Launching Off With The Aeros: 5/8/12 - 5/14/12
After all the early season success the Akron Aeros achieved, it was only natural that they would eventually have a down week. The Aeros struggled to a 3-5 record this past week, including losing 5 of their last 6 games. Akron took both games of a doubleheader on Tuesday against the Erie SeaWolves, but the wheels fell off after that. Despite their off week, the Aeros are still 22-13 and remain atop the Western Division of the Eastern League by 2.5 games over the Harrisburg Senators. They also have the best record in all of the Eastern League, edging out the New Britain Rock Cats and Reading Phillies by 0.5 games.
Over the next week, the Aeros will continue a 3-game set in Erie Tuesday and Wednesday before headed home for a 3-game set against the Richmond Flying Squirrels Friday through Sunday. After that, the Aeros will head on the road for a while, visiting Trenton and Erie again.
SP T.J. McFarland will never be the kind of overpowering pitcher that you typically see at the top of a rotation, but he continues to eat innings and be a reliable guy to take the ball every 5th day for the Aeros. His sole start this past week – a 7 inning, 5 hit, 4 strikeout, no walks and no runs shutdown of the Harrisburg Senators on Thursday – epitomizes McFarland’s pitching style. On the year, McFarland is now 6-1 with a 2.18 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, and 2.40 BB/9. I remain concerned that he only has 5.23 SO/9 in his 2nd time at the AA level, but his greatest value is as a groundball machine. That part of his game is clicking and it would not surprise me if he ended up in Columbus before too long.
As much as I believe 1B Chun Chen’s success is unsustainable, there is no doubt that he performed very well over the past week. His .296 batting average was aided tremendously by a .400 BABIP, but what was more impressive was the re-emergence of some of Chen’s power. While he didn’t launch any home runs, Chen hit 4 doubles in the past week and posted a strong .148 ISO, hinting at the power that he is supposed to be bringing to the middle of the Aeros’ lineup. Chen’s .300/.373/.417 slash line and .353 wOBA for the season seem hollow when paired with his .402 BABIP and 23.9 K%, but if he can get his power to fully come back, all will be forgiven.
The fact that OF Thomas Neal was spotlighted in a player feature yesterday on IPI had nothing to do with his inclusion on this list. Neal fully earned his spot here by posting a .300/.481/.350 slash line and .436 wOBA over the past week. What has really been impressive for Neal this year is his plate discipline. He has shown a willingness to take walks (10.1 BB%) and has limited his strikeouts (11.0 K%) in his 2nd time through the AA level. While the power is still missing for Neal, it is still early and it is quite possible that he is still recovering from the effects of hand, shoulder, and wrist injuries over the past few years. At worst, it looks like Neal may be able to develop into a decent 4th outfielder if his power upticks even a little bit. Plus, considering that the underwhelming Aaron Cunningham is currently occupying that spot for the Indians, Neal may be able to fashion himself as a real upgrade for the big league team is he finds a way to improve his game a little bit more.
(Honorable Mentions: Adam Abraham, Tim Fedroff, Jared Goedert, Kyle Landis, Davis Stoneburner, Loek van Mil)
(Previous Winners: Adam Abraham (5/1, 5/8), Tim Fedroff (4/17), Jared Goedert (4/17, 4/24), T.J. McFarland (4/17), Thomas Neal (5/1), Giovanni Soto (5/1, 5/8), Bryce Stowell (4/24), Steven Wright (4/24, 5/8))
Jose De La Torre/Rob Bryson/Toru Murata
Like Lost, it’s an ensemble cast in the Temporarily Grounded section of the notebook this week. First, we start with the bullpen, where Jose De La Torre, Rob Bryson, and Toru Murata all disappointed over the past week. For De La Torre, things have not gone well at all since he was sent back down to Akron. In 4 appearances, he has a particularly nasty 7.88 ERA in 8 innings. While his 2.33 FIP and .448 BABIP in that span can explain some of that, he seems to be struggling with runners on and the sight of him on the mound has not inspired confidence in anyone recently. With Bryson, the issue is with his rising walk rate. His 10.89 SO/9 on the year is impressive, but when paired with his 5.21 BB/9 (and 6.35 BB/9 over the past week), it is neutralized. If Bryson can’t get his control back, he will continue to wallow down in AA and never make it to the big leagues. For Murata, there is only so much success you can expect to have when you have as many walks (6) as strikeouts (6) on the year. If he does not correct that problem in the near future, I would venture a guess that Murata will continue to be bounced around as a fill-in guy and never seriously figure into the Tribe’s real long-term plans.
Brett Brach/Steven Wright/Giovanni Soto
Onto the starting rotation now, where Brett Brach, Steven Wright, and Giovanni Soto all had less than stellar outings in the past week. Making his first start of the year in AA on Saturday, Brach could have had things go better. Brach only made it through 3.7 innings, allowing 10 hits, 1 walk, 5 runs, and only struck out 1 batter. It would be unwise to assume he’ll always give up that many hits (his BABIP for the day was .556), but it also was far from an impressive outing. In Wright’s case, this sort of outing was destined to happen eventually. Wright only made it through 3.3 innings on Friday, allowing 5 hits, 5 runs (3 earned) with 2 walks and 3 strikeouts before a line drive off of his foot knocked him out. With his ERA at 1.13 and his FIP at 2.98 going into the outing, it is not shocking that some regression came Wright’s way. He’s still pitched very well this year, but Friday’s start was simply not pretty. For Soto, all of the talk on his breakout season should probably quiet down for a while. This past week saw Soto take the loss in both of his starts, as he turned in a forgettable 7.71 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 2.25 WHIP, and 4:6 SO:BB ratio in 9.3 innings. Soto still has good stats on the year (2.24 ERA, 8.42 SO/9, 2.72 BB/9), but he needs to work on his consistency.
I don’t like picking on 2B Ryan Rohlinger because I don’t think he figures prominently into the Tribe’s long-term thinking, but his performance this past week was simply abysmal. Any time you end up with a 1-for-17 skid, you’re going to see your name on this list. Factoring in that Rohlinger is also carrying a .202/.289/.313 slash line and .282 wOBA on the season, I have to think that as soon as the Indians find anyone capable of playing second base at the AA level, Rohlinger will find himself relegated to bench duty. He’s not considered anything more than organizational depth and his performance is not doing anything to change that assessment.
(Dishonorable Mentions: Kyle Bellows, Michel Hernandez, Roberto Perez)
(Previous Losers: Kyle Bellows (4/24, 5/1, 5/8), Eric Berger (4/17), Jose De La Torre (5/8), Juan Diaz (4/17, 5/1), Roberto Perez (4/17, 4/24), Bryan Price (5/8), Ryan Rohlinger (4/24), Nick Weglarz (5/1, 5/8))
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
What a cruel twist of fate for OF Nick Weglarz to hit 2 home runs in the Aeros’ game Wednesday and be designated for assignment on Saturday. Simply put, even Weglarz showing some of his power of old Wednesday made little dent on his rough .202/.295/.333 season slash line and .314 wOBA. I would expect him to clear waivers and end up back in Akron at the end of all this, but his future is about as bleak as can be right now.
Further proving that batting average is a terrible way to judge hitters, 1B Adam Abraham’s .208 batting average over the past week does little to show what his value to the Aeros was. His .426 wOBA, however, does. Abraham was very unlucky this past week when he put the ball in play (.176 BABIP), but he more than made up for it by posting a 25.0 BB% and .292 ISO. Abraham’s patient approach and willingness to draw walks makes sure that he is helping his team even when things aren’t going well. If players with more talent took the same approach as Abraham (Matt LaPorta is one example), they would better maximize their talents. Abraham is a great example of how to hit effectively and really help your team.
The 4.76 ERA for SP T.J. House may not look the best right now, but there’s plenty of reason to think that he’s going to be dominant on the AA level this year. Every other important statistic favors House’s success going forward: a 1.96 FIP, 9.53 SO/9, 2.65 BB/9, 3.60 SO:BB, and 1.06 WHIP. A lot of people expected this kind of performance out of House last year, but after struggling at High-A last year, it seems House has righted the ship. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be successful for the rest of 2012, but he definitely is looking like the guy that was ranked 11th by IPI before the 2011 season as opposed to the 41st ranking he garnered before this season.
Odds & Ends
Odds & Ends is a new catch-all section that I’m adding to the notebook to talk about players who deserve to be mentioned but for some reason aren’t caught in the In Orbit, Temporarily Grounded, or Stats Oddities sections.
For example, it makes little sense to go an entire 2,041 word notebook without mentioning OFs Tim Fedroff and Jared Goedert. Despite being lucky with their balls in play (.410 and .415 BABIPs respectively), there is no denying their success (Fedroff: .339/.430/.455 slash line and 395 wOBA; Goedert: .362/.453/.517 slash line and .426 wOBA). There’s no reason for either of these two to spend another second in AA and both of them will be challenged at the AAA level as soon as a spot opens up in Columbus.
On the other end of the spectrum is 3B Kyle Bellows. Bellows would have been in the Temporarily Grounded section for the 4th straight week if I wouldn’t have felt bad about doing it. Yet, with another atrocious week (.158/.273/.316 slash line and .297 wOBA) adding to a similarly atrocious season (.200/.315/.284 slash line and .297 wOBA), I can’t help but wonder if it’s time to turn the page on Bellows. He still has all the defensive value in the world, but it seems very clear right now that he cannot figure out AA pitching. I’ve been on the Bellows bandwagon for a long time now, but I think I’m finally through waiting for him to figure it out. I’ve been the only one on this bandwagon for a while now and now it’s time for me to jump ship as well.
There were no changes on the injury front for the Aeros in the past week. Relievers Bryce Stowell and Preston Guilmet remain on the DL and there has been no real indication for when they will return.
Moves (Like Orbit)
May 9 SP Eric Berger promoted to AAA Columbus
May 11 SP Eric Berger demoted from AAA Columbus
May 11 RP Matt Langwell promoted to AAA Columbus
May 12 SP Paolo Espino promoted to AAA Columbus
May 12 SP Brett Brach promoted from High-A Carolina
May 12 OF Nick Weglarz designated for assignment
May 13 SP Eric Berger promoted to AAA Columbus
May 14 OF Jordan Casas promoted from A Lake County
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I saw the game in Erie Tuesday. Bellowshad two doubles one down the right field line and one down he left field line. He was robbed of a third on a nice play in left center. His performance was dwarfed by the monster outing by Goedert. Two long homeruns which were really hammered. He also had a double and a hit that was ruled a single when he overslid second on another. JT was dominating.