of games at Elizabethton, but quickly moved up to Beloit. Heís excited and happy to be playing at this level. He pitched in last nightís game and Iíll get to more on that in a bit.
One of the things Iíve enjoyed about my Beloit trips is the people. The front office people have been great, but so have the fans. There are a couple of families that I wonít mention by name, but who are at every game and who come over and chat every day. Itís great, and I feel almost at home in Pohlman Field thanks to these people.
Last night was pretty neat because no less than three people came up to me during the course of the game and introduced themselves to me. One gentleman said he came from about 40 mile south of Beloit to see the game. Another brought his son and came from 40 miles north of Beloit. It was fun to talk to them and hear about how much they enjoy Twins Daily. I hope a few more people come out to the ball park tonight, and definitely feel free to come up and say hi!
Alright, to the game, right?
Matt Tomshaw got the start for the Snappers. He was coming off of a really rough start, but he has been very good since the Twins drafted him very late in the 2011 draft. The lefty doesnít throw particularly hard, but he has good control. It took an inning or two, but his curveball is very good. Just as important, he seems to throw it at different speeds. Bert Blyleven is always talking about adding and subtracting from pitchers and Tomshaw does that well. His curveball was good and actually made his fastball look faster than it was. He apparently has a six-pitch mix that includes a version of a knuckleball which he threw a few times. He gave up just one run over seven innings. Very impressive.
Dallas Gallant came in for the eighth inning, and was very impressive. He throws really hard, probably mid-90s. But he also threw a slider that was very sharp and appeared to break quite late. He told me later that he normally throws that pitch at 84-85, but it was Ďonlyí at 81-82 last night. Well, again, with itís sharp break, it was a very impressive pitch. He pitched an easy 1-2-3 inning.
Corey Kimes came in for the 9th
inning. It was his Midwest League and Snappers debut after starting the season in Extended Spring Training and then starting for the Elizabethton Twins. Last week, he pitched five shutout innings and was promoted immediately following the game. He is a big kid, but doesnít throw remarkably hard. He looked a little nervous, but threw the ball well. He did walk a batter, but the game ended on a very nice 5-4-3 (Sano to Rosario to Vargas) double play.
Speaking of Sanoís defense. He did not have any errors, but it wasnít exactly smooth. I mentioned yesterday that watching him field ground balls at 3B and SS before the game, in batting practice or infield practice, he can do it. You can tell heís been a shortstop his whole life. In the game, it doesnít always translate. However, he is knocking the ball down, picking it up, and using a remarkably strong arm to still get hitters out at first. I donít think I can over-state just how strong his arm is. Will he be a future third baseman in the big leagues? I canít honestly answer that now, but I do 100% agree with keeping him there as long as possible. His arm is just so incredible.
Sano was 2-5 last night. He had two RBI singles, struck out twice and then grounded into a double play in the 8th
frame. From sitting right behind home plate, you can see the work he has put in to stop swinging at breaking pitches, those sliders down-and-away. Not every time, but the pitch recognition is happening. On the double play, however, he was a little slow to get out of the batterís box after the swing. Not a lack of effort, just seemingly a footwork thing. But, he hustled down the line and showed great speed. In fact, he beat the relay throw to first by at least a half step, yet he was called out. Clearly a bad call and from his spot in the third base coachís box, manager Nelson Prada yelled, ďThat wasnít even close! That wasnít even close! That wasnít even close!Ē The third time he said it, the umpire tossed him from the game. I kid you not, that is all he said before being tossed. Now, at that point, he ran out to shallow left field where he let the umpire know a little more about how he felt about his call. It may be good that we were unable to hear all of his words at that point. The music was playing on the speakers by then but, wisely, Three Blind Mice was not the song selected!
Eddie Rosario had yet another three hit game. In four games since his return from injury, he has three, three-hit games and is 11-20 (.550) during that stretch. Itís just incredible.
Stephen Wickens was a late-round pick last year as a four-year college player. He is a Canadian but went to Florida Gulf Coast. He went 3-5 and has been hitting very well since coming up from Elizabethton. He can play both middle infield positions. Last night, he was the DH and went 3-5 with two doubles.
Nate Roberts is an incredible lead-off hitter with an uncanny ability to get on base. He isnít a big guy, but he is hitting .295 with a .438 on base percentage. He takes great at bats and really knows the strike zone. He is happy to get hit by pitches. He then is fast enough to steal bases as well. Heís a perfect leadoff hitter and just a solid offensive player.
This is a very fun team to watch. The offense is pretty strong. The pitchers may not be the big prospects or big names, but they are getting the job done, and that bullpen has some huge arms that are very intriguing going forward.
Following the game, I was able to talk to Drew Leachman. He was the Snappers best hitter for much of early July, but heís been in a bit of a slump of late. He was 1-3 in this game with a walk. He came through with a clutch, RBI single in the 7th
frame that really broke the game open. It was a nine-pitch at bat in which he fought off some very tough pitches. I told him that it looked like a huge weight came off his shoulders when that ball dropped in and he was standing at 1B.
A group that included Twins Daily contributor Jeremy Nygaard, Dallas Gallant, AJ Pettersen and his brother Josh went to Applebees, watched the Olympics and had a great time. One thing I guess I didnít realize was that Pettersen and Gallant played together in Hyannis in the Cape Cod League. Lots of stories were told. It was a lot of fun! There are a lot of really good people in the Twins organization.
Got back to the hotel room about 12:05, and I think I was sleeping by about 12:09. I donít think I woke up even once until after 7 a.m. Tonight, the Snappers are scheduled to play Wisconsin. There is a chance for a thunderstorm and its highest likelihood for hitting is between six and nine oíclock tonight. If it were to be rained out tonight, it would be too bad because they have a fireworks show after the game, and those are cool! On Sunday, it is Prince Fielder bobblehead day. Fielder played in Beloit in 2002 and 2003.