Launching Off With The Aeros: 6/19/12 - 6/25/12
By Jim Piascik
June 26, 2012
The Akron Aeros were busy over the past week, squeezing 9 games into 7 days thanks to two doubleheaders against the Binghamton Mets on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Aeros fared pretty well, winning five of the nines games to move their record to 47-29. That mark is 8.5 games better than the Harrisburg Senators in the Western Division and 3 games better than the Trenton Thunder in the race for the best record in the Eastern League. The Aeros continue to pace the field in the Eastern League and – while they are still a long way off – would seem to be virtual locks to make the playoffs. It’s a good time to be an Akron Aeros fan.
The Aeros will be in town all week, hosting the Erie SeaWolves Tuesday through Friday, then the Richmond Flying Squirrels Saturday through Tuesday. After that, the Aeros will be on the road until the end of the All-Star Break on July 12.
Note: The Aeros finished a suspended game from June 3 on Tuesday against the Binghamton Mets. Some places place those stats back on June 3, but I treated it as a game for this week. For example, while T.J. House didn’t actually pitch on Tuesday, his stats are still being considered because of the circumstances. Only 5+ innings of the game were played on June 3, so half the game was played during this past week.
Don’t look now, but OF Thomas Neal is really starting to come around lately. After a .333/.438/.593 slash line, .472 wOBA, .259 ISO and 2 more home runs over the past week, it would seem that Neal is starting to regain some of the luster his prospect star used to hold. His past two weeks have held a .302/.377/.585 slash line, .420 wOBA, .343 BABIP (suggesting it’s not all luck-based), .283 ISO and 4 home runs. Curiously, Neal has also seen his K% spike over the past two weeks (24.6% compared to 17.0% on the season). Maybe Neal had been holding back earlier in the year to avoid strikeouts and now is unleashing his full power potential. Obviously, you don’t want anyone striking out one out of every four plate appearances, but Neal isn’t much of a prospect without the power he’s shown recently. If the strikeouts are necessary for the Aeros and the Indians to get his power, then they will be happy to live with them.
With 1B/DH Adam Abraham in the midst of a month-long slump and hot-prospect Jeremie Tice called up to Akron, fate seemed to be leaving Abraham behind. Well, necessity in the mother of invention, and Abraham, needing to start hitting to save his job, finally found his stroke again. Abraham posted a ridiculous .433/.471/.700 slash line, .489 wOBA, 3:3 SO:BB, 1 HR and 5 2B in 34 plate appearances over the past week, showing off the form he had before his season fell off a cliff. There’s still a logjam for plate appearances in the Akron lineup (and Abraham’s 2 errors at third base on Saturday underline the fact that he is not well-regarded at that position), but if Abraham continues to hit like this, the Aeros will have to find a place for him.
Another week, another off the charts week for 1B Chun Chen. He continues to routinely post weeks like last week (.361/.378/.556 slash line, .401 wOBA) and he continues to have an elevated BABIP (.500 last week, .425 on the season). For some reference, that’s higher than Joey Votto (.418), David Wright (.401), and Mike Trout (.394), the Major League leaders in BABIP, have on the season. While some regression will happen, it stands to reason that one doesn’t maintain a BABIP this high for this long into a season without some real talent. There’s still a chance that Chen is just as lucky as can be, but it seems much more likely that he’s simply hitting line drives all over the park – something his 24 doubles on the year backs up. The knock on Chen is his lack of home runs, but after hitting his 2nd of the year last week, maybe he’ll have a Nick Weglarz/Thomas Neal-like power breakout soon. Chen is helping the Aeros win ballgames this year and is hitting very, very well; if he started jacking home runs as well, the Indians would have a very valuable player in Chun Chen.
(Honorable Mentions: Paolo Espino, Preston Guilmet, Jeremie Tice, Loek van Mil, Nick Weglarz)
(Previous Winners: Adam Abraham (5/1, 5/8), Kyle Bellows (5/22, 5/29), Rob Bryson (6/19), Chun Chen (5/15, 5/22), Jose De La Torre (6/19), Paolo Espino (5/29), Tim Fedroff (4/17, 5/29, 6/5), Jared Goedert (4/17, 4/24), Preston Guilmet (6/19), Kyle Landis (6/5, 6/19), T.J. McFarland (4/17, 5/15, 5/22), Thomas Neal (5/1, 5/15, 6/19), Roberto Perez (6/12), Bryan Price (6/19), Ryan Rohlinger (6/5), Giovanni Soto (5/1, 5/8), Bryce Stowell (4/24, 6/5, 6/19), Loek van Mil (6/5, 6/19), Nick Weglarz (6/12, 6/19), Steven Wright (4/24, 5/8, 6/12))
Jose De La Torre/Bryce Stowell/Kyle Landis/Tyler Sturdevant:
A week after the bullpen was collectively In Orbit, RPs Jose De La Torre (15.00 ERA, 4.53 FIP), Bryce Stowell (6.00 ERA, 5.53 FIP), Kyle Landis (18.00 ERA, 6.20 FIP), and Tyler Sturdevant (5.40 ERA, 2.30 FIP) all find themselves Temporarily Grounded. Those four relievers combined for a 10.95 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 2.19 WHIP, and 2 home runs allowed in 12.1 innings pitched (11 appearances) over the past week, certainly not what Manager Chris Tremie was hoping for when he called on them out of the bullpen. Still, a week is a small sample size for any player, and even more so for a reliever. De La Torre (3.38 ERA, 2.39 FIP), Stowell (2.95 ERA, 1.89 FIP), and Landis (3.52 ERA, 2.70 FIP) all have had great seasons despite last week, and Sturdevant is still a highly regarded relief prospect who was just activated off of the DL. No need to panic because of one bad week.
Brett Brach/Francisco Jimenez/Giovanni Soto:
Much like the relievers above, these starters simply had a bad outing over the past week that has landed them here in the Temporarily Grounded section. SP Brett Brach started on Sunday, imploding for 8 runs (4 earned), 7 hits, 5 walks, 1 home run and only 1 strikeout in 3.2 innings. Everyone has bad starts, but considering Brach isn’t a highly rated prospect, he’ll need to right the ship quickly in order to keep his spot. As for SP Francisco Jimenez, who was called up to start game two of the Aeros’ doubleheader on Wednesday, he struggled (5 earned runs, 7 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts in 3.2 innings), but what else did you expect? There’s a reason Jimenez hasn’t earned a lasting callup to Akron just yet. Finally, SP Giovanni Soto’s start on Thursday could have been much worse (2 earned runs, 3 total runs, 3 hits, 1 strikeout, and 3 walks in 5 innings), but once again he surrendered a home run and struggled to go deep into a game. Make that 8 home runs allowed in Soto’s last 6 starts, a disturbing trend that could spell trouble down the road.
After watching Grady Sizemore attempt to work his way back from microfracture surgery, my bar has been set low for OF Jordan Henry. I love his speed, plate discipline, and the way he plays the game, but I know he might not ever get back to the level he was at before the injury. His second week back was better than his first (.238/.304/.238 slash line and .258 wOBA compared to a .154/.143/.154 slash line and .129 wOBA), but it still wasn’t great. Henry will need time to get himself back together, so hopefully he’ll keep getting chances despite his struggles. The Aeros are in the middle of a pennant race – making it harder to put a struggling hitter in the lineup – but without regular at-bats, Henry won’t stand a chance. Here’s hoping Henry gets the chance to work himself back into shape and becomes an even better player than before.
(Dishonorable Mentions: Ben Copeland, Michel Hernandez, Matt Lawson, Ryan Rohlinger)
(Previous Losers: Adam Abraham (5/22, 5/29, 6/5, 6/12), Kyle Bellows (4/24, 5/1, 5/8, 6/5), Eric Berger (4/17), Brett Brach (5/15, 6/12), Rob Bryson (5/15, 5/22, 5/29), Ben Copeland (5/29, 6/19), Jose De La Torre (5/8, 5/15), Juan Diaz (4/17, 5/1, 6/19), Tim Fedroff (5/22), Preston Guilmet (5/22), T.J. House (6/19), Kyle Landis (5/22), Toru Murata (5/15, 5/22, 5/29), Thomas Neal (6/12), Roberto Perez (4/17, 4/24), Bryan Price (5/8, 5/22), Mason Radeke (5/22), Ryan Rohlinger (4/24, 5/15), Giovanni Soto (5/15, 6/5), Nick Weglarz (5/1, 5/8), Steven Wright (5/15))
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
OF Nick Weglarz had another week worthy of the In Orbit section, but it seemed only fair to let some other people bask in their own glory. We’ll give Weglarz his due here, pointing out his .985 OPS since he was DFAed on May 12. Overall, he holds a .279/.408/.577 slash line, .424 wOBA, 29.2 K%, 16.9 BB%, .298 ISO (let me emphasize this – .298 ISO!), 7 HR, and 21 RBI in 130 PA. Over a full season, that would be about 35 HR and 105 RBI, otherwise known as the savior for a power-starved system. I don’t know if Weglarz can keep this pace up, but he’s definitely a different guy than the one we watched at the beginning of the year.
Well, he’s no Nick Weglarz (as if anyone could be at this point), but OF Jeremie Tice did his best impression since his callup from Carolina on June 22. Tice has posted an .898 OPS to go with his .353/.368/.529 slash line, .379 wOBA, .176 ISO, 1 HR, and 7 RBI, not too shabby for his first four games at the AA level. Tice hasn’t drawn a walk yet in his first 19 plate appearances (something that will change soon enough I’m sure), but if he keeps hitting like he did in Carolina and over the past week, things will turn out just fine.
SP Steven Wright’s ERA is 1.64 and his FIP is 3.28 (which is semi-inflated by the higher walk totals and doesn’t account for his lower BABIP that any knuckleballer will have). He’s gone out start after start and proved that he has begun to master the knuckleball and can be a consistent starter for a baseball team. At this point, he has little if anything to prove in Akron and he needs to be called up to Columbus now. Let’s make this happen. #FreeStevenWright
Odds & Ends
The Aeros cut ties with OF Ben Copeland Friday, a bittersweet move that freed up room for more high profile and better prospects. It’s not like Copeland was playing well (.189/.244/.284 slash line, .255 wOBA), but it’s still sad to see anyone cut.
C Michel Hernandez (.000/.000/.000 slash line, .000 wOBA), 2B Matt Lawson (.235/.316/.294 slash line, .283 wOBA), 2B/3B Ryan Rohlinger (.143/.345/.143 slash line, .269 wOBA) have certainly had better weeks, while SS Juan Diaz (.346/.346/.462 slash line, .338 wOBA), C Roberto Perez (.222/.364/.389 slash line, .341 wOBA) and INF Davis Stoneburner (.280/.357/.360 slash line, .328 wOBA) picked up some of the slack. None of these players were particularly impressive, however, and still have plenty of holes that need fixing.
SP Paolo Espino (2 starts, 2.31 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, 12:3 SO:BB in 11.2 innings) had the best week of any Aeros starting pitcher, while SP T.J. House (3 starts – one of which technically was on June 3 – 4.15 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 5:6 SO:BB in 13 innings) had a mediocre week. House seems to be falling back down to Earth recently, something entirely understandable for a player on his first time through AA. What’s important is seeing if House can make the adjustments necessary to maintain his success throughout the rest of the season.
Most of the bullpen struggled this week, but not RPs Rob Bryson (3.86 ERA, 1.49 FIP in 2.1 IP), Preston Guilmet (0.00 ERA, 2.53 FIP in 3.0 IP), Toru Murata (0.00 ERA, 1.06 FIP in 4.2 IP), Bryan Price (0.00 ERA, 2.60 FIP in 4.0 IP), and Loek van Mil (0.00 ERA, 0.70 FIP in 4.0 IP). I remain impressed with van Mil, whose 1.08 ERA, 1.68 FIP, 0.68 WHIP, and 25:4 SO:BB in 14 appearances (25 innings) with the Aeros is much more than I could have possibly expected. He has been on fire since he got to Akron and should get the chance to ply his trade in Columbus soon enough.
The Aeros lost RP Toru Murata to a left calf strain last week. As of right now, it is unclear when he’ll be back. The Aeros also still have 3B Kyle Bellows on the on the DL with a sprained left wrist.
Moves (Like Orbit)
June 20 RP Toru Murata placed on DL (left calf strain)
June 20 SP Francisco Rodriguez promoted from High-A Carolina
June 21 SP Francisco Rodriguez demoted to High-A Carolina
June 22 OF Ben Copeland released
June 22 RP Tyler Sturdevant promoted from High-A Carolina
June 22 OF Jeremie Tice promoted from High-A Carolina
If you want to follow Jim, he’s @DarkestDiamond
If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org