Launching off with the Aeros: 7/30/13 – 8/5/13
Down week puts Akron's playoff chances in do-or-die mode
The Akron Aeros won on Saturday and Sunday, but it was not enough to undo their four-game losing streak to start the week. Losing four of six games dropped the Aeros to a 55-59 record, 5.5 games behind the Harrisburg Senators for first place in the Western Division and five games behind the Erie SeaWolves for the wild card.
Considering that Akron is only one game ahead of the Altoona Curve, who are in last place, another 2-4 week might effectively end the team's playoff dreams. While they are a long shot right now, a hot week or two could put the Aeros back in the playoff picture. Winning now will be the key, though.
The Aeros will look to start that winning with a three-game homestand against the New Britain Rock Cats starting tonight at 7:05 p.m. Then the team will travel to Trenton and Richmond as a part of a six-game road trip.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B
.368/.462/.789 line, .523 wOBA, 7-for-19, 3 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2:5 SO:BB, 0 SB in 26 PA
Updating you on Jesus Aguilar's stats since June 4 -- about when he implemented a swing change -- the first baseman now owns a .285/.372/.478 line, .394 wOBA, 19 doubles, and seven home runs in 239 plate appearances. Even more impressive, Aguilar is walking a ton (11.3 BB%) while not striking out all that much for a power hitter (18.0 K%).
The emergence of Aguilar's power -- something that was sorely lacking earlier in the season despite his gaudy RBI totals -- is what really makes him ready for a promotion to Triple-A. It may not have happened over night, but Aguilar made the adjustments necessary to handle Double-A and tap into his potential. Chun-Hsiu Chen is a nice player but there is no reason that Aguilar should not replace him in Columbus for the last month of the season.
Giovanny Urshela, 3B
.267/.313/.533 line, .414 wOBA, 4-for-15, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1:1 SO:BB, 0 SB in 16 PA
With a .267 ISO over the past week, one could claim that Urshela just had his most powerful week of the season. While such small sample sizes hardly matter much, seeing Urshela even begin to show his power potential is a good sign for the third baseman's development.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez noted in mid-July that he wanted to get Urshela more rest so he could end the season strong. Since July 16, Urshela has only played in 14 of 19 games and posted a .269/.309/.423 line with a 3:3 SO:BB in 55 games. Urshela is playing well, and while 55 plate appearances is too few to draw any firm conclusions, it is encouraging.
Toru Murata, RHP
2 GS, 1-0 W-L, 3.65 ERA, 1.74 FIP, 8.76 SO/9, 1.46 BB/9, 1.22 WHIP, 13 H, 5 ER, 12:2 SO:BB, 0 HR in 12.1 IP
This season has not been the kindest to Murata (3.87 ERA, 3.74 FIP in 102.1 IP), but he got back to his successful ways over the past week by getting plenty of strikeouts, limiting walks, and, most importantly, suppressing home runs.
If you want to know why Murata struggled in 2013, you do not need to look any farther than his home run rate. After only allowing 0.1 HR/9 with the Aeros last year, Murata is allowing 1.1 HR/9 this year. This season's rate is more realistic and is probably something that the right-hander will need to find a way to pitch well with going forward.
(Honorable Mentions: Austin Adams, Paolo Espino, Jose Flores, Francisco Lindor, Alex Monsalve, Enosil Tejeda)
(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, 7/30), 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, 7/30), 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, 7/30), 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))
Jose Ramirez, DH/2B
.136/.136/.136 line, .123 wOBA, 3-for-22, 1 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2:0 SO:BB, 0 SB, 1 CS in 22 PA
Ramirez finally played again after missing over two weeks with an ankle injury, though the middle infielder's stats seem to say he was not quite ready to come back. It is possible that Ramirez just needs to ease back into the lineup, though any prolonged slump may point to him just not being completely healthy.
In the bigger picture, Ramirez's .270/.326/.354 line on the season is not bad -- especially for a 20-year-old who skipped High-A -- but his .085 ISO is something that could be exploited going forward. That youth gives hope that Ramirez can add some strength in the offseason, something that will be necessary to keep defenses honest.
Brett Brach, RHP
1 GS, 0-1 W-L, 9.00 ERA, 7.70 FIP, 1.50 SO/9, 1.50 BB/9, 1.17 WHIP, 6 H, 6 ER, 1:1 SO:BB, 2 HR, 2 HBP in 6.0 IP
I really hate putting Brach in the Temporarily Grounded section yet again, but the right-hander just cannot get anything positive going lately. Brach's recent stumbles pushed his ERA to 5.29 and there is not an easy fix in sight.
Though Brach is giving up home runs at a high rate (1.13 HR/9), it is not at a rate so high that regression will fix all of his problems. Plus, while limiting walks is nice (2.17 BB/9), a lack of elite stuff also keeps the strikeouts down (5.66 SO/9) and allows the hits to pile up (104 in 95.1 innings). In the end, Brach may just be overexposed as a starter and might benefit from moving to the bullpen, where his sinker-changeup two-pitch mix may play up more.
Shawn Armstrong, Rob Bryson, & Jeff Johnson, RHPs
6 G, 0-1 W-L, 16.20 ERA, 12.00 FIP, 9.00 SO/9, 9.00 BB/9, 2.80 WHIP, 9 H, 9 ER, 5:5 SO:BB, 3 HR in 5.0 IP
Armstrong, Bryson, and Johnson showed what happens when walks and home runs catch up with you. Armstrong's season-long struggles with control continued (two walks in 1.1 innings, 13 in 18.2 innings on the season), while Bryson and Johnson's issues were more with the long ball (three in 3.2 innings combined).
All three of these right-handers have talent but have not found a lot of success at the Double-A level (Armstrong: 5.79 ERA, 3.41 FIP in 18.2 innings; Bryson: 11.65 ERA, 7.91 FIP in 17.0 innings; Johnson: 4.50 ERA, 3.30 FIP in 10.0 innings). That is just the curse of relievers and small samples, however, and hopefully these three will turn things around and finish the last month of the season strong.
(Dishonorable Mentions: Tyler Holt, Matt Lawson, Jake Lowery, Carlos Moncrief, Matt Packer, Will Roberts, 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, 7/30), 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, 7/30), 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, 7/30), 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.
Last week I wondered if second baseman/shortstop Ronny Rodriguez was hurt because of his .501 OPS since returning from a hamstring injury on July 2. After a .150/.190/.150 line and .340 OPS over the past week, I maintain that I just do not believe that Rodriguez is alright.
Now owning a .202/.229/.240 line in his 109 plate appearances since July 2, clearly Rodriguez is either hurting or just unable to handle Double-A pitching. I am hoping for the former because the toolsy middle infielder relies on making solid contact to make up for his lack of walks, and that contact has completely dried up of late.
Leading the way as usual as Flores, who struck out eight of the 14 batters he faced and only allowed two baserunners. While the other three would be interesting in Triple-A, with the way that Flores pitched in 2013 and the faith his manager has shown in him (47 appearances, most in the Eastern League), it would not surprise me to see the right-hander get a chance to continue his mastery of opposing hitters.
It is once again time for Matt Packer Stat Time (and that is copyrighted. Or at least I am saying it is. Nobody steal this). This week's stat is not nearly as fun as previous weeks, as this week we are observing that Packer has allowed three home runs in his last three starts (18.1 innings).
After allowing only four in his first 108.0 innings of the season, the increased home run rate is why Packer's FIP in those three starts is 4.13. Packer is keeping his ERA down (2.95) with his trademarked high SO:BB (4.25), though fewer home runs are naturally better. The left-hander pitched very well this year (2.64 ERA, 3.22 FIP in 126.1 innings) and really could not ask for much more out of his 2013 season.
Odds & Ends
Kyle Bellows was "demoted" to the AZL Indians last Tuesday, but it is good news overall. Bellows is being converted to a pitcher as his bat never developed the way the organization hoped. The newly-turned pitcher always had a big arm and, if the soon-to-be 25-year-old develops a strong secondary pitch, could turn himself into a relief option for the organization.
Right fielder Carlos Moncrief had another slow week (.231/.231/.346 in 26 plate appearances), though he is still first in the Eastern League with 200 total bases and third in the league in hits with 119.
Right-hander Will Roberts allowed two home runs that hurt his line (4.26 ERA, 7.31 FIP in 6.1 innings), though he is still having a fine season (4.25 ERA, 4.12 FIP in 106.0 innings). Right-hander Paolo Espino limited runs (1.42 ERA, 4.94 FIP in 6.1 innings) as he continues to distance himself from his extremely rough patch from a couple of weeks ago.
Finally, what kind of notebook would this be without a mention of the Francisco Lindor. The shortstop had a decent week (.261/.370/.301 line in 27 plate appearances), though the lack of extra-base hits drove down the overall line. Lindor still has an elite .319/.440/.435 line and 6:14 SO:BB in his first 84 Double-A plate appearances, however.
The Aeros finally got second baseman Jose Ramirez (twisted right ankle) and utility man Adam Abraham (left hamstring strain) back from the disabled list. Going the other way, right-hander Jordan Cooper headed to the disabled list with a right forearm strain, which is never a good thing with pitchers. Hopefully this is just something minor and not a sign of a bigger problem with Cooper's elbow.
Moves (Like Orbit)
July 30 - 3B Kyle Bellows transferred to AZL Indians
July 31 - 2B Jose Ramirez activated from DL
July 31 - RHP Jordan Cooper placed on 7-day DL (right forearm strain)
August 4 - INF/OF Adam Abraham activated from DL
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