Launching off with the Aeros: 7/23/13 – 7/29/13
Offensive struggles leave Aeros below .500
The Akron Aeros got some decent pitching over the past week, though a rough performance from the offense sent them on their way to a losing record. The Aeros lost four of their six games, dropping their record to 53-55. Akron is in fourth place in the Western Division, 5.5 games out of first place and five games out of the wild card.
With the big league club in playoff contention and the Akron roster filled with interesting prospects, the makeup of this team could undergo a radical change in the near future. A player like Ronny Rodriguez could intrigue some team, though (as you will see later), he has struggled in recent weeks.
No matter who is on the team, the Aeros will head out on a six-game road trip to New Britain and Altoona starting tonight. They will return to Akron to host New Britain on Tuesday, August 6.
Will Roberts, RHP
1 GS, 1-0 W-L, 2.45 ERA, 2.52 FIP, 4.91 SO/9, 1.23 BB/9, 0.82 WHIP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4:1 SO:BB in 7.1 IP
The Aeros got some pretty good starting pitching over the past week that the offense just could not support. Roberts turned in the best start of the week Saturday night, continuing his good showing in 2013.
The results are not overwhelming (4.24 ERA, 3.92 FIP in 99.2 innings), but Roberts is pitching effectively in his first exposure to Double-A. He almost never walks anyone (5.1 BB%) and uses that to make up for his lack of overpowering stuff. Roberts is not someone with top-of-the-rotation ability, but as a 23-year-old pitching well in Double-A, he is someone who could move up from his #92 IBI preseason rank.
Jose Flores, RHP
3 G, 0-0 W-L, 1 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.53 FIP, 12.00 SO/9, 0.00 BB/9, 0.00 WHIP, 0 H, 0 R, 4:0 SO:BB in 3.0 IP
Flores faced nine batters this past week and retired them all, including four on strikeouts. That is essentially par for the course this season from Flores, as the right-hander has a 2.90 ERA, 2.03 FIP, and 31.2 percent strikeout rate in 49.2 innings.
A .352 BABIP is inflating Flores' line, which could be a byproduct of his lack of raw stuff. It would make sense that hitters are able to hit a pitcher without knockout stuff easier, though that does not quite compute with someone striking out nearly a third of the batters he has faced.
Regardless, Flores is yet another right-hander relief option doing well in the organization and is someone who should pitch in Columbus once the logjam there breaks down.
Jake Lowery, C
.364/.364/.636 line, .418 wOBA, 4-for-11, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2:0 SO:BB, 0 SB in 11 PA
The Akron offense really stumbled over the past week (.223/.277/.351 line), leaving Lowery's part-time performance as the best on the week. The BABIP monster is still waiting to bite (.383 on the season), though Lowery's power continued to shine through despite only playing in half of Akron's games last week.
That timeshare is due to the presence of Alex Monsalve, who came into 2013 as IBI's #1 catching prospect. Monsalve injured his UCL in his elbow on the first day of Spring Training and is just now coming back. While he is not tearing it up so far (.250/.250/.313 line in five games), Monsalve is someone with talent who still needs reps.
Unfortunately for Lowery, those reps are coming at his expense. Lowery is having a tremendous rebound season (.291/.362/.486 line in 196 plate appearances), but for now, he will be splitting half of the games at catcher with Monsalve.
(Honorable Mentions: Jesus Aguilar, Trey Haley, Cedric Hunter, Jeff Johnson, Francisco Lindor, Matt Packer, Chris Wallace)
(Previous Winners: Austin Adams (5/14, 7/23), Jesus Aguilar (6/18), Shawn Armstrong (7/23), Rob Bryson (5/21, 7/23), Chun-Hsiu Chen (4/16, 4/30, 5/14), Cole Cook (5/21), Jordan Cooper (7/9, 7/23), Jose Flores (5/14, 5/21, 7/23), Trey Haley (5/14, 7/23), Tyler Holt (4/23, 5/21, 7/16), T.J. House (4/9, 4/23), Cedric Hunter (5/28, 7/2), Jeff Johnson (7/23), Quincy Latimore (4/16), Francisco Lindor (7/23), Jake Lowery (7/9), Carlos Moncrief (4/16, 5/7, 6/11, 6/18, 7/2, 7/16, 7/23), 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), Enosil Tejeda (7/23), Justin Toole (5/14), Giovanny Urshela (5/7, 6/11), Blake Wood (5/21))
Ronny Rodriguez, 2B
.136/.208/.136 line, .173 wOBA, 3-for-22, 2 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 5:2 SO:BB, 1 SB in 24 PA
So far in 2013, Rodriguez's season has been a series of three prolonged streaks:
April 4 - May 13: .220/.240/.312 line, .267 wOBA, 16.8 K%, 2.0 BB% in 149 plate appearances
May 14 - June 22: .370/.387/.563 line, .402 wOBA, 11.9 K%, 3.5 BB% in 143 plate appearances
July 2 - July 29: .214/.239/.262 line, .235 wOBA, 18.2 K%, 3.4 BB% in 88 plate appearances
Rodriguez made an adjustment to his swing in mid-May that seemed to help him make the jump to Double-A. He was going well until he missed time between June 22 and July 2 with hamstring soreness.
It may be a coincidence, but the stark change in Rodriguez's numbers since his hamstring issues is apparent. Right now, I would wager that either Rodriguez is not quite right or that, despite feeling 100 percent, his injury is affecting his swing. Either way, something is clearly off with Rodriguez right now.
Tyler Holt, CF
.167/.211/.167 line, .180 wOBA, 3-for-18, 1 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 7:1 SO:BB, 0 SB in 19 PA
It figures that in the week following Launching off with the Aeros commending Holt for cutting his strikeout rate he goes and strikes out seven times. Holt's struggles were just a part of a down week for the whole offense, however, and the center fielder's season still looks strong.
Holt has turned in a typical season for him, with a decent on-base percentage (.353), a high volume of steals (23), and stellar defense. With 155 games at the Double-A level under his belt, I expect him to move to Columbus following the trade deadline later this week. Holt is not an impact prospect, but the 24-year-old is someone who could help out as a fourth outfielder as soon as next season if he is promoted soon.
Brett Brach, RHP
1 GS, 0-1 W-L, 12.60 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 3.60 SO/9, 1.80 BB/9, 2.00 WHIP, 9 H, 7 ER, 2:1 SO:BB, 3 HBP in 5.0 IP
Brach's start Friday night went quite poorly, as evidenced by the three hit by pitches the right-hander recorded in his five innings. Gutting through such an outing for five innings did save the bullpen, but clearly Brach was lacking his best stuff Friday.
This has been an issue for Brach in 2013, as his ERA in Akron is much higher than his FIP (5.04 to 4.07 in 89.1 innings). That FIP is also not all that strong, plus minor league FIP is not a perfect true-talent indicator for pitches without great stuff. Brach does not have great raw stuff, meaning that his .325 BABIP in 2013 -- part of what is inflating his ERA -- might not regress as much as one would think.
Advanced stats aside, the bottom line is that Brach is not having a great 2013 and, as someone who is not a priority prospect, the right-hander needs to finish the season much better than he has started it.
(Dishonorable Mentions: Kyle Bellows, Rob Bryson, Matt Lawson, Alex Monsalve, Giovanny Urshela)
(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, 7/23), 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), Matt Lawson (7/23), Chen-Chang Lee (7/2), Jake Lowery (7/23), 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.
Akron manager Edwin Rodriguez said that first baseman Jesus Aguilar made an adjustment to his swing to make it more major league-ready around June 4. Since then, Aguilar owns a .378 wOBA, which is roughly the same wOBA as Jason Kipnis this season. Projecting those 213 plate appearances out to a full season, Aguilar would own a .277/.362/.447 line with 51 doubles, 15 home runs, 111 RBI, and a 123:66 SO:BB. In other words, roughly Alex Gordon last year and a very good season.
Now, there is no guarantee that Aguilar can keep that pace up for a whole season. Also, getting out of Canal Park would almost certainly turn some of those doubles into home runs, helping Aguilar's line improve even more. The point is, after making that adjustment, Aguilar looks much better at the plate and should probably make his way to Triple-A at some point in August.
Another notebook, another week writing about how great left-hander Matt Packer has been for Akron this season. Granted, once the trade deadline passes, there is a better chance to see Packer promoted, but with how he has performed, it is still a little surprising to see him still in Double-A.
This week we look at Packer's 2.79 SO:BB, which is quite good. It is not elite, but considering that Austin Adams -- a top relief prospect -- owns a 2.70 SO:BB, it is impressive. Plus, Packer is putting that mark up while starting and could conceivable see it get even better while airing it out for an inning or two in relief. Cleveland is in dire need of left-handed relief options and, without much in Columbus, calling Packer up to Triple-A for the purpose of seeing how well he could fill in out of the bullpen is not the worse plan.
Considering the ludicrousness of shortstop Francisco Lindor's first 13 games in Double-A, it is easy to assume some massive regression is coming. Some regression will be on its way -- Lindor's true talent level is just not a .348/.474/.500 line -- but his .357 BABIP hints that the shortstop is not just watching everything fall in for hits.
Lindor does not strikeout that much -- he owned a 10.5 percent strikeout rate in Carolina before his promotion -- and he also walks a good deal. So while Lindor's 17.5 percent walk rate and 5.3 strikeout rate in Akron will trend toward each other, it should not be a massive shift. Lindor has already shown he can get on base and hit the ball in Double-A, and while this exact pace will not keep going, he still should stay dominant.
Odds & Ends
Right-hander Paolo Espino was a man of extremes this past week, allowing eight runs on 10 hits in 4.1 innings on Tuesday and only two runs on six hits in seven innings on Sunday. Part of that is a byproduct of mechanical adjustments, as Espino has been working in his bullpen sessions on not flying open. According to his manager, the change should allow him to better command inside pitches and improve his results.
The Aeros as a whole struggled on offense, though outfielder Cedric Hunter (.792 OPS, .327 wOBA in 24 plate appearances) did his part. Outfielder Carlos Moncrief (.642 OPS, .273 wOBA in 23 plate appearances) had a rare down week, though I still expect him to be in Columbus before long.
Right-handers Trey Haley and Jeff Johnson both dominated in their appearances this past week, combining for six strikeouts, one walk, no hits, and no runs in 4.2 innings. It is especially nice to see Haley pitching better, as 2013 has mostly been a lost year for the right-hander (4.60 ERA, 7.98 BB/9, more time lost due to injury).
The Aeros finally placed second baseman Jose Ramirez on the disabled list this past week after he missed over a week with his ankle injury. The plan right now is to activate him Wednesday and ease him back into action as the designated hitter.
While Ramirez went on the disabled list, catcher Chris Wallace (left knee strain) was activated. With Lowery and Monsalve ahead of him on the depth chart, Wallace is playing occasionally at designated hitter, which also allows him to avoid squatting constantly on that knee for the time being.
Moves (Like Orbit)
July 19 - 2B Jose Ramirez placed on 7-day DL (twisted right ankle)
July 23 - C Chris Wallace activated from DL
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