Launching Off With The Aeros: 7/3/12 - 7/9/12
By Jim Piascik
July 10, 2012
Your Akron Aeros continued to fade in July, only winning three of their seven games over the past week. It could have been much worse, as they dropped four of their first five before rebounding for two straight wins over the Bowie Baysox headed into the All-Star Break.
The Aeros remain the class of the Eastern League, but the teams behind them are slowly catching up. Akron holds on a 3.5 game lead of the Harrisburg Senators for the lead in the Western Division and a 0.5 game lead over the Trenton Thunder for the best record in the Eastern League. If the Aeros want to hold onto their pole position and make the playoffs, they’ll need to regain the form that led them to a 52-38 record headed into the All-Star Break and put a stop to the slumps they’ve found themselves in recently.
Speaking of the All-Star Break, look out for four of your Akron Aeros – Chun Chen, Thomas Neal, Kyle Landis, and Steven Wright – who will be playing in the game on Wednesday in Reading, Pennsylvania. After that, the Aeros will be home hosting the Altoona Curve and Harrisburg Senators in a seven-game homestand from July 12 to July 18.
Now there’s the power we’ve all been waiting for. 1B Chun Chen had very good numbers overall last week (.333/.429/.625 slash line, .481 wOBA), but the most important part of that were his two home runs. That doubled the numbers of dingers Chen has hit this year and hopefully will start the ball rolling for him. There’s no denying that Chen is hitting very well in 2012 (.321/.409/.448 slash line, .390 wOBA) and needs to find his way to Columbus sometime soon, but if some of Chen’s doubles (he’s hit 26 this year) can turn into home runs, the Indians will have a potent first baseman on their hands.
Maybe somebody on the Aeros is reading this notebook. Well, that’s unlikely, but SS Juan Diaz did respond in a big way after I suggested that his time as an important prospect was withering away. Diaz was on fire all week to the tune of a .400/.500/.680 slash line, .530 wOBA, 13.3 K% and 16.7 BB% and had 8 RBI in Sunday night’s game at Bowie. Now, this is probably a blip in the radar considering the big picture on Diaz’s performance (he still owns a less-than-stellar .257/.307/.400 slash line, .311 wOBA, 23.0 K%, and 6.2 BB% on the season), but if he plays half as well as he did over the past week from here on out, he will be a viable option in Columbus in 2013. That may not be the Majors, but it’s considerably better than what I thought his ceiling was last week.
2B Matt Lawson isn’t a household name by any means, but if he keeps playing like he has so far this season, he’ll have made a pretty impressive name for himself. Over the past week, Lawson posted a .500/.556/.667 slash line and .531 wOBA, arguably the best week for any hitter on the Aeros. Lawson also drove four doubles and just generally could do no wrong. Lawson is not a big name in the organization by any means, but it’s hard not to sit up and take notice of his first 97 plate appearances in Akron (.333/.417/.457 slash line, .383 wOBA, .123 ISO, 12:10 SO:BB). He’ll likely fade down the stretch (his .380 BABIP is more than likely unsustainable), but at the very least, Lawson has forced his way into the discussion for middle infield spots at the upper levels of the Tribe’s system.
(Honorable Mentions: Adam Abraham, Thomas Neal, Nick Weglarz)
(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), 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, 6/26, 7/3), 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), 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))
This will be a week that SP Brett Brach will just try to forget. In his two starts over the past week, Brach only made it through 6.2 innings, surrendering 17 hits, 3 walks, 10 runs (all earned), and as many home runs (5) as strikeouts. Needless to say, he’ll need to improve going forward. Brach will find himself on thin ice quickly if this keeps up since he isn’t a very high profile prospect, so hopefully he’ll find his stride again after the All-Star Break.
At least SP Steven Wright can hang his hat on the fact that he outpitched Brett Brach this week. Unfortunately, Wright also had a pretty bad week. Wright only made one start over the past week, only making it through 4.2 innings with 4 hits, 7 walks, 5 runs (all earned), 3 strikeouts, and a home run. Over his last three starts, Wright has a gone 15.2 innings with a 7.47 ERA, 6.26 FIP, 15:13 SO:BB and 3 home runs allowed. Obviously, something’s off here. Hopefully Wright will be able to work through it quickly, because he really looked like something special earlier in the year.
It was bound to happen eventually. After starting off his AA career red-hot, reality caught up with OF Jeremie Tice over the past week. His .207/.258/.276 slash line and .244 wOBA was pretty rough, but he should rebound quickly. He’s been raking all year, and his overall numbers in 67 AA plate appearances are still strong (.283/.343/.417 slash line, .335 wOBA). If his work at Carolina is any indication, he’ll get better as he adjusts to the league and be just fine soon enough. For now, though, here are some quotes from Tice as he talked about learning new positions and adjusting to life in Akron:
“During the offseason I made some small changes to my swing that’s helped me out a lot this year. Also, I’m pretty much healthy – last year, my wrist was kind of messed up. So things are going pretty well right now and hopefully I can continue the rest of the season.”
“When they say they’re looking for right-handed power hitters up in the big leagues, it’s something that crosses your mind. But at the same time, you realize you have a job to do here… I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and just do the best I can.”
“I was drafted as a third baseman, then they moved me over to first base. Then I DHed for a little while and they said there’s an opportunity for you to play outfield if you can keep swinging the stick, so I said ‘Alright, I’ll do it as long as I can swing’ and I’m trying to do my best out there.”
“I’m not going to say it’s easy [moving to the outfield]. There are a lot of things to get used to and talking with a lot of the outfielders here, they’re helping me out a ton. It’s been a good transition, but it’s also been a taxing one, so hopefully I can just keep getting better at it each and every day.”
Talking about his Twitter handle (@BigOleChunkyBoy): “Actually, Abraham is a big ole chunky boy too. We’re the chunky boys. Some of the players in the Indians organization gave us that name because we eat a lot, even though it may not show. We go to a restaurant or something, we pretty much shut it down. We crush spread and all that kind of stuff, so when I did make my Twitter, I just thought it was only right to call myself @BigOleChunkyBoy.”
(Dishonorable Mentions: T.J. House, Kyle Landis, Roberto Perez, Bryan Price, Davis Stoneburner)
(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, 6/26), 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), 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), Nick Weglarz (5/1, 5/8), Steven Wright (5/15, 7/3))
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
If you’re looking for a reason for why the Aeros lost four of seven games this past week, look no farther than the pitching. As a whole, Aeros hurlers posted a 5.55 ERA, 5.62 FIP, and, most damningly, 12 home runs in 60 innings. The breakdown of dingers allowed was SPs Brett Brach (5), Paolo Espino (2), T.J. House (1), and Steven Wright (1), and RPs Kyle Landis (1), Bryan Price (1), and Tyler Sturdevant (1). Not surprisingly, Aeros those starters (7.53 ERA, 7.53 FIP, 22:17 SO:BB in 28.2 innings) and relievers (5.40 ERA, 5.77 FIP, 9:3 SO:BB in 11.2 innings) really struggled over the past week.
The Aeros were truly blessed with numerous great offensive performances over the past week, making it hard to catch them all in the In Orbit section. One that fell through the cracks was 1B/3B Adam Abraham, who posted a .276/.276/.621 slash line, .369 wOBA, and – most impressively – 3 home runs. Granted, the lack of walks over the past week is a negative, but it happens from time to time. Abraham has still swung a good stick in 2012 (.248/.332/.424 slash line, .350 wOBA, 17.5 K%, 10.2 BB%, .176 ISO), but I’m not sure how much more time he has. The Aeros are starting him at third base now due to the logjam of 1B/DH types they have, but Abraham does not play the hot corner very well and is obviously the low man on the totem pole.
Continuing with recognizing great offensive performances that were passed over for the In Orbit section, I submit OF Thomas Neal’s .316/.536/.421 slash line and .484 wOBA. Neal didn’t hit a home run over the past week, but he did draw seven walks in 28 plate appearances, good for a 25.0 BB%. Walks seemed to fall by the wayside for Neal when his power started to reemerge, but he showed that he will gladly accept the free pass when it is offered to him over the past week. Neal’s season line has me hoping he’ll get a shot in Columbus soon (.307/.394/.463 slash line, .386 wOBA, 16.9 K%, 9.5 BB%, .156 ISO), because I still feel like he may have some Major League upside now that he seems healthy again. Plus, he’s a right-handed hitting outfielder with some pop – what more could you want?
Odds & Ends
OF Tyler Holt finally got the call from Carolina over the past week and was immediately installed as the Aeros’ center fielder and leadoff hitter. He has kind of stumbled out of the gate (.261/.346/.304 slash line, .304 wOBA), but I expect he’ll get better as he adjusts to the Eastern League. The man Holt essentially pushed out of a job – OF Jordan Henry – did not fare so well this week (.188/.381/.188 slash line, .300 wOBA) as he continues to work his way back from microfracture surgery. Personally, I really want to see Henry get the chance at regular at bats to aid his recovery, and with the surplus of outfielders in Akron right now, maybe he would benefit from some time in Carolina. That’s just a theory of mine that likely won’t happen, though.
Despite most of the Aeros’ offense being on fire over the past week, there were some negatives. C Roberto Perez (.200/.238/.300 slash line, .227 wOBA) continued his lackluster season offensively, as did INF Davis Stoneburner (.235/.235/.235 slash line, .212 wOBA). C Michel Hernandez also had a bad week, going 0-for-3 in the only game he played.
The only Akron starter who did not allow a home run over the past week, SP Giovanni Soto, also struggled in his start last week, going 6.1 innings while allowing 6 runs (4 earned), 8 hits, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts. Soto is still working on putting all the pieces together, but overall he’s really had a pretty good season (4.09 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 7.90 SO/9, 3.51 BB/9). He may end up being a left-on-left bullpen guy down the road, but for now, Soto might still manage to have a future in the rotation if he gets more consistent in the 2nd half of the season.
Finally, the relievers for the Aeros that did not give up a home run over the past week performed pretty well. RPs Rob Bryson (0.00 ERA, 3.20 FIP in 1.2 innings), Jose De La Torre (1.69 ERA, 3.58 FIP in 5.1 innings), Preston Guilmet (0.00 ERA, 4.20 FIP in 2.0 innings), Toru Murata (0.00 ERA, 0.80 FIP in 1.2 innings), and Loek van Mil (3.38 ERA, 2.45 FIP in 2.2 innings) struggled at times, but as a whole, they weren’t all that bad.
The Aeros lost two players to the DL over the past week, 3B Kyle Bellows and RP Bryce Stowell. Both have been on the DL previously this year. Bellows had just been activated on June 27, but he re-aggravated his sprained left wrist, leading to this DL stint. Stowell was on the DL earlier this year with a right forearm strain, but this time around, it’s for a strained left oblique. Considering the circumstances surrounding both of these players, I would expect them to be given plenty of time to recover. I would not expect them back in action any time soon.
Moves (Like Orbit)
July 3 3B Kyle Bellows placed on DL (sprained left wrist)
July 3 RP Bryce Stowell placed on DL (strained left oblique)
July 5 OF Tyler Holt promoted from High-A Carolina
July 7 RP Toru Murata activated from DL
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