Launching Off With The Aeros: 4/30/13 – 5/6/13
Aeros continue winning as they move up the Eastern League
The Akron Aeros continued their run of winning over the past week, taking five of seven games to move to 15-16 on the season. Manager Edwin Rodriguez thinks that the better play is all about those guys on the mound.
"I think the last ten games have been very good," Rodriguez said. "This game's all about pitching. The pitching sets the tone of the game."
Akron's hot streak moved them within one game of second place in the Western Division and out of the basement of the Eastern League. They will play two more games against the Erie SeaWolves Tuesday and Wednesday before heading on seven-game road streak to Reading and Binghamton.
Carlos Moncrief, OF
.375/.400/.500 line, .395 wOBA, 9-for-24, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 5:1 SO:BB, 0 SB in 25 PA
After his manager said that this was "Carlos Moncrief weekend," it is hard not to put Moncrief at the top of this list.
The outfielder flashed the power that makes him special, launching a pitch from Bowie pitcher and Orioles #2 prospect Kevin Gausman over the 60-foot batter's eye in center field of Canal Park. Earlier in the game, Moncrief threw out the speedy Xavier Avery at third base with his cannon arm, showing the all-around skills that could take him far.
He needs that power to be there more consistently, but maybe Sunday is the start of something bigger for Moncrief. The 24-year old is behind the curve after being a pitcher earlier in his career and needs to adapt to Double-A as soon as possible.
Giovanny Urshela, SS/3B
.364/.391/.591 line, .420 wOBA, 8-for-22, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1:1 SO:BB, 0 SB in 23 PA
Urshela continued to learn about the ups and downs of Double-A this past week, rebounding from last week's Temporarily Grounded to In Orbit this week. The third baseman showed some of the power he is capable of -- hitting two doubles and a home run -- along with some impressive plate discipline.
Walks have never been a particular forte for Urshela (16 in 114 games last year), but limiting strikeouts is huge. His 60 strikeouts in High-A last year were not that bad, but getting it down to one over the last week let Urshela's natural hitting ability shine through.
Urshela still needs to get those walks up so his on-base percentage can rise (only .295 this year, .309 last year). That, along with this power, is what will make or break Urshela's chances.
Danny Salazar, RHP
0.00 ERA, 0.20 FIP, 0.50 WHIP, 1 H, 0 R, 12:2 SO:BB, 0 HR in 6.0 IP
At this point, it is probably best to reserve a spot in this section for Salazar. The right-hander once again went out and dominated an opposing lineup, striking out 12 of the 20 batters he faced Thursday morning.
So far in 2013, Salazar has a 2.83 ERA, 1.60 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, and has struck out 38.1% of batters he has faced. The right-hander absolutely dominated the Double-A level with a 2.30 ERA, justifying Cleveland manager Terry Francona's praise of Salazar during Spring Training.
Of course, Salazar only has 12 starts at the Double-A level, making any hope that he will get called up to Columbus in the near future a little unlikely. Still, as long as he is pitching like this, Salazar just may force his way up to Triple-A.
(Honorable Mentions: Austin Adams, Chun-Hsiu Chen, Jordan Cooper, Paolo Espino, Jose Flores, Tyler Holt, Quincy Latimore)
(Previous Winners: Chun-Hsiu Chen (4/16, 4/30), Tyler Holt (4/23), T.J. House (4/9, 4/23), Quincy Latimore (4/16), Carlos Moncrief (4/16), Toru Murata (4/9), Jose Ramirez (4/9, 4/30), Danny Salazar (4/23, 4/30))
Jose Ramirez, 2B/SS
.176/.263/.176 line, .207 wOBA, 3-for-17, 3 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1:2 SO:BB, 1 SB, 1 CS in 20 PA
This is probably a week Ramirez would love to forget. Not only did the middle infielder struggle at the plate, he also went on the disabled list with a hip flexor injury he sustained while jolting for a groundball that took a weird bounce.
Ramirez's adjustment to Double-A has gone about as well as could have been reasonably expected, as he is getting on base at a decent clip. (.261/.336/.315 line). Power is not a big part of Ramirez's game, so it is not surprising to see most of his hits come as singles.
What is most impressive about Ramirez' season so far is his plate discipline, as he has walked as much as he has struck out(13:13 SO:BB in 127 plate appearances). Hopefully this injury does not sideline him for long because Ramirez's rise through the system is truly impressive and he was only building on that rise so far in 2013.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B
.217/.280/.304 line, .265 wOBA, 5-for-23, 1 R, 2 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 7:2 SO:BB, 0 SB in 25 PA
It is a well-established fact that power is Aguilar's calling card. Yet, to date in 2013, that power is simply absent from his game.
The first baseman's overall line of .257/.328/.358 looks good on a shortstop, but for a big-time power hitter, it is severely lacking. His ISO is lower than Tyler Holt's (.101 to .119), a pretty big problem considering that Holt is one of the low-power tablesetters at the top of Akron's lineup. Plus, Aguilar has struck out in 25.4% of his plate appearances, way too much considering his relative lack of power on the year.
It is too early to freak out about Aguilar, but the apparent problems could be serious. This no-power, high-strikeouts result is something people worried could happen as Aguilar faced the better pitching of Double-A and he needs to make adjustments to fix it in the near future.
Ronny Rodriguez, SS/2B
.160/.222/.240 line, .213 wOBA, 4-for-25, 1 R, 2 2B, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 5:1 SO:BB, 2 SB in 27 PA
The bad news: Rodriguez's season line currently sits at .235/.252/.339.
The worse news: that poor line is not bad luck, as his BABIP is a fairly normal .277 right now.
The worst news: Rodriguez has two walks in 121 plate appearances this year to go with 21 strikeouts.
Rodriguez has a surprising amount of power for his position and size, but he does not have nearly enough to justify this lack of walks. The middle infielder just is not getting on base, something that cannot keep up.
Now that the calendar has turned to May, hopefully Rodriguez can snap out of his funk. Things turned around for the middle infielder after April in 2012 and everyone is looking for a repeat performance.
(Dishonorable Mentions: Cole Cook, Mike Rayl, Blake Wood)
(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, 4/30), Toru Murata (4/16), Matt Packer (4/9, 4/16, 4/30), Edward Paredes (4/16, 4/23), Jose Ramirez (4/16), Ronny Rodriguez (4/9, 4/23), Danny Salazar (4/16), Giovanny Urshela (4/9, 4/30), Robert Whitenack (4/23))
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
The sudden resurgence of Chun-Hsiu Chen's power is amazing after watching him in 2012. Chen hit six home runs total in 2012; he already has five on May 7. His .330/.438/.560 line is heavily helped by a .418 BABIP, but the power is back (.230 ISO).
Plus Chen has seven steals this year, but that is a mystery that we do have time to dive into right now.
As long as the power remains, Chen's 29:18 SO:BB in 28 games does not actually hurt that much. The 24-year-old looks like he has finally put all of his skills together and deserves a chance to try to make it work in Columbus soon. He needs to keep hitting like this to carry being a first baseman/designated hitter, but it is worth a shot.
Heading into this week, center fielder Tyler Holt had 22 strikeouts in 23 games. It is hard to make hitting at the top of the lineup work with that amount of punchouts as those drive down on-base percentage.
Luckily, Holt managed to avoid striking out at all this past week, helping to drive his .385/.429/.577 line. Plus, Holt added some doubles power as he is up to seven on the season. The strikeouts are getting better, something that will be necessary to keep him at the top of the lineup.
Holt profiles best as a fourth outfielder, but if he can keep up this power and keep cutting down on the strikeouts, maybe he can develop into a little more. Maybe, but you never know.
After the bullpen was such a mess at the beginning of the year, seeing them post a combined 1.76 ERA is a big part of what is winning games for the Aeros. The combination of Austin Adams, Jordan Cooper (though he had one spot start), Paolo Espino, Jose Flores, Trey Haley, Kyle Landis, Bryan Price, and Bryce Stowell is finally holding leads for the team.
It was hard to believe that the Akron bullpen was struggling so much in April considering the depth of relievers in the organization. Now, it seems that all has fixed itself. This bullpen is full of good arms worth keeping an eye on this season.
Odds & Ends
Starting pitching was not as big a part of helping the Aeros get wins this week as one would think. Right-hander Blake Wood -- on a major league rehab assignment -- made it through 0.2 innings with two walks, a hit, and a run allowed. Left-hander Matt Packer struck out eight batters in his five innings, though he also gave up seven hits and four runs. Left-hander Mike Rayl (4.50 ERA, 5.45 FIP) and right-hander Will Roberts (3.86 ERA, 3.71 FIP) did not pitch particularly well, but managed to keep the team in the game.
Outfielder Bo Greenwell (.263/.333/.421 line) did pretty well during his first full week with the Aeros. Fellow outfielder Quincy Latimore (.278/.381/.556 line) had another strong week to help bring his line for the season up to .258/.327/.433.
As noted earlier, Jose Ramirez was placed on the disabled list with a hip flexor injury. He was described as day-to-day on Sunday before going on the DL, so this could have been a way to get more flexibility on the roster. Hopefully he will only spend the minimum on the DL.
Left-hander Mike Rayl went on the DL shortly after his callup with a left forearm strain. Moving into my own paranoid speculations, the forearm is close to the elbow -- and I always assume that pitcher's arms are about to fall off -- so hopefully this is just general soreness and does not migrate into a more dangerous area for Rayl.
Moves (Like Orbit)
April 30 - RHP Will Roberts promoted from High-A Carolina
May 2 - LHP Mike Rayl placed on 7-day DL (left forearm strain)
May 2 - RHP Kyle Landis demoted from Triple-A Columbus
May 4 - RHP Blake Wood received on Major League rehab assignment
May 6 - RHP Brett Brach promoted to Triple-A Columbus
May 6 - INF Justin Toole promoted from High-A Carolina
May 6 - INF Jose Ramirez placed on 7-day DL (hip flexor)
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