Launching Off With The Aeros: 6/26/12 - 7/2/12
Your Akron Aeros may still be leading the Bowie Baysox and Harrisburg Senators by 6.5 games in the Western Division and hold a 1.5 game advantage over the Trenton Thunder for the best record in the Eastern League, but they really struggled over the past week, dropping five of the seven games they played. The Aeros managed to avoid being swept, but losing three of four to the Erie SeaWolves and two of three to the Richmond Flying Squirrels – all at home – certainly hurts.
The good news is, the Aeros won so many games earlier in the season that they can afford the occasional stinker of a week. The key for Akron now is to rebound over the next week. They will play Richmond one more time on Tuesday before headed out to Erie and Bowie for three games sets. After that, it will be the All-Star Break, where four of your Akron Aeros (Chun Chen, Thomas Neal, Kyle Landis, and Steven Wright) will be participating.
It’s a good time to be OF Thomas Neal. Whether you look at his power numbers (6 HR, 8 doubles, and 17 RBI in 88 plate appearances since June 12), recent performance (a .351/.420/.688 slash line and .472 wOBA in that same time frame), or season performance (a more than respectable .307/.378/.467 slash line, .375 wOBA, .160 ISO, 6 HR and 16 doubles), Neal has been a great player for the Aeros. Plus, when you’re watching him, he looks relaxed at the plate and seems to run everything down in the outfield. As much as I love watching him play, I hope he gets a chance in Columbus soon. Neal had struggled to hit for power in the early going this year and all of last year, but that seems to have been a byproduct of injuries he’s recovered from. Now that he’s healthy, Neal just might be the right-handed power hitting outfielder that the big-league club needs.
OF/1B Jeremie Tice left the Aeros for a bit last week to deal with a death in the family, but that has been the only thing able to stop his crushing of Eastern League pitching. In his first 8 games, Tice has only posted a .355/.417/.548 slash line, .413 wOBA, .194 ISO, 1 HR, and 9 RBI. Tice’s stats will stabilize some as his sky-high BABIP (.435) falls, but that doesn’t take away from what he’s doing right now. The question has always been health for Tice and he’s producing in a big way now that he’s not hurting. He’s also adapting well to the outfield, so while he’s likely a DH long-term, he at least has the ability to play either corner outfield spot in a pinch. Tice is a bit farther away than Neal, but he’s another right-handed power hitter coming up through the ranks that could eventually balance out the Tribe’s lefty-leaning ways.
With only a week’s sample size, it’s hard for any one reliever to pitch well enough to justify being ranked above a starting pitcher or position player. But when a pitcher dominates like RP Rob Bryson did, it’s hard to ignore. Bryson only faced 15 batters in his 4.1 innings over the past week, but he struck out 8 of them, only allowed 1 earned run, 2 hits, and no walks. That stat line comes out to a -0.49 FIP, which is basically so good that it breaks a very accurate statistic (of course, that only happens in small sample sizes, but it’s still cool to see). On the year, Bryson is still struggling with walks (he currently holds a 5.84 BB/9), but if he can limit them like he did over this past week, his 11.68 SO/9 will be all the more impressive. With a 2.68 ERA, 2.55 FIP, and 1.38 WHIP on the year, Bryson will be another depth bullpen option for the Indians if he can fix his problem with the free pass.
(Honorable Mentions: Adam Abraham, Brett Brach, Jose De La Torre, Preston Guilmet, Jordan Henry, Matt Lawson, Ryan Rohlinger, Tyler Sturdevant)
(Previous Winners: Adam Abraham (5/1, 5/8, 6/26), Kyle Bellows (5/22, 5/29), Rob Bryson (6/19), Chun Chen (5/15, 5/22, 6/26), Jose De La Torre (6/19), Paolo Espino (5/29), Tim Fedroff (4/17, 5/29, 6/5), Jared Goedert (4/17, 4/24), Preston Guilmet (6/19), Kyle Landis (6/5, 6/19), T.J. McFarland (4/17, 5/15, 5/22), Thomas Neal (5/1, 5/15, 6/19, 6/26), Roberto Perez (6/12), Bryan Price (6/19), Ryan Rohlinger (6/5), Giovanni Soto (5/1, 5/8), Bryce Stowell (4/24, 6/5, 6/19), Loek van Mil (6/5, 6/19), Nick Weglarz (6/12, 6/19), Steven Wright (4/24, 5/8, 6/12))
It almost feels like blasphemy to put SP Steven Wright on the Temporarily Grounded list, but the truth is he struggled over the past week. In his two starts, Wright went 11 innings with a 6.55 ERA, 5.02 FIP, 1.91 WHIP and allowed 2 home runs. A lot of Wright’s problems were rooted in people squaring him up (15 hits in those 11 innings) and his control problems (6 walks, which isn’t overwhelmingly bad, but it’s bad nonetheless). Wright still struck out 12 batters and did a decent job eating innings despite his struggles, but hopefully he can right the ship next week. Otherwise, our #FreeStevenWright hashtag just doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Credit SS Juan Diaz for his consistency. Every week he’ll do a few things that make you happy (like his home run on Tuesday and go-ahead single on Saturday), but will hurt the team in the big picture. Diaz’s .259/.310/.444 slash line, .317 wOBA could be worse, but his 11:1 SO:BB ratio in 30 plate appearances over the past week further point to a player that just can’t control the strike zone. It would appear that Diaz and his .242/.284/.371 season slash line, .286 wOBA, 24.1 K%, and 5.0 BB% will ride the year out in Akron, but I doubt he will keep the job next year if he stays at this pace. The Indians have plenty of high-end middle infield depth below the AA level (Francisco Lindor, Tony Wolters, Ronny Rodriguez, Jorge Martinez, Dorssys Paulino) that will push Diaz out of the picture if he doesn’t improve his game in a big way soon.
Supposedly, INF Davis Stoneburner is the utility infielder for the Akron Aeros, but that just hasn’t been the case. Stoneburner has been getting too many plate appearances (21 over the past week, 193 on the season) for how he has been performing (.188/.316/.250 slash line and .335 wOBA over the past week, .198/.267/.279 slash line and .266 wOBA on the season). It’s pretty clear at this point that Stoneburner doesn’t have much value to the Indians long-term, so I’d rather see other players get his playing time. Another player with a similar profile, INF Matt Lawson, has been much better since he was called up to Akron (.263/.362/.368 slash line and .325 wOBA in 70 PA). It’s nothing against Stoneburner, but I’m not sure he has much left to offer the Aeros or Indians.
(Dishonorable Mentions: Kyle Bellows, Paolo Espino, Bryan Price, Bryce Stowell, Loek van Mil, Nick Weglarz)
(Previous Losers: Adam Abraham (5/22, 5/29, 6/5, 6/12), Kyle Bellows (4/24, 5/1, 5/8, 6/5), Eric Berger (4/17), Brett Brach (5/15, 6/12, 6/26), Rob Bryson (5/15, 5/22, 5/29), Ben Copeland (5/29, 6/19), Jose De La Torre (5/8, 5/15, 6/26), Juan Diaz (4/17, 5/1, 6/19), Tim Fedroff (5/22), Preston Guilmet (5/22), Jordan Henry (6/26), T.J. House (6/19), Francisco Jimenez (6/26), Kyle Landis (5/22, 6/26), Toru Murata (5/15, 5/22, 5/29), Thomas Neal (6/12), Roberto Perez (4/17, 4/24), Bryan Price (5/8, 5/22), Mason Radeke (5/22), Ryan Rohlinger (4/24, 5/15), Giovanni Soto (5/15, 6/5, 6/26), Bryce Stowell (6/26), Tyler Sturdevant (6/26), Nick Weglarz (5/1, 5/8), Steven Wright (5/15))
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
It wasn’t a great week for the Aeros’ bullpen as they allowed 15 earned runs and 3 home runs in 26.2 innings, which comes out to an ugly 5.06 ERA. The good news, however, is that they were pretty unlucky all things considered. The group had 30 strikeouts compared to only 7 walks, a very good number that fueled a decent 3.20 FIP. It wasn’t a banner week for RPs Rob Bryson, Jose De La Torre, Preston Guilmet, Kyle Landis, Bryan Price, Bryce Stowell, Tyler Sturdevant, and Loek van Mil, but overall, it could have been much worse.
As great as the story has been for OF Nick Weglarz, it would seem to be about time to temper expectations a little bit for him. Last week wasn’t anything special (a .231/.276/.346 slash line, .274 wOBA, and 7:0 SO:BB ratio in 29 plate appearances), and he now has a team-leading 77 strikeouts on the season. His season numbers would have him on pace for 28 home runs and 92 RBI over a full Major League season, but the next step for Weglarz needs to be limiting his 30.3 K% at least a little bit.
One can be forgiven if they forget that C Roberto Perez is on the Aeros’ roster – that tends to happen when you post a .212 AVG, .300 SLG, 21.6 K%, and only 1 home run 83 games into the season. Yet, I keep finding myself encouraged by Perez’s approach at the plate and his 16.4 BB%. Perez is obviously too passive at the plate right now, but his willingness to work the count combined with his top-notch defensive ability behind the plate are a good foundation for his future. Perez is still relatively young as this is his age-23 season, and even if he improves his bat a little bit, he could have a decent Major League future. The tools and approach are there; now we get to watch and see if Perez can get everything to click.
Odds & Ends
It was a quiet week for the most part from the bats. 1B/DH Adam Abraham had a solid week (.292/.346/.333 slash line, .383 wOBA) that lacked in power, as did 1B Chun Chen (.250/.424/.292 slash line, .348 wOBA, 8:8 SO:BB ratio in 33 plate appearances). OF Jordan Henry also put together a solid week (.280/.379/.360 slash line, .340 wOBA), which was particularly impressive considering he is only 18 games into his rehab from microfracture surgery. INF Ryan Rohlinger also was having a strong week (.333/.364/.444 slash line, .313 wOBA) before he was promoted to Columbus.
On the negative side of the bats, 3B Kyle Bellows continued his struggles since he returned from the DL, posting a .200/.200/.267 slash line and .203 wOBA in only 15 plate appearances. Hopefully he’ll improve as time goes on. As for C Michel Hernandez’s 0-for-9 week, that’s really as there is to say.
The starting pitching for the Aeros this past week was a mixed bag. Most pitchers either struggled with allowing runs but pitched better than their line suggests or vice versa. SPs Paolo Espino (8.31 ERA, 3.89 FIP) and T.J. House (6.00 ERA, 2.37 FIP) fell on the pitched better than it seems side, while SP Brett Brach (1.29 ERA, 4.06 FIP) fell on the other side. In the middle was SP Giovanni Soto, who underwhelmed no matter how you slice it (4.09 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 8:9 SO:BB in 11 innings). At least this was the first week since May 15-21 that Soto did not allow a home run.
The Aeros got both of their players – 3B Kyle Bellows and RP Toru Murata – off of the DL early in the past week, but unfortunately, their DL may not stay empty for long. Early word is that RP Bryce Stowell may have injured himself late in Monday night’s contest. Details are still sketchy as I’m writing this, so stay tuned for more information.
Moves (Like Orbit)
June 27 OF Jeremie Tice placed on Bereavement List
June 27 3B Kyle Bellows activated from DL
June 28 RP Toru Murata activated from DL and promoted to AAA Columbus
June 30 INF Ryan Rohlinger promoted to AAA Columbus
June 30 OF Jeremie Tice activated from Bereavement List
If you want to follow Jim, he’s @DarkestDiamond
If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.