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Launching Off With The Aeros: 4/4/13-4/8/13

Ramirez, House, Murata headline baseball's return to Akron

Launching Off With The Aeros: 4/4/13-4/8/13
Launching Off With The Aeros
April 9, 2013
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The Akron Aeros got off to a stumbling start to their title defense this past week, dropping their first three games to the Binghamton Mets. The offense struggled, only mustering seven runs in those three games.

Akron bounced back in the final two games of the week, though, winning both games to salvage a 2-3 record for the week. Manager Edwin Rodriguez preached patience throughout the week and it did paid off.

The Aeros will conclude their series with the Altoona Curve Tuesday and Wednesday before heading out on a seven game road trip to Bowie and Trenton. They return home Thursday, April 18 when the host the Bowie Baysox.

In Orbit

Jose Ramirez, 2B/SS

.474/.524/.474 line, .454 wOBA, 9-for-19, 5 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1:2 SO:BB, 1 CS in 21 PA

"Baseball, it goes good sometimes, bad sometimes," Ramirez said through translator Paolo Espino last week. "Hopefully I get a hit every single game. I'm going to try."

So far, so good.

When you look at Ramirez, he does not look like a major league player; Rodriguez admitted as much. Listed at 5'9", 165 pounds and unranked in IBI's Top 100 last year, Ramirez's rise through the system is nothing short of remarkable.

Not only is Ramirez now one of the best prospects in the Cleveland system, he also skipped High-A Carolina entirely, something not lost on Rodriguez.

"I was surprised that they sent him here," Rodriguez said. "Because the Carolina League is a very tough league to play. I think it's the closest you're going to get in the minor leagues to big leagues."

At this point, nothing Ramirez does would surprise me. Absolutely nothing fazes him. I cannot wait to see what he does the rest of the season.

T.J. House, LHP

1.80 ERA, 1.20 FIP, 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5:0 SO:BB

After being added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, House had a good start to 2013 on Friday. House seemed in control throughout the game and, if not for the two leadoff singles he gave up in the sixth inning before being pulled, his line would have looked significantly better.

A big part of what House will look to do this year is establish his curveball, which he sees as vital to his success moving up the ladder.

"In the Fall League," House said. "I worked more on throwing my breaking ball for a strike. That was a big key for me. Moving up in the levels, they say if you can't throw that for a strike, they're not going to swing at it. So that was a big motive for me."

One start is not the end-all be-all, but House had it going Friday and looks primed for a big season.

Toru Murata, RHP

1.29 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 9:0 SO:BB

When I saw that Cleveland had claimed right-hander Robert Whitenack from the Chicago Cubs and assigned him to Akron, I assumed that Murata would be the one bumped from the rotation.

With Murata's outing Monday night, he probably made the coaching staff's decision a little harder.

Despite this only being his third full season in the minor leagues, Murata is 28 years old and likely just an organizational soldier. The right-hander got a late start coming over from Japan in December 2010 and barely has any time at Triple-A.

Yet all Murata's done in his time in the Cleveland organization is perform. Coming into 2012, he owned a remarkable 2.68 ERA with a 124:32 SO:BB in 124.1 innings.

Like his fellow rotation mate Paolo Espino, Murata may not have major league future, but all he does is get results. That has to count for something.

(Honorable Mentions: Chun Chen, Kyle LandisQuincy LatimoreEdward ParedesRoberto PerezDanny SalazarBryce Stowell)

(Previous Winners: None)

Temporarily Grounded

Matt Packer, LHP

7.71 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 4.2 IP, 9 H, 5 R (4 ER), 1:0 SO:BB

An optimist can look at Packer’s first start of the year and see some positives. Sure, Packer gave up nine hits and five runs (four earned) in 4.2 innings, but he did not walk anybody. Control is Packer’s game and maybe the lack of walks shows that.

Probably not.

Packer allowed plenty of hard contact throughout the game and was unable to keep the ball off the middle of the plate as Rodriguez noted after the game.

“Even the outs [were loud],” Rodriguez said. “[The coaches] were looking at each other like ‘…uh.’”

The left-hander will never be mistaken for a power pitcher, but only inducing one strikeout Saturday night is worrisome.

“You can tell that right away when [opposing hitters] are swinging and missing,” Rodriguez said of Packer not having strikeout stuff Saturday. “There’s not too many swings and miss [today].”

It is only one start and Rodriguez thinks Packer will be just fine. But after a start like this where the left-hander was knocked around, it is worth keeping an eye on how he proceeds in 2013.

Carlos Moncrief, OF; Ronny Rodriguez, SS; Giovanny Urshela, 3B

.234/.245/.277 line, .221 wOBA, 11-for-47, 3 R, 13B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 9:1 SO:BB in 51 PA

These three hitters are combined for a very strategic reason: they all struggled in their first real exposure to the High-A level last year. The Carolina League is extremely pitcher friendly and Moncrief, Rodriguez, and Urshela all started slow in 2012.

Well, Canal Park plays kind of like Petco Park and the Eastern League also is not kind to hitters. Given their history of early season struggles -- and their ability to overcome it – I am not necessarily worried about their combined line through five games.

Nor is their manager.

“They think that everybody’s throwing 100 [MPH] here,” E. Rodriguez said of his young players. “We went through that [same adjustment] last year when they came from Low-A to High-A. It was pretty much the same.

After those slow starts in 2012, here is where Moncrief, R. Rodriguez, and Urshela ended up:

Moncrief: .249/.339/.465 line, 15 home runs, 53 RBI, 17 steals in 101 games

Rodriguez: .264/.300/.452 line, 19 home runs, 66 RBI, 7 steals in 126 games

Urshela: .278/.309/.446 line, 14 home runs, 59 RBI, 1 steal in 114 games

There may be bumps along the way, but I will bet on these three being fine and adjusted in a month or so.

Tyler Holt, OF

.167/.318/.167 line, .254 wOBA, 3-for-18, 4 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 7:4 SO:BB, 0 SB in 22 PA

Holt's batting average over the past week is not pretty, but I believe that the hits will come for him in time.

I am more worried about the strikeouts.

Not to make too much of five games, but to see Holt striking out like Mark Reynolds is not a pretty sight. Holt works the count and goes deep into his at-bats -- something that leads to strikeouts every now and then -- but as the tablesetter at the top of the lineup, he cannot get punched out that often.

It is too early to draw any firm conclusions about anything, but this is a trend that should be stopped sooner rather than later. Holt is still fairly new to the Double-A level (he only played in 55 games plus playoffs in Akron last year), so he is probably still adjusting. But I will be interested to watch how this plays out over the coming weeks.

(Dishonorable Mentions: Eric BergerCole CookFabio MartinezMatt Lawson)

(Previous Losers: None)

Stats Oddities

See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here. 

2.40

Just eyeballing Salazar’s line from Thursday’s Opening Day start, when he went five innings, allowing two hits, one run, two walks, and five strikeouts for a 2.40 FIP, it certainly looks like the right-hander was in midseason form. The circumstances surrounding the game make his outing even more impressive.

Salazar mentioned after the game the combination of early-season cold and not being all that far removed from Tommy John surgery made it hard for him to warm up between innings. If Salazar is capable of this on a pitch count (it was five innings or 80 pitches, according to E. Rodriguez) and limited by the weather, think of what will come in the summer.

Also of note is that Salazar carried a no-hitter into that fifth inning before surrendering those two hits. While the fifth inning is not where you want your starting pitcher tiring, an exception can be made in Salazar’s case: he is still building his arm strength back up after his surgery. So all in all, Salazar had a very encouraging week with room for even more growth.

1.59

Most of Akron's bullpen was on point this past week, as right-handers Shawn ArmstrongJose Flores, Kyle Landis, and Bryce Stowell and left-hander Edward Paredes all got off to strong starts. Those five combined for a 1.59 ERA and struck out 13 batters compared to two walks in 11.1 innings.

Rodriguez has been particularly impressed by what he's seen of Paredes and Stowell in the young season.

"A guy like that, he gets your attention as an organization," Rodriguez said of Paredes. "You just let him pitch and find out if that's for real."

"He's amazing," Rodriguez said of Stowell's three batter, two strikeout outing Saturday. "It was the first time I've seen him pitch... I was impressed."

One of the strengths in the organization is the bullpen depth in the upper levels. Those five showed why they are a part of it, while on the other hand...

6.75

The rest of the bullpen -- right-handers Cole Cook, Fabio Martinez and left-hander Eric Berger -- struggled with command, walking 6.75 batters per nine innings over the past week. That wildness led to a 5.63 ERA, 5.83 FIP, 5:6 SO:BB, and two hit batters in eight innings.

Rodriguez is not necessarily concerned about his relievers, though he did have some notes on what went wrong.

"That's what it is," Rodriguez said of the 6'6" Cook's struggles keeping his tall frame together. "A big guy like that, early in the season, it gets to that point. Eventually, when he's got the rhythm going, got everything going, [his] release point will be better and hopefully guys like that will get better throughout the season."

"He has a very good arm," Rodriguez said of Martinez. "But you don't know who is going to show up on a specific night... One night he's a big leaguer, and the next night, you never know."

"The first two or three innings he was good," Rodriguez said of Berger's 2.2 inning outing on Saturday. "But then he's more a three inning pitcher than a four inning pitcher. I know that he only made one pitch in the top of the fifth [getting out of an inning Packer started], but he had to come in and sit down and come out again. It was like four innings."

Odds & Ends

Catcher Roberto Perez, outfielder Quincy Latimore, and first basemen Jesus Aguilar and Chun Chen supplied the power for the week, combining for three doubles, one triple, and three home runs... Right-hander Paolo Espino did not have a banner start on Sunday (two runs, five hits, two walks, five strikeouts in four innings), but Rodriguez was pleased with how Espino battled despite not having his best stuff... Cleveland native Alex Lavisky made his debut in Akron on Saturday, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a double. The catcher is the backup behind Roberto Perez, but Rodriguez is happy with the energy and effort Lavisky gives behind the plate.

M*A*S*H Unit

There were no injuries for the Aeros over this past week. 3B Kyle Bellows was placed on the DL, but that was simply a procedural move as he was not on the active roster to start the year.

Moves (Like Orbit)

April 4 - LHP Eric Berger assigned from Columbus Clippers

April 4 - RHP Brett Brach assigned to Mahoning Valley Scrappers (paper move)

April 4 - 3B Kyle Bellows placed on 7-day DL

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at jpiasci1@gmail.com. If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

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