Launching Off With The Aeros: 2012 Season Recap
By Jim Piascik
September 18, 2012
After finishing the regular season with an Eastern League-best 82-59 record, the Akron Aeros rallied back from a 2-0 deficit against the Bowie Baysox to win five straight games at Canal Park, eventually clinching their fourth Eastern League title in Trenton Saturday night. The championship will stick with these players forever, as most of them will not make it to the Majors or win a World Series.
But as good as the season was for the Aeros, the minor leagues are still about developing players first and foremost. So, the challenge with ranking the top 20 Aeros on the season is balancing who helped the Aeros win a championship and who will help the Indians two or three years down the road.
I did my best to weigh things fairly here, but I’m sure there will be disagreement. Between players being called up early in the season to Columbus, players being called up from Carolina late in the year, and non-prospects turning in huge performances to lead the Aeros down the championship path, creating this top 20 was one of the harder things I’ve had to do this season.
So don’t get overly obsessed with the numbers and just enjoy the ride through the top 20 Akron Aeros for the 2012 season. Then, if you want to know the other 37 players who were at least a part of the championship run, I gave a slight write-up on each of them.
As the only notebook writer who covered a champion this year, I can say that it has been fun writing for you guys and covering the Aeros this year and I hope it will be just as great next year.
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
#1 Thomas Neal:
There may be real doubt as to whether OF Thomas Neal can stick as a starting Major League outfielder, but there is no doubt that he was the best player on the Akron Aeros this year. He was dominant offensively (.314/.400/.467 slash line, .399 wOBA), he led the team in plate appearances (470), and he was an effective fielder. Personally, I want to see what he can offer the Indians more than a Russ Canzler-type, but for now, I will console myself by knowing that it was great watching @TdaddyNeal run out their almost every game for the Akron Aeros this season.
#2 Chun Chen:
1B/DH Chun Chen really kicked his offense into high gear this year (.308/.394/.426 slash line, .373 wOBA in 459 plate appearances) with the exception of his power numbers. Chen simply saw his ability to hit home runs evaporate this year (he only managed five), and while his 30 doubles were impressive, teams don’t want players with doubles-power manning first base. I think there’s a chance that this is a one-year blip for Chen or that there was some underlying cause for his power outage, but if he can’t rediscover his home run stroke, Chen will have a hard time finding a niche as a Major League prospect.
#3 Preston Guilmet:
I am typically the kind of person that always ranks starters over relievers, but RP Preston Guilmet managed to persuade me this season. His stats were very good this season (2.39 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 24 saves, 51:13 SO:BB in 52.2 innings), but his demeanor on the mound is equally impressive. Guilmet simply has that “closer mindset” that makes him successful in the 9th inning role and that will take him a long way. His delivery may be a bit gimmicky and he certainly does not have the best stuff, but after seeing Cory Burns make it to the big leagues with similar question marks (and plus attitude), I am not willing to write off Guilmet. I can’t wait to see how he handles taking the mound in Columbus and I hope he gets a shot in Cleveland in the near-ish future.
#4 Giovanni Soto:
SP Giovanni Soto did not have an overpowering season (3.93 ERA, 3.83 FIP in 121.1 innings), but when he was on, you could not look away. Soto struggled at times with his consistency, but when he has it together, he is unhittable. The Altoona Curve found that out firsthand on July 15, when Soto threw a complete game no-hitter against them in a game where his cutter was on full display. There are still doubts as to where Soto can stick in the rotation, but even if he only reaches his floor – a dominant left-on-left reliever at the big league level – Soto will have a successful career.
#5 T.J. House:
It seems like SP T.J. House may have faded a bit down the stretch (he allowed nine runs in 8.2 playoff innings), but it would be wrong to call this anything but a wonderful year for House. After entering the year with significant doubt he would even make it to Akron, House pitched effectively for most of the season (3.98 ERA, 3.55 FIP in 124.1 innings) and has put himself back on the map. House probably isn’t anything more than a back-end starter or middle reliever, but considering the dire straits his career was in before the season, this year has been nothing but an unqualified success.
#6 Tim Fedroff:
OF Tim Fedroff may not have gotten the coveted call to the Majors this year, but it certainly was not from a lack of production on the field. Fedroff got his year started out right in Akron, posting a .305/.396/.443 slash line and .374 wOBA in 239 plate appearances that earned him a callup to the Clippers. It is likely that Fedroff’s ceiling is a fourth outfielder at the Major League level, but when you produce as much as Fedroff has this year, you’ll likely get a call sometime.
#7 Adam Abraham:
By all accounts, there is no harder worker in the Indians organization than INF/OF Adam Abraham. Abraham hit well this year (.259/.343/.441 slash line, .361 wOBA in 434 plate appearances) and he showed his willingness to do anything for the team in the playoffs when he started playing left field – a position he had not really played professionally. Abraham played passable defense and turned it on in the playoffs, posting a .300/.323/.700 slash line and .419 wOBA, which earned him the Eastern League Championship series MVP award. I have no clue where Abraham goes from here since he doesn’t profile well as a Major Leaguer, but whatever happens, you can be sure that Abraham will be putting in the work every day.
#8 Jared Goedert:
OF Jared Goedert’s stay in Akron was brief, but he really left an impression. Goedert put up absolutely ridiculous numbers in his 35 games (.395/.476/.613 slash line, .468 wOBA in 145 plate appearances) and made a name for himself among Indians fans searching the minor leagues for a right-handed bat. Now, Goedert is probably in the Jared Head-mode – a guy with a decent bat but no real position – but that’s no reason to knock what he did in Akron this year. Goedert was a big part of getting the Aeros out front in the standings early and they cruised from there.
#9 T.J. McFarland:
Like Goedert, SP T.J. McFarland’s work early in the season set the table for their championship run in September. McFarland went out and dominated every fifth day (2.69 ERA, 2.65 FIP in 60.1 innings), and while his career hit a bit of a snag in Columbus (4.82 ERA, 4.26 FIP in 102.2 innings), McFarland should be a part of the Clippers rotation next year and – as long as he continues improving – will have the chance at pitching in Cleveland in some role in 2013.
#10 Matt Lawson:
2B Matt Lawson really took the Eastern League (and IPI fans everywhere) by storm this year with his play. The second baseman was unstoppable at the plate (.327/.408/.459 slash line, .397 wOBA in 232 plate appearances) and it’s quite possible that without his addition to the roster midseason, this Aeros roster would have faded down the stretch and been eliminated in the playoffs. That said, this season does not make Lawson an impact prospect down the road. Lawson is a decent player that had a good year as a 26-year old in AA. While that sort of player sometimes pans out, that is the exception not the rule. So enjoy the year Lawson just had as a part of the champion Akron Aeros, but don’t expect to see him suiting up in Cleveland because of it.
#11 Loek van Mil:
It did not seem likely at the time that the Indians were getting much when they traded for RP Loek van Mil, but the 7’1” reliever really came into his own in Akron. van Mil posted an elite 1.94 ERA and 2.75 FIP in 46.1 innings in Akron and seemed to grow as a pitcher as the season went on. Early in the year, van Mil looked like he was trying to finesse every pitch to the plate, but by the time he was promoted, van Mil acquired a nastier edge to his style. I don’t know if van Mil experienced a velocity gain as the year progressed, but it wouldn’t surprise me from watching him. With the level of relief depth the Indians have, van Mil will have a hard time breaking into the Majors, but he has put himself on the map with the season he had.
#12 Juan Diaz:
SS Juan Diaz brings some nice things to the table, like his great range and his improving power (.164 ISO), but I still have trouble with his inconsistency on defense, his lack of on-base percentage (.309 OBP) and his troublesome plate discipline (95:25 SO:BB in 405 plate appearances). Diaz is what he is at this point: a rangy shortstop with some pop who tends to have lapses in concentration and does not get on base. That kind of player can keep the seat warm in the Majors on a rebuilding team, but Diaz will not be blocking Francisco Lindor, Dorssys Paulino, Ronny Rodriguez, or Tony Wolters when one of them is ready to take the job.
#13 Kyle Landis:
RP Kyle Landis may have made the Eastern League midseason All-Star team, but his overall stats left something to be desired. A reliever who manages a 3.55 ERA, 3.11 FIP and 55:13 SO:BB in 66.0 innings is good, but I’m not sure if it will be enough to get him to the Majors. It certainly is telling that he did not get a long-term callup to Columbus this season. Landis might not be an upper-tier relief prospect, but it is guys like him that give the Indians very important relief depth in their system. Injuries or trades at the top won’t hurt the Tribe much because they know they have solid relievers like Landis available in the pipeline.
#14 Paolo Espino:
SP Paolo Espino and his average stuff may not jump out at you, but Espino was solid and steady all year for the Aeros. Espino posted a 3.09 ERA, 3.04 FIP, and 106:34 SO:BB in 116.1 innings this season and led the Aeros in strikeouts. It would be surprising if Espino ended up anything more than Eric Berger is right now – a swingman who can start or relieve in Akron or Columbus on a moment’s notice – but a year like this could make someone take notice.
#15 Toru Murata:
At this point, I’m starting to get intrigued by SP/RP Toru Murata. Murata just finished his second season with the Indians and he has been dominant every step of the way. If a top prospect posted a 2.68 ERA, 2.47 FIP, and 124:32 SO:BB in his first 124.1 innings, he would be on everybody’s radar. I know that it means less coming from a 27-year old who doesn’t have great stuff, but the results are definitely interesting. Plus, Murata was lights out down the stretch as a starter, culminating in his 12.1 innings of two run, 11 strikeout ball in the playoffs. There’s probably nothing here, but Murata will be an interesting name to watch next year as we try to find out just what he is capable of being.
#16 Rob Bryson:
RP Rob Bryson continues to tantalize with his strikeout ability (10.47 SO/9) and throw it all away with his lack of control (5.92 BB/9). His strikeout total of 76 was fifth on the Aeros this year – and first among relievers – but he did not even manage a brief callup to Columbus. Since the Indians would love for Bryson – a part of the CC Sabathia trade – to become something valuable at the Major League level, the lack of even a cursory look at the AAA-level puts doubt on how much of a prospect Bryson really is. There is no doubt that Bryson can strike guys out, but if he can never learn to control it, he won’t ever make it to the Majors.
#17 Jesus Aguilar:
Now we reach the point when balancing high prospect status and a lack of playing time in Akron becomes difficult. It is hard to imagine the power-hitting 1B Jesus Aguilar not being a top-5 prospect for the Indians next year, but he only ranks 17th on this list since he only had 87 regular season plate appearances for the Aeros. Aguilar made the most of that limited time, though, posting a .292/.402/.500 slash line and .404 wOBA, whetting the appetite for what might be to come. There is still work to be done (Aguilar struck out in 39 of his first 122 plate appearances including the playoffs), but he could be the right-handed power hitting first baseman the Indians are so desperately seeking.
#18 Danny Salazar:
SP Danny Salazar did not have much time in Akron, but he was dominant quickly after being called up. Salazar showed his mid-to-top-of-the-rotation ability with his 1.85 ERA, 2.94 FIP, and easy velocity in his first 34.0 innings for the Aeros and will be another name to watch in 2013. He had a great comeback year coming off of Tommy John surgery and should only continue to get better. As a member of the Tribe’s 40-man roster, it’s obvious that the Indians think highly of him, and after watching him pitch, it’s not hard to see why.
#19 Shawn Armstrong:
RP Shawn Armstrong may not have blown through Akron like the next name on this list, but his time was still dominant. Armstrong pitched in 24.0 innings for the Aeros between the regular season and the playoffs and he posted a 0.75 ERA, 2.70 FIP, and 10.13 SO/9. That sort of domination – even with some kinks to work out with the walks (4.88 BB/9) – is the kind of thing that makes you an upper-tier relief prospect. By the end of the Aeros’ playoff run, the trusted bullpen combination was Armstrong in the 8th and Guilmet in the 9th. It would not be a surprise if Armstrong made it to the Majors in 2013, following in the footsteps of Cody Allen.
#20 Cody Allen:
It was hard to justify putting Cody Allen and his 7.2 AA innings on this list, but when you consider what Allen did with those innings and where he is now, I just had to have him here. Allen only allowed two hits, one run, no walks, and struck out 10 batters while he temporarily paused his meteoric rise to the Majors in Akron this season and he has now established himself as a part of the Bullpen Mafia for the foreseeable future. As the only Akron Aero who went from prospect to Major League mainstay this season, Allen fully deserves his place on this list even if he only pitched in five games.
There is no denying that 3B Kyle Bellows can handle the hot corner defensively, but an injury-plagued ineffective season (.243/.332/.366 slash line, .334 wOBA in 230 plate appearances) might find him left behind in the organization.
SP Eric Berger spent most of his time in Columbus this season, but his time in Akron was decent (4.37 ERA, 4.13 FIP in 22.2 innings).
SP Brett Brach did not have much success during the regular season (3.65 ERA, 4.39 FIP in 93.2 innings), but he is what he is: a Josh Tomlin-type pitcher who profiles at the back-of-the-rotation at best.
SP Carlos Carrasco had one bad outing for the Aeros during their playoff run, but the rehabbing starter was sharp for the most part, striking out four and walking none in his four innings.
OF Jordan Casas only appeared in three games for the Aeros, going 0-for-5. He was later released from the Indians organization.
3B Lonnie Chisenhall was only 2-for-10 in his three rehab games, but luckily the Aeros were able to overcome his struggles and win the Eastern League championship.
OF Delvi Cid was called up for the Eastern League playoffs and was used as a left field defensive replacement for Adam Abraham. Cid appeared in five games, but struck out in his only at-bat.
RP Cole Cook was effective in his 4.1 innings in Akron (2.08 ERA, 2.05 FIP) and he pitched well (2.64 ERA, 3.39 FIP in 78.1 innings) in stops in Lake County, Carolina, Akron, and Columbus this season.
OF Ben Copeland was a fourth outfielder for the Aeros early in the season who struggled at the plate (.189/.244/.284 slash line, .255 wOBA in 163 plate appearances) before he was released.
He may have only spent four games in Akron, but OF Trevor Crowe tore it up (5-for-15, two doubles) before being quickly promoted to Columbus.
Jose De La Torre:
RP Jose De La Torre was having an effective season before he was traded (2.80 ERA, 2.60 FIP in 45.0 innings), but the Indians probably won’t miss him since his stuff is pretty average at best.
RP Jose Flores was called up late in the season, pitching well (2.70 ERA, 2.90 FIP) in his 6.2 innings.
RP Trey Haley may be a great flamethrower (34.3 K%), but his great lack of control (16.4 BB%, 11 wild pitches in 38.2 innings between the AZL Indians, Carolina, and Akron) will continue to hold him down despite the good results he managed in Akron (1.76 ERA, 2.35 FIP in 15.1 Akron innings).
OF Jordan Henry did a great job staying healthy after microfracture surgery, but his overall line continues to be dragged down by his absolute 20 power (.278/.363/.310 slash line, .321 wOBA in 290 plate appearances).
C Michel Hernandez may have caught Giovanni Soto’s no-hitter this year, but that was basically the only highlight as he struggled all year at the plate (.208/.255/.299 slash line, .271 wOBA in 154 plate appearances).
There may be few players that play as hard as OF Tyler Holt, but that heart did not translate well in his first exposure to the AA-level (.250/.326/.292 slash line, .299 wOBA in 248 plate appearances). Hopefully Holt is able to hit the ground running next year and sustain is through a whole season.
The Aeros had SP David Huff for one start as he rehabbed early in the season. Huff pitched four scoreless innings before being called up to Columbus.
In one spot start midseason for the Aeros, SP Francisco Jimenez struggled, allowing five runs in 3.2 innings. Jimenez also struggled in Carolina this season, posting a 5.19 ERA and 4.73 FIP in 112.2 innings.
RP Matt Langwell did not spend long in Akron, logging 14.1 innings with a 0.63 ERA and a 1.73 FIP before being promoted to Columbus. Langwell has always produced well statistically even though his stuff isn’t the greatest.
SP Matt Packer started the year injured, but he stormed through Akron on his way up to Columbus. Packer was dominant in three starts, going 18.1 innings with a 2.41 ERA and a 3.47 FIP. He may not be overpowering, but Packer certainly throws strikes (0.48 BB/9 in Akron, 1.71 BB/9 for his career).
RP Rafael Perez may not have made it back to Cleveland after numerous setbacks with his rehab work, but he did manage to log four scoreless innings in Akron this season.
I love what C Roberto Perez is capable of behind the plate, but if he does not get his bat going (.212/.336/.293 slash line, .299 wOBA in 349 plate appearances), he will find it hard to convince a team he is worthy of real at-bats at the Major League level.
RP Bryan Price pitched fairly well out of the bullpen for the Aeros (3.02 ERA, 3.63 FIP in 50.2 innings), but he’ll need to step up his game in Columbus (6.63 ERA, 4.67 FIP in 19.0 innings) if he hopes to make it to Cleveland.
The Aeros used SP Mason Radeke as a fill-in in the rotation and bullpen, but he really wasn’t ready for AA (6.0 innings, four runs, two home runs). However, Radeke pitched much better in Lake County (3.38 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 9.63 SO/9 in 109.1 innings).
SP Mike Rayl had one spot start for the Aeros, allowing seven runs (five earned) in three innings. He will have the chance to start in Akron next year despite a subpar season in Carolina (4.28 ERA, 4.53 FIP in 149.1 innings).
SS Ronny Rodriguez may be a top-5 prospect in the organization, but his time in Akron was limited to one pinch run in the Eastern League playoffs (he scored at least).
INF Ryan Rohlinger played second base, shortstop, and third base extensively for the Aeros this season, and while his offense was not the best (.235/.336/.334 slash line, .314 wOBA in 425 plate appearances), he was a professional bat in the lineup (59:51 SO:BB) and was a big factor in helping Akron win the Eastern League.
The Indians got INF Carlos Rojas in exchange for J.C. Romero and it showed. Rojas is a great defender, but he can’t hit (.067/.222/.067 in 38 plate appearances) and ended the year on the DL.
Seeing RP Hector Rondon work his way back from numerous injuries has been a great story and he continued it in Akron, allowing one run in seven innings with a 6:1 SO:BB ratio.
I love the stuff that RP Bryce Stowell has, but injuries sapped his effectiveness (3.72 ERA, 3.34 FIP in 29.0 innings) and he it seemed like he was throwing tentatively and using more offspeed stuff at the end of the year. If Stowell has to tone it down to stay healthy, I don’t think he will be the same dominant pitcher we all thought he was capable of being.
INF Davis Stoneburner performed well in the postseason (.300/.364/.400 slash line, .343 wOBA in 22 plate appearances), but that doesn’t erase his terrible regular season stats (.198/.268/.272 slash line, .261 wOBA in 351 plate appearances).
RP Tyler Sturdevant wasn’t particularly dominant during his time in Akron (3.72 ERA, 3.41 FIP in 9.2 innings), but he remains a high-end option long-term for the Tribe bullpen.
OF Jeremie Tice had a promising start to his Aeros’ career (.262/.319/.385 slash line, .312 wOBA), but injuries once again shortened his season. Best of luck to Tice in his recovery.
C/1B Patric Tolentino did not play much for the Aeros (.125/.192/.167 slash line, .172 wOBA as he was used more for depth due to injuries.
Just like Tolentino, INF Justin Toole was used sparingly by Akron this year as depth (2-for-25 in eight games).
OF Nick Weglarz may have had a great run after being DFAed midseason, but his overall line (.239/.349/.413 slash line, .349 wOBA in 436 plate appearances) and erosion of his plate discipline (32.1 K%, 13.3 BB%) means his dreams of making it to the Major Leagues are likely coming to an end.
If the Indians had not traded SP Steven Wright, he certainly would have been in the Top 20. As it is, Wright was a very effective knuckleballer (2.49 ERA, 101 strikeouts in 115.2 innings) who might have a chance at breaking in with the Boston Red Sox next year. But at least the Indians got Lars Anderson out of the trade.
Weekly Award Winners
Previous In Orbit Winners:
Adam Abraham (5/1, 5/8, 6/26, 7/24), Jesus Aguilar (8/28, 9/4), Shawn Armstrong (9/11), Kyle Bellows (5/22, 5/29), Brett Brach (9/4, 9/11), Rob Bryson (6/19, 7/3, 7/31, 9/11), Carlos Carrasco (9/11), Chun Chen (5/15, 5/22, 6/26, 7/10), Jose De La Torre (6/19), Juan Diaz (7/10, 7/31), Paolo Espino (5/29, 8/7), Tim Fedroff (4/17, 5/29, 6/5), Jared Goedert (4/17, 4/24), Preston Guilmet (6/19, 9/11), Trey Haley (9/11), Tyler Holt (8/14), T.J. House (7/17, 8/7), Kyle Landis (6/5, 6/19, 9/11), Matt Lawson (7/10, 8/21), T.J. McFarland (4/17, 5/15, 5/22), Toru Murata (8/14, 9/4, 9/11), Thomas Neal (5/1, 5/15, 6/19, 6/26, 7/3, 7/24, 8/7, 8/28), Matt Packer (7/24), Roberto Perez (6/12, 7/31), Bryan Price (6/19), Ryan Rohlinger (6/5, 8/28), Hector Rondon (9/11), Danny Salazar (8/21, 9/11), Giovanni Soto (5/1, 5/8, 7/17), Davis Stoneburner (8/21, 9/11), Bryce Stowell (4/24, 6/5, 6/19, 9/11), Jeremie Tice (7/3), Loek van Mil (6/5, 6/19), Nick Weglarz (6/12, 6/19, 8/14), Steven Wright (4/24, 5/8, 6/12, 7/17)
Previous Temporarily Grounded Players:
Adam Abraham (5/22, 5/29, 6/5, 6/12, 7/17), Jesus Aguilar (9/11), Kyle Bellows (4/24, 5/1, 5/8, 6/5), Eric Berger (4/17), Brett Brach (5/15, 6/12, 6/26, 7/10, 7/17), Rob Bryson (5/15, 5/22, 5/29, 7/24, 8/7), Chun Chen (9/4, 9/11), Ben Copeland (5/29, 6/19), Jose De La Torre (5/8, 5/15, 6/26), Juan Diaz (4/17, 5/1, 6/19, 7/3), Paolo Espino (9/11), Tim Fedroff (5/22), Preston Guilmet (5/22, 7/24, 9/4), Jordan Henry (6/26, 7/17), Michel Hernandez (7/31), Tyler Holt (7/24, 8/7), T.J. House (6/19, 9/4, 9/11), Francisco Jimenez (6/26), Kyle Landis (5/22, 6/26, 7/24, 9/4), Matt Lawson (8/28), Toru Murata (5/15, 5/22, 5/29, 7/24), Thomas Neal (6/12), Roberto Perez (4/17, 4/24, 8/7), Bryan Price (5/8, 5/22), Mason Radeke (5/22), Ryan Rohlinger (4/24, 5/15, 7/31, 8/14, 8/21), Giovanni Soto (5/15, 6/5, 6/26, 7/31, 8/14), Davis Stoneburner (7/3, 7/24), Bryce Stowell (6/26, 8/21, 8/28), Tyler Sturdevant (6/26), Jeremie Tice (7/10), Justin Toole (8/14), Nick Weglarz (5/1, 5/8, 8/21, 8/28), Steven Wright (5/15, 7/3, 7/10)
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The bigger part of the rankings is on who was the best Akron player (thus why Neal and Chen, both of whom nearly accrued 500 plate appearances), not who will be the best player. Most of the top players won't be top 20 guys when IPI's rankings come out in the offseason, but in my opinion, they meant the most to the Aeros this season.
I have no idea how you can say he did not take the entire season into account. Basically every single detail is accounted for, including the pinch run appearance by Ronny Rodriguez in the postseason. Kudos Jim. Excellent job.
Steven (Lima, OH)