Launching off with the Aeros: 7/16/13 – 7/22/13
Successful road trip pushes Akron to .500
Before heading out on their road trip last week, Akron Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez noted the dire position the team's 47-50 record left it in as the season starts winding down.
"They want to win," Rodriguez said. "We're developing here, but it's always fun to win... It's a month and a half to go, and yeah, we have to start making some moves from here, start winning some series, instead of getting on a streak, just start winning series."
The Aeros finished a series win over the Erie SeaWolves in Akron on Wednesday, took three of four in Harrisburg from the Senators, and won the first game of a series with the Bowie Baysox Monday night on their way to a winning week. The winning pushed the Aeros back to .500 and a 51-51 record.
Now just 3.5 games back of first place in the Western Division and 1.5 games out of the wild card, the Aeros will look to win their series in Bowie before coming home to Canal Park Thursday to host the Richmond Flying Squirrels in a four-game set.
Francisco Lindor, SS
.458/.594/.583 line, .549 wOBA, 11-for-24, 6 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0:8 SO:BB, 5 SB, 2 CS in 32 PA
What Lindor accomplished in his first week of Double-A is nothing short of astonishing. There were high expectations awaiting the top prospect in the system as he reached Akron for the first time, yet he exceeded them all. Drawing eight walks with no strikeouts and five steals, while also maintaining a 1.177 OPS and .549 wOBA is one of the best from an Aero for the whole season and Lindor accomplished that in his first exposure to the level at 19 years old.
Now, going forward, I expect the Eastern League to treat Lindor differently. From these results, I would guess that pitchers are trying to get Lindor to chase things out of the zone and the shortstop is simply taking those pitches, leading to walks. Pitchers will have to attack him soon, and whether or not Lindor punishes those pitches in the zone will be key.
For now, though, Lindor's ability to succeed at this level just adds to his resume as one of the best prospects in all of baseball.
Carlos Moncrief, RF
.308/.400/.769 line, .503 wOBA, 8-for-26, 8 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2:4 SO:BB, 1 SB, 1 CS in 30 PA
Not to be outdone by Lindor, Moncrief went on a power binge over the past week, launching two doubles, two triples, and two home runs in six games. Moncrief is second in the Eastern League in total bases and continues to push for a promotion to Triple-A.
At this point, I really believe that Moncrief needs to be challenged in Columbus. While Triple-A is not a completely necessary step -- some prospects go from Double-A to the majors -- I would like to see Moncrief given that challenge. Facing some pitchers who have big league experience, not just big league stuff, could be beneficial in preparing the 24-year-old outfielder for a major league push in 2013. Moncrief certainly has the ability, but giving him the toughest competition is, in my mind, the best way to make up for his lost developmental time.
Austin Adams, Shawn Armstrong, Rob Bryson, Jordan Cooper, Jose Flores, Trey Haley, Jeff Johnson, & Enosil Tejeda, RHPs
17 G, 3-0 W-L, 3 SV, 0.84 ERA, 2.08 FIP, 10.13 SO/9, 3.38 BB/9, 0.75 WHIP, 8 H, 2 ER, 24:8 SO:BB, 0 HR, 2 HBP in 21.1 IP
The hitting looked pretty good over the past week, but what really carried the team was the bullpen. The eight relievers listed above combined for a 0.84 ERA and well more than a strikeout per inning en route to sealing wins for the Aeros.
Time and time again I have written about the depth of right-handed relief options in the upper levels of the organization and it was on full display over the past week. While those names vary in prospect standing, all of them are players with immense talent. With some breaks, all of them could help out in Cleveland; they all have that ability.
(Honorable Mentions: Brett Brach, Cedric Hunter, Toru Murata, Matt Packer, Giovanny Urshela)
(Previous Winners: Austin Adams (5/14), Jesus Aguilar (6/18), Rob Bryson (5/21), Chun-Hsiu Chen (4/16, 4/30, 5/14), Cole Cook (5/21), Jordan Cooper (7/9), Jose Flores (5/14, 5/21), Trey Haley (5/14), Tyler Holt (4/23, 5/21, 7/16), T.J. House (4/9, 4/23), Cedric Hunter (5/28, 7/2), Quincy Latimore (4/16), Jake Lowery (7/9), Carlos Moncrief (4/16, 5/7, 6/11, 6/18, 7/2, 7/16), Toru Murata (4/9), Brett Myers (5/21), Matt Packer (5/28, 7/2, 7/9), Roberto Perez (6/4), Bryan Price (5/14, 5/21), Jose Ramirez (4/9, 4/30, 6/4, 7/9), Will Roberts (6/11, 7/9, 7/16), Ronny Rodriguez (5/28, 6/4, 6/18), Danny Salazar (4/23, 4/30, 5/7), Bryce Stowell (5/14), Justin Toole (5/14), Giovanny Urshela (5/7, 6/11), Blake Wood (5/21))
Paolo Espino, RHP
1 GS, 0-1 W-L, 33.00 ERA, 14.20 FIP, 9.00 SO/9, 0.00 BB/9, 4.67 WHIP, 14 H, 11 ER, 3:0 BB, 3 HR in 3.0 IP
Sometimes, no matter what a pitcher does, he cannot get an out. Espino was in that position Thursday, as the right-hander struggled early, tried to gut out a few more innings to save the bullpen, but just got hit hard some more. The final line is ugly (and raised Espino's ERA by nearly one and a half runs), but really this is just one game.
Espino remains someone likely to fulfill a depth role in the upper minors, as his stuff and results have not been good enough to push him into the major league picture. His strikeouts are up in 2013 (9.1 SO/9 in 2013, 8.5 SO/9 in career), but his walks are up even more (3.4 BB/9 in 2013, 2.7 BB/9 in career). Still, Espino is someone who typically gets the job done and can flex from starter to reliever, and that has value.
Jake Lowery, C
.176/.300/.235 line, .306 wOBA, 3-for-17, 1 R, 1 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 5:3 SO:BB, 0 SB in 20 PA
Lowery's assault on Eastern League pitching brought him back onto the prospect map, though it was important to remember that his rise was aided by an unsustainable .394 BABIP heading into last week. Some regression came over the past week and, with Lowery's BABIP still sitting at .378, more is likely on the way.
Instead of simply saying Lowery will regress, looking at what he will regress to should be a little more helpful. Lowery is still hitting for power (.189 ISO), drawing a healthy amount of walks (10.8 BB%) to counteract his strikeouts, and would own an on-base percentage around .310 if his BABIP was normalized.
All told, for a catcher with only 71 unsuccessful games at the High-A level, those stats are still a success. Lowery may not stay elite for the rest of the season, but the catcher has reestablished a great deal of his value in 2013.
Matt Lawson, 2B/3B/DH
.136/.200/.136 line, .202 wOBA, 3-for-22, 3 R, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 5:2 SO:BB, 1 CS in 25 PA
Lawson turned some heads when he posted a .327/.408/.459 line in 60 games during Akron's championship run in 2012, but reality has hit hard in 2013. The infielder owns a .221/.326/.294 line in 69 games between Double-A and Triple-A and does not have nearly as much prospect stock as the rest of the infield talent currently working its way up through the system.
Right now, Lawson fills the role of backup infielder in Akron and Columbus well, though the 27-year-old does not really have much upside left past that. He plays the game well, but expecting him to tear it up like last year is irrational. That was a career year and one Lawson will always have, but repeating it probably is not in the cards.
(Dishonorable Mentions: Jesus Aguilar, Kyle Bellows, Ronny Rodriguez)
(Previous Losers: Adam Abraham (6/4), Austin Adams (4/23, 5/28), Jesus Aguilar (5/7, 5/14), Shawn Armstrong (4/23, 7/16), Brett Brach (4/23, 5/28, 7/2, 7/9), Rob Bryson (5/28, 6/18, 7/2), Cole Cook (4/23, 5/14, 5/28, 7/2, 7/9), Jordan Cooper (5/21, 5/28), Paolo Espino (4/16, 5/28), Jose Flores (5/28, 7/2, 7/16), Trey Haley (5/21, 6/18), Tyler Holt (4/9, 6/11), T.J. House (4/16), Kyle Landis (4/23, 7/2), Quincy Latimore (4/23, 5/21, 5/28, 7/2), Chen-Chang Lee (7/2), Fabio Martinez (4/16), Carlos Moncrief (4/9, 4/30), Toru Murata (4/16, 5/28, 7/9, 7/16), Brett Myers (5/28), Rob Nixon (5/28), Matt Packer (4/9, 4/16, 4/30), Edward Paredes (4/16, 4/23), Chris Perez (7/2), Bryan Price (5/28), Jose Ramirez (4/16, 5/7, 6/11, 6/18), J.D. Reichenbach (7/2, 7/9, 7/16), Will Roberts (7/2), Ronny Rodriguez (4/9, 4/23, 5/7, 5/14, 7/16), Danny Salazar (4/16), Nate Spears (6/4), Enosil Tejeda (7/2), Justin Toole (6/11), Giovanny Urshela (4/9, 4/30, 7/9), Robert Whitenack (4/23, 6/4), Blake Wood (7/2))
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
With a 3.05 FIP to go with his 2.58 ERA, left-hander Matt Packer is making the case that he should get a chance in Triple-A. With the lack of left-handed options the big league club has, I would support a move, though it is far from certain that Packer would succeed in Columbus.
Packer's 2013 peripherals are not much better than 2011, when the left-hander posted a 4.31 ERA and 3.56 FIP in a full season in Akron. The difference is the 0.39 HR/9 this year (compared to 0.85 HR/9 in 2011), which is something that is not typically sustainable.
Packer will be 26 years old in a month and should get a look in Triple-A, though as a left-hander that relies on a lower strikeout rate and limiting walks, watching how he limits home runs going forward will be important.
Center fielder Tyler Holt's relatively slight drop in his strikeout rate from 16.9 percent in 2012 to 14.3 in 2013 may not seem like much, but depending on how much Holt sustains it, the drop could be huge. Holt will never be confused as a power hitter and the center fielder yields much of his value from setting the table at the top of the lineup. With his speed, just putting the ball in play is wildly important, so Holt doing that more consistently in 2013 should pay dividends going forward. With his defense already extremely good, Holt's bat is the only thing that still needs real work, and clearly the center fielder is showing strides this year.
Sticking with the strikeout rate evaluation, third baseman Giovanny Urshela's 10.5 percent figure is elite on the surface. That mark is essentially the same as Michael Brantley's, though Urshela's does not use his as effectively.
Urshela's low strikeout rate is a byproduct of the third baseman's elite hand-eye coordination, as he can hit most pitches that are thrown. The third baseman is still learning to differentiate which pitches he can hit and which pitches he can drive, however, which is why his overall line sits so low (.271/.293/.402 line, 2.8 BB%, .131 ISO). A third baseman with great defense and hand-eye coordination should succeed in the long run, though Urshela has some clear issues to work on over the rest of 2013.
Odds & Ends
Second baseman/shortstop Ronny Rodriguez did not have the best week (.238/.227/.238 line in 22 plate appearances), but the biggest news he made was tweeting out a picture that made it seem he was being traded Monday afternoon. He deleted the tweet and explained that it was a misunderstanding, though in the midst of trade season, I would think that there is a little smoke going on here, with the fire potentially coming soon.
Catcher Alex Monsalve finally made his 2013 debut this past week, going 2-for-7 with a double in two games. Monsalve injured his UCL ligament in his elbow during the first practice of Spring Training and has been out since. After being rated as IBI's best catching prospect before the season, it is great to see Monsalve back on the field.
To make room for Monsalve, outfielder Quincy Latimore was released from the organization. Latimore was the return in the Jeanmar Gomez trade this past offseason, though the outfielder regressed in his third Double-A season (.231/.306/.353 line in 330 plate appearances). He seemed well-liked by his teammates and we at IBI wish Latimore the best in the future.
First baseman Jesus Aguilar struggled over the past week (.200/.200/.333 line in 30 plate appearances), yet an extra-innings home run and his 77 RBI continue to overshadow his down season (.264/.340/.411 line, .147 ISO) in the minds of most. Considering his season-long struggles with power, I do not find it surprising that Aguilar has not been called up to Columbus yet this year.
Right-hander Brett Brach has not had the best season, but he turned it around over the past week, posting a 2.57 ERA and 3.41 FIP in 14.0 innings (two starts). Brach's success was joined by right-handers Toru Murata (1.29 ERA, 4.34 FIP in 7.0 innings) and Will Roberts (5.06 ERA, 2.92 FIP in 10.2 innings), who both helped the Aeros toward their winning week.
Second baseman/shortstop Jose Ramirez remained out after injuring his ankle last Sunday. The plan was for Ramirez to return Monday, though that did not happen. He could be back as soon as today, though the Aeros could also rest Ramirez some more to ensure that he is completely healthy.
The Aeros got right-hander Rob Bryson back from the disabled list over the past week after he missed 19 games with a right hip strain. Bryson threw a scoreless inning over the past week, though with a 10.93 ERA and 6.13 FIP in 14.0 innings on the season, the right-hander has work to do in the rest of the season.
Unfortunately, catcher Chris Wallace took Bryson's place on the disabled list with a left knee strain. Wallace has done well since coming over from the Astros organization (.308/.360/.462 line in 86 plate appearances) and seems to be a veteran young catchers like Lowery and Monsalve can learn from.
Moves (Like Orbit)
July 14 - OF Cedric Hunter activated from the DL
July 16 - SS Francisco Lindor received form High-A Carolina
July 16 - C Chris Wallace placed on 7-day DL (left knee strain)
July 17 - OF Quincy Latimore released
July 17 - C Alex Monsalve received from AZL Indians
July 18 - RHP Rob Bryson activated from DL
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