Aces Up: This year’s Beloit Snappers pitching staff may be the best in the Midwest League, as it tries to compete with last year’s staff of aces. Leading the way will be returnee Kyle Waldrop, who many consider to be one of the top five pitchers in the Twins’ farm system. He struggled last season (6-11, 4.98), but in his second go-round in the MWL, he should be dominant.
Other stars on the staff include Eduardo Morlan, Ryan Mullins, Yohan Pino, and Adam Hawes. With Waldrop, these five should anchor the Snappers’ starting rotation. Morlan won four of his ten Midwest League starts in 2005, and Mullins was one of the better pitchers in the Appalachian League. Pino is 19-3 during his two years in the Twins’ farm system, and Hawes led the Apply League in ERA last year.
Starters: Kyle Waldrop, Yohan Pino, Eduardo Morlan, Adam Hawes, Ryan Mullins. Relievers: Brian Duensing, David Shinskie, Daniel Powers, Oswaldo Sosa, Jose Lugo, Danny Vais. Closer: Alexander Smit
DH- Henry Sanchez, C- Caleb Moore, 1B- Erik Lis, 2B- Andrew Thompson, 3B- Yancarlos Ortiz, SS- Paul Kelly, OF- Dwayne White, Tarrence Patterson, Edward Ovalle. Bench- Steven Tolleson, Allan de San Miguel, Eli Tintor, Toby Gardenhire.
Young Guns: This year’s Beloit team is full of young players, with four being under the age of 20. Thompson (19), Kelly (19), Sanchez (19), and de San Miguel (18) will all be young for the Midwest League, and will be asked to play a full-season slate of games. All four players should be up to the task, as they will all be asked to play crucial roles in the Snappers success. Kelly and Tolleson both played for the Snappers at some point last season, while de San Miguel made it all the way to High-A Fort Myers. This will be Sanchez’s first taste of full-season ball.
Welcome Back: Eight familiar faces will be in uniform when the Snappers open up the 2006 season, with four pitchers, and four position players returning. Waldrop, Morlan, Shinskie, and Smit all spent time on the Snappers pitching staff in 2005, and will play a huge role in their success this season. Dwayne White and Tarrence Patterson both return to the Snappers outfield, while Paul Kelly and Steven Tolleson return to the infield. For the most part, each player struggled during their time in Beloit, so it will be interesting to see what they do this time around.
Ace of the Staff: No doubt that the answer here is Kyle Waldrop. With a full season in the Midwest League under his belt, he should be the most dominant pitcher in the league. He has explosive stuff, and now that he isn’t competing with the likes of Anthony Swarzak and Jay Rainville to decide who is the ace, will be able to settle down and win some ballgames. In a distant second, I would have to say Eduardo Morlan, who pitched well in the Midwest League last season.
Big Bat: The main stick in the Snappers lineup in 2006 will be Henry Sanchez, who was named the best power hitting prospect in the organization by Baseball America this past season. He is big, has tremendous bat speed, and absolutely crushes the ball when he makes contact. The big thing for him will be making contact on a constant basis, as he batted only .229 last season. The runner-up here is Erik Lis, who did not miss a beat going from college ball to professional ball. In 49 Apply League games last season, he batted .315, smacked ten home runs, and drove in 41.
On Deck: One of the biggest surprises in Minor League camp was that outfield prospect Danny Santiesteban was left off the Beloit Snappers roster. While the organization feels he needs a little more seasoning in Extended Spring Training, Beloit Snappers fans be on the look out. Santiesteban should receive a call sooner than later for promotion, and will excite Beloit fans when he does.
Opening Day: The Snappers open their season on Thursday, April 6 against the Cedar Rapids Kernels. The game starts at 6:30pm, and all those in attendance will receive a 2006 magnet schedule. The game marks the beginning of a four-game set against the Kernels, which kicks off a seven-game home stand to open the season. Look for Kyle Waldrop to take the ball against Cedar Rapids in the opener.