Launching Off With The Aeros: 4/23/13 – 4/29/13
Akron begins to turn things around with a winning week
As the Akron Aeros salvaged a disappointing homestand with two wins last Tuesday and Wednesday, manager Edwin Rodriguez mused about what when wrong.
"We were inconsistent," Rodriguez said. "Then again, we have a young team, and when you have a young team that's what's going to happen. One day they look like big leaguers out there, the next day you wonder if they know how to play the game."
Rodriguez also mentioned that he wanted the team to take things one day at a time on the upcoming road trip. So far, things have gone decently for the 10-14 Aeros, as they took 2-of-4 from the Binghamton Mets and Altoona Curve with three games in Altoona remaining.
Overall for the week the Aeros have gone 4-2, mostly on the strength of their pitching. Akron pitchers combined for a 3.12 ERA and will look to continue that through the rest of the series with the Curve and when they return to Canal Park for a six-game homestand starting Friday.
Chun-Hsiu Chen, DH/1B
.429/.538/.571 line, .489 wOBA, 9-for-21, 2 R, 3 2B, 6 RBI, 4:5 SO:BB, 1 SB in 26 PA
Just another hot week for Chen, who has spent the entire season making his case for why he belongs in Columbus. Chen even added a level of plate discipline to the equation this past week, walking more than he struck out.
The big question remaining for Chen right now is what happens after the luck runs out. Unless Chen is able to break the mold and sustain a .478 BABIP, his overall numbers will slowly creep down from the .342/.467/.562 heights they currently sit at.
The reappearance of the power obviously changes the equation for Chen, but if he can find a way to continue succeeding when his BABIP inevitably regresses, then he just might force his way into the big league picture at some point. Regardless, it is not hard to think that Chen should find his way to Triple-A before too much longer.
Jose Ramirez, 2B/SS
.364/.481/.500 line, .439 wOBA, 8-for-22, 5 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2:5 SO:BB, 6 SB, 2 CS in 27 PA
Just when it looked like the jump to Double-A might be too much for Ramirez, he comes back with a vengeance.
The mere fact that the hits started falling again for Ramirez is not necessarily news, as the switch-hitter just has a knack for putting the bat on the ball. What is more impressive from the past week is the way Ramirez limited strikeouts while piling up walks. Ramirez did that very well in Lake County last year and is back at it again this year (12:11 SO:BB in 107 plate appearances).
Add in 12 steals in 15 attempts on the young season -- tops in the Eastern League -- and you can see why the organization felt Ramirez could skip High-A Carolina. He is also working in at shortstop, as his manager noted.
"This is about development," Rodriguez said. "Ronny [Rodriguez] knows how to play shortstop. We have to play him at second to get some games there. We have to play Jose Ramirez at short... We want them to feel comfortable at both positions."
Danny Salazar, RHP
0.00 ERA, 0.20 FIP, 0.80 WHIP, 3 H, 9:1 SO:BB, 0 HR in 5.0 IP
I wish Salazar had more than one start to highlight here, but truth is, his one start was more than enough to make it In Orbit this week.
Salazar is on a five inning/80 pitch limit to help manage his workload as he continues his way back from Tommy John surgery in August 2010 and it is really leaving his season as a big tease. The right-hander has struck out 31-of-93 batters he has faced this season -- otherwise known as one-third -- while only walking seven.
As a result of the limits, Salazar has not really faced a lineup for the third time in a game much this year, which in turn has not allowed him to work on proving he is absolutely a starter long-term. The good news is, even if he turns out to fit best in the bullpen, Salazar is showing this year the dominance he is capable of achieving.
Giovanny Urshela, 3B
.071/.067/.071 line, .060 wOBA, 1-for-14, 0 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 4:0 SO:BB, 0 SB in 15 PA
Well it does not get much worse than that. While this is certainly not a reason to give up on Urshela entirely -- mini-slumps like this happen all the time -- this stretch does serve to highlight what Urshela still needs to focus on as he works to conquer Double-A.
Despite some errors in the early going, Urshela's defense remains his calling card. What we are all waiting for is the bat to get up to the task, which is slow going so far. He currently owns a .244/.268/.346 line, one that is not being held down by a low BABIP (.281).
Urshela started slow last year, so this is not something new, but he does need things to turn around sooner rather than later. The move to Double-A is a hard one and takes time, though, and I expect Urshela to make the adjustments like he did in Carolina last year.
Matt Packer, LHP
8.31 ERA, 7.35 FIP, 3.00 WHIP, 10 H, 2:3 SO:BB, 1 HR, 1 HBP in 4.1 IP
It is still April -- meaning that typically it is too soon to worry too much about poor performances -- but something is different with Packer. The velocity has not been there when I have seen him and he just looks really hittable after his rotator cuff injury last year.
The numbers paint an ugly picture, as Packer has allowed 35 hits in 24.1 innings this year. He also is walking batters a great deal more than in the past (up to 4.4 BB/9 from 1.7 in his career) and is not getting strikeouts (down to 3.0 SO/9 from 7.4).
Either Packer is going through the unluckiest stretch possible or there is something seriously wrong with the left-hander. Unfortunately, all the evidence right now is not pointing to a happy ending.
Carlos Moncrief, RF
.118/.158/.294 line, 2-for-17, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 6:1 SO:BB, 0 SB in 19 PA
The rap on Moncrief heading into 2013 was that he really needed to limit the strikeouts. Despite last week, Moncrief has still managed to limit his strikeout rate to 13.5% after last year's 31.0%.
Now, any extreme drop like that is highly unlikely to last. It would not surprise me one bit if this past week is the beginning of Moncrief's strikeouts trending up to their prior form.
That might not be all that much of a bad thing, though.
So far this year, Moncrief's line sits at a low .227/.318/.320. Even worse, though, is that lack of power. Moncrief only has three extra base hits through 24 games, not nearly enough for someone whose power is one of his calling cards.
I do not see 2-for-17 as Moncrief's true talent level, so some of those balls should fall in for hits in the coming weeks. Hopefully those hits will go for extra bases, and if it takes Moncrief striking out a little more frequently, I will take it. It is not that bad of a tradeoff.
(Previous Losers: Austin Adams (4/23), Shawn Armstrong (4/23), Brett Brach (4/23), Cole Cook (4/23), Paolo Espino (4/16), Tyler Holt (4/9), T.J. House (4/16), Kyle Landis (4/23), Quincy Latimore (4/23), Fabio Martinez (4/16), Carlos Moncrief (4/9), Toru Murata (4/16), Matt Packer (4/9, 4/16), Edward Paredes (4/16, 4/23), Jose Ramirez (4/16), Ronny Rodriguez (4/9, 4/23), Danny Salazar (4/16), Giovanny Urshela (4/9), Robert Whitenack (4/23))
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
After last week's bullpen implosion, it is nice to see a good chunk of the bullpen rebounding. With the adventures the bullpen has put the team (and the fans) through, it is not really a surprise that the team started winning now that the majority of the bullpen is holding leads.
Right-handers Austin Adams (2.25 ERA, 3.20 FIP), Jose Flores (0.00 ERA, 6.20 FIP), Trey Haley (0.00 ERA, 3.70 FIP), Bryan Price (0.00 ERA, 1.87 FIP), and Bryce Stowell (0.00 ERA, 0.87 FIP) combined to shut down teams to the tune of a 0.69 ERA.
That is one run allowed, four hits, six walks, and 19 strikeouts in 13.0 innings. We have all heard plenty about the organization's bullpen depth, but it had not shown in Akron yet this year.
Now, though, it is starting to shine.
A 3.12 ERA may not be all that much to brag about, but I am sure that Brett Brach will take it. The right-hander is far from a top prospect -- he went unranked in IBI's Top 100 -- but Brach has always found a way to perform.
Brach may not have the best stuff, but his career ERA is 3.43 through 487.3 innings pitched. At age 25, he does not have much growth left in him, but Brach will likely stick around for a while longer with numbers like that. Monday night was Brach's first start of the season, as he was in the bullpen before that game, but the right-hander just may stay in the rotation after this.
His manager also credited Brach with saving the game on Wednesday after he went three scoreless innings to stem a Trenton rally. All in all, not a bad week's work for the organizational soldier.
If someone like Ronny Rodriguez is going to go the whole week without drawing a walk, I guess keeping his strikeout rate at 4.3% is a good thing to do. Rodriguez also added two triples en route to a .304/.304/.478 week, easily his best of the year so far.
The issue with Rodriguez, of course, comes back to that criminal lack of walks. Things are all fine and dandy when the strikeouts are not there, but over the course of the season, that has not borne out. Rodriguez currently owns a 16:1 SO:BB, something that simply cannot support any successful offensive line.
Rodriguez is still quite young at 21 years old, but this is far from his first issue with strikeouts. Especially considering his inability to draw walks consistently, this problem will prevent him from maintaining his lofty prospect status if they prove to continue throughout the season and limit his ability to get on-base.
Odds & Ends
Outfielder Tyler Holt had a good week (.304/.360/.435 line in 26 plate appearances), but he had a low moment when he was thrown out of Wednesday's game for arguing balls and strikes. His manager was not happy with Holt after the game.
"That's the heat of the game," E. Rodriguez said of Holt being thrown out. "As a hitter you have to stay under control. I think he did a poor job doing that. Especially when you're one of the main guys and [it's a] close game, so you have to stay under control."
Holt has had issues with keeping his emotions in check in the past, but it has been a while since something like this flared up. Hopefully it is just a blip on the radar and not a growing trend.
Outfielder Delvi Cid was released over the past week to make room for outfielder Bo Greenwell to be activated. Cid was not having a particularly good season (.143/.226/.214 line, 9:2 SO:BB in 31 plate appearances), but his speed was exciting. He is currently playing in High-A in the Orioles organization.
Left-hander T.J. House received the coveted callup to Triple-A after posting a 3.22 ERA, 1.77 FIP and 27:3 SO:BB in 22.1 innings. With the lack of depth in the starting rotation and the injuries piling up, House just may be able to force his way into the big league picture before year's end.
There was no action on the Aeros' disabled list over the past week. RHP Shawn Armstrong remains out with a right hand contusion while catcher Alex Lavisky is still recovering from a fractured left big toe.
The Aeros did receive LHP Mike Rayl from the Extended Spring Training disabled list where he was recovering from a torn fingernail on his pitching hand.
Moves (Like Orbit)
April 25 - OF Delvi Cid released
April 25 - OF Bo Greenwell assigned from Extended Spring Training
April 26 - LHP T.J. House assigned to Triple-A Columbus Clippers
April 26 - C Jeremy Lucas assigned to Low-A Lake County Captains
April 26 - C Roberto Perez assigned from Triple-A Columbus Clippers
April 28 - C Chris Wallace assigned to Triple-A Columbus Clippers
April 29 - RHP Kyle Landis assigned to Triple-A Columbus Clippers
April 29 - RHP Toru Murata assigned to Triple-A Columbus Clippers
April 29 - LHP Mike Rayl assigned from Extended Spring Training
April 29 - RHP Jordan Cooper assigned from High-A Carolina Mudcats
April 29 - C Jake Lowery assigned from High-A Carolina Mudcats
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