Launching Off With The Aeros: 7/17/12 - 7/23/12
By Jim Piascik
July 24, 2012
There weren’t any history-making moments for the Aeros over the past week, but that did not stop them from winning five of the seven games they played. This Aeros team continues to win despite not having many big-name prospects or players on other teams’ trade radar. While that isn’t good for the Indians long-term, it’s still impressive to watch this team go out and take care of business day-in and day-out.
The Aeros (61-41) will continue their homestand against the Erie SeaWolves and Bowie Baysox through Sunday before headed out to Portland and New Hampshire from July 31 through August 5. Indians wins have been hard to come by lately, so if you want to go see a winner, you should go check out the Aeros while they’re in town this week.
After missing most of the season due to shoulder soreness that cropped up in Spring Training, SP Matt Packer returned to Akron with a bang Thursday night, going six strong innings allowing two runs (both unearned), five hits, no walks, and striking out seven. Now, not all nights will be like that for Packer, who is more of a finesse pitcher, but he is certainly capable of being a back-end starter for the Tribe – possibly as soon as next year. Hopefully his shoulder problems are completely in the rear-view mirror and Packer can get back to pitching like this every fifth day.
Anyone who has followed this notebook throughout the season has seen my unabashed love for OF Thomas Neal’s game. I think that he’s a legitimate Major League option and that he should have been called up to Columbus weeks ago. Neal did nothing to change that opinion over the past week, posting a .393/.452/.643 slash line, a .469 wOBA, driving in 10 RBI and jacking two home runs – including a grand slam Monday night. Plus, Neal showed good plate discipline, only striking out once in 31 plate appearances. There really is nothing left for Neal to show in Akron (his .306/.390/.476 slash line, .392 wOBA, and eight home runs for the season is still very impressive despite his early season power struggles) and he will hopefully get another shot in Columbus when the dust settles after the trading deadline.
Talk about impact at-bats. 1B Adam Abraham had seven hits over the past week and he made them count by jacking three home runs and two doubles. That power surge buoyed a .368/.455/.947 slash line and .560 wOBA for Abraham and was a big factor in getting the Aeros a winning record over the past week. Abraham is a solid player and hard worker, but he’s still limited defensively and not hitting all that well for the season (.252/.334/.442 slash line, .357 wOBA). I like Abraham a lot, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lose playing time to someone like Jesus Aguilar throughout the part of the season.
(Honorable Mentions: Shawn Armstrong, Juan Diaz, Paolo Espino, Jordan Henry, T.J. House, Matt Lawson)
(Previous Winners: Adam Abraham (5/1, 5/8, 6/26), Kyle Bellows (5/22, 5/29), Rob Bryson (6/19, 7/3), Chun Chen (5/15, 5/22, 6/26, 7/10), Jose De La Torre (6/19), Juan Diaz (7/10), Paolo Espino (5/29), Tim Fedroff (4/17, 5/29, 6/5), Jared Goedert (4/17, 4/24), Preston Guilmet (6/19), T.J. House (7/17), Kyle Landis (6/5, 6/19), Matt Lawson (7/10), T.J. McFarland (4/17, 5/15, 5/22), Thomas Neal (5/1, 5/15, 6/19, 6/26, 7/3), Roberto Perez (6/12), Bryan Price (6/19), Ryan Rohlinger (6/5), Giovanni Soto (5/1, 5/8, 7/17), Bryce Stowell (4/24, 6/5, 6/19), Jeremie Tice (7/3), Loek van Mil (6/5, 6/19), Nick Weglarz (6/12, 6/19), Steven Wright (4/24, 5/8, 6/12, 7/17))
Rob Bryson, Preston Guilmet, Kyle Landis, Toru Murata:
Four members of the Aeros’ bullpen – Shawn Armstrong, Jose De La Torre, Rafael Perez, and Loek van Mil – pitched pretty well over the past week. Unfortunately, the other four members of the bullpen – RPs Rob Bryson, Preston Guilmet, Kyle Landis, and Toru Murata – struggled mightily. Combined, those four produced a 6.75 ERA, 9.70 FIP, 2.00 WHIP, and 9:6 SO:BB in eight innings over the past week. Even more problematic, they also allowed four home runs in those eight innings. As always, a week in the life of a reliever is far too small of a sample size to draw conclusions from, but this was certainly a week for Bryson, Guilmet, Landis, and Murata to forget.
Hitting at the top of the lineup, OF Tyler Holt’s stated goal is to set the table for the guys behind him. Unfortunately, that’s not what Holt did over the past week, posting a .185/.313/.185 slash line and .283 wOBA in 32 plate appearances. The jump from High-A to AA has lived up to its billing as the hardest outside of AAA to the Majors for Holt, who owns a weak .214/.313/.271 slash line and .287 wOBA in his 80 plate appearances in Akron. There’s still hope for Holt, who has a pretty good prospect pedigree, but if his struggles continue, it might mean that the doubts expressed by ESPN’s Keith Law (namely struggles with velocity) are serious problems for Holt’s game going forward.
The continued absence of Chun Chen forced the Aeros to keep using INF Davis Stoneburner this past week, and Stoneburner continued to struggle. There’s not much more to say about his .150/.261/.200 slash line and .217 wOBA in 24 plate appearances over the past week (and his .191/.256/.259 slash line and .249 wOBA in 245 plate appearances on the season) than he shouldn’t be playing regularly at this point. Stoneburner’s simply a fill-in at this point and will be replaced when Chen is healthy or someone is called up.
(Dishonorable Mentions: Michel Hernandez, Tyler Holt, Roberto Perez, Nick Weglarz)
(Previous Losers: Adam Abraham (5/22, 5/29, 6/5, 6/12, 7/17), 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), 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), Tim Fedroff (5/22), Preston Guilmet (5/22), Jordan Henry (6/26, 7/17), T.J. House (6/19), Francisco Jimenez (6/26), Kyle Landis (5/22, 6/26), 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, 6/26), Davis Stoneburner (7/3), Bryce Stowell (6/26), Tyler Sturdevant (6/26), Jeremie Tice (7/10), Nick Weglarz (5/1, 5/8), Steven Wright (5/15, 7/3, 7/10))
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
Off all the players on the Akron Aeros, SS Juan Diaz is the most frustrating to me. At 6’4” and 200 pounds, Diaz has the looks of a Major Leaguer out on the field, and he’s started to grow into that body this year (10 home runs in 79 games). Yet, despite all the times Diaz makes you ooh and ah, his inconsistency is maddening. Diaz jacked two home runs over the past week, but only got on base to the tune of a .308 OBP. Right now, Diaz is someone who sometimes helps the team in a big way, but more often than not is a black hole in the lineup. Maybe Diaz can grow into some consistency, but it might not be likely considering how inconsistency permeates the rest of his game (my biggest complaint about his defense is that he still struggles with routine plays more than he should).
Someone forgot to tell 2B Matt Lawson that he’s not a big-time prospect in the Indians’ system. Lawson continued his torrid season with a .409/.480/.545 slash line and .418 wOBA over the past week and showed some pop by launching three doubles. He may just be organizational depth, but Lawson is making a case that he is someone to keep an eye on. I don’t think that he has any trade value – if anything, he’d be a throw-in – but Lawson does have a .331/.417/.458 slash line and .386 wOBA in 142 plate appearances and was a part of one of the Cliff Lee deals. Unlikely, but you never know.
By no means is OF Jordan Henry all the way back from offseason microfracture surgery, but I love seeing his SO:BB at a robust 11:16. Henry has never hit a home run in his minor league career and still has no power to speak of (.239/.333/.266 slash line, .286 wOBA, .028 ISO in 129 plate appearances this year), but the fact that he is still dominant controlling the strike zone gives me some hope for him. Henry’s ceiling would seem to be defense-first slap-hitting fourth outfielder, but with the way he draws walks, doesn’t strike out, and can make all the plays in center field, I have to wonder if he can make a future for himself if he can drive the ball with a little more authority.
Odds & Ends
When SP T.J. House pitches like he did over the past week, it’s hard not to see him in a big league uniform in the semi-near future. House was strong in two outings over the past week, striking out 10 batters in 13 innings and only allowing seven hits, one walk, and two runs. In his first experience at the AA level, House has been solid, posting a 3.69 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 1.22 WHIP and 63:30 SO:BB in 92.2 innings. He still has some things to work on, but House should be an option for the Indians around September 2013, either as a lefty out of the bullpen or as an innings-eating back-end starter.
Fellow SP Paolo Espino was dominant in Saturday night’s start, going eight innings while allowing nine hits, one run, no walks, and striking out six. Espino continues to be a flexible minor league pitcher with no real Major League future, but he’s a very valuable member of the Akron Aeros.
SP Steven Wright continued to walk too many batters over the past week (six in 11 innings), but he made it a bit better by pairing it with nine strikeouts. Wright has cooled since his hot start, but I would still like to see him called up sometime in the near-future, just to see if his knuckleball can get AAA hitters out. We’ll never know until Wright’s given the chance to try.
It wasn’t a no-hitter, but SP Giovanni Soto had a decent outing his first time pitching since making Aeros history. Soto only made it through five innings while allowing six hits, three runs (two earned), three walks, and only striking out one, but he’s had many worse outings. Friday’s start was going to be a letdown compared to a no-hitter, but Soto could have been much worse than he was.
RP Rafael Perez continued his rehab work with two scoreless innings Monday night, while RPs Jose De La Torre and Loek van Mil combined for 4.2 uneventful scoreless innings. The big story out of the bullpen this past week was RP Shawn Armstrong’s powerful 3.2 innings (one hit, no runs, one walk, six strikeouts). It’s a raw look, but Armstrong’s AA stats are similar to a certain Indians’ reliever named Cody Allen who rose quickly through the system this year (Allen: two hits, one run, no walks, ten strikeouts against 25 batters in 7.2 innings; Armstrong: three hits, no runs, one walk, ten strikeouts against 21 batters in 6.0 innings). I’m not saying they’re exactly the same, but they’re both high-ceiling back-end bullpen options who have dominated the Eastern League in their short stints.
OF/DH Nick Weglarz had another bad week, struggling to a .148/.258/.333 slash line and .295 wOBA. The power’s still there, but I don’t know how much longer the Indians will wait for Weglarz to put it all together in the consistency department.
Finally, C Michel Hernandez (.000/.143/.000 slash line, .234 wOBA), C Roberto Perez (.188/.316/.188 slash line, .243 wOBA), INF Ryan Rohlinger (.182/.217/.409 slash line, .252 wOBA) all struggled, but they aren’t players who are expected to put up big numbers with the bat. It’s not really shocking that the Aeros won five out of seven games without their contributions at the plate.
The Aeros continue to have their fair share of members on the DL. 3B Kyle Bellows (left wrist sprain), RP Bryce Stowell (left oblique strain), and OF Jeremie Tice (left elbow strain) all remain on the disabled list and face an uphill battle when (if) they get back. They’ve all missed important developmental time and could end up being passed by because of their injuries.
1B Chun Chen’s thumb injury kept him out of games all week again and while he hasn’t been put on the DL, he also hasn’t played since the All-Star break. The Indians may be keeping him off of the DL to help his trade value, but right now the Aeros are playing a player short.
Moves (Like Orbit)
July 19 SP Matt Packer promoted from High-A Carolina
July 20 SP Brett Brach demoted to 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 email@example.com