Launching Off With The Aeros: 8/7/12 - 8/13/12
By Jim Piascik
August 14, 2012
Your Akron Aeros struggled a little bit over the past week, dropping four of the seven games they played at Canal Park, but they remain one of the top teams in the Eastern League. The Aeros only allowed 20 runs in those seven games, but injuries have left the Akron offense particularly punchless. The offense did manage 25 runs, but seven of those came in the first game Friday night. In those other six games, the Aeros averaged an anemic 3.0 runs a game. Even in the offense-starved Eastern League, you need more than that to be successful.
Luckily for the Aeros, their record of 70-50 still leaves them 8.0 games up on the Bowie Baysox and 9.5 games ahead of the Richmond Flying Squirrels (and a playoff spot). The Aeros will travel to Harrisburg for a quick three-game set before headed back to Canal Park over the weekend to host the Reading Phillies.
On a personal note, I also will be headed out of town this weekend and into next weekend after getting married Saturday (Saturday!?!). But to the legions of readers of this notebook: don’t worry! Another one of IPI’s tremendous writing staff will cover your weekly fix of Aeros knowledge. Hopefully I don’t get Wally Pipped though…
Right now, RP Toru Murata is filling a spot in the starting rotation that has opened due to Giovanni Soto reaching his inning limit and the Steven Wright trade, meaning that expectations are low for him. Typically, fringy relief pitchers thrown into the starting rotation struggle, yet Murata is seizing the opportunity. He pitched pretty well two weeks ago, but this past week, Murata really turned up the heat on Friday, going 5.1 innings with four strikeouts, no runs allowed, and only two hits and one walk. Murata will likely fill the Paolo Espino role of swingman between AA and AAA for the next year or two – if that – yet it’s hard not to get excited when any player effortlessly carves up another lineup. He was a surprising joy to watch Friday night; one of the many reasons watching a baseball game is an enjoyable experience no matter who is playing.
OF Tyler Holt obviously enjoys being called out! After writing last week that Holt needed to find a way to hit AA pitching, he went out and did it. In 31 plate appearances last week, Holt posted a .375/.464/.417 slash line and .425 wOBA and added three stolen bases for good measure. The week was obviously aided by some luck (.474 BABIP), but he point for Holt is that he finally had some success in an Akron uniform. As long as Holt keeps up a good approach and uses these final weeks as a learning experience, he should be able to hit the ground running next year as the starting center fielder of the Akron Aeros.
Another guy that responds well to being called out! I observed last week that OF/DH Nick Weglarz had only hit two home runs since the beginning of July, so naturally he blasted one off of the top of the right field foul pole Friday night on the way to a .364/.462/.682 slash line, .480 wOBA week. Weglarz also limited his strikeouts (4:4 SO:BB in 26 plate appearances) and showed off some mega-power (.318 ISO, four doubles, one home run). It’s still unlikely that Weglarz finds a way to stick on the Indians’ 40-man roster after the season, but if he hits like this over the final weeks, he’ll either force his way onto the roster or he’ll find a cushy landing spot in another organization.
(Honorable Mentions: Paolo Espino, Preston Guilmet, Trey Haley, T.J. House, Kyle Landis, Danny Salazar, Bryce Stowell, Loek van Mil)
(Previous Winners: Adam Abraham (5/1, 5/8, 6/26, 7/24), Kyle Bellows (5/22, 5/29), Rob Bryson (6/19, 7/3, 7/31), 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), T.J. House (7/17, 8/7), 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, 7/24, 8/7), Matt Packer (7/24), Roberto Perez (6/12, 7/31), 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))
The Indians shut down SP Giovanni Soto for the season after his outing on Tuesday because he is only a year removed from only pitching 69 innings due to an elbow issue. I’m fine with the Tribe shutting down Soto with three weeks to go in the season so he can be well-rested and ready to go full out in 2013, but I wish he could have gone out with a better outing. Soto struggled through four innings, allowing five hits, three runs, five walks, and a home run while striking out three, but that shouldn’t put a damper on his season. Soto still had one of the best moments – if not the best – on July 15 when he threw the first no-hitter in Canal Park history. Plus, his overall season (3.93 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 1.32 WHIP, 100:49 SO:BB in 121.1 innings) is nothing to sneeze at. There is a distinct chance that Soto will start next year in Akron again, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Next year will be Soto’s age-21 season and he will likely be able to pitch the majority of it in AAA. Due to his youth and his cutter, Soto is one of very few Indians’ farmhands who has a chance at being more than a 5th starter in the Majors and he was a joy to cover this year in Akron.
INF Justin Toole is the 2012 version of Cristo Arnal; a utility infielder who has no real chance at making it to the Majors. He is currently on the roster to play first base with both Adam Abraham and Chun Chen hurting, but it really doesn’t look like he can make the jump to AA pitching. After a 1-for-18 week, Toole’s Akron season stands at a .080/.115/080 slash line and .129 wOBA. Toole hasn’t walked once in his 27 plate appearances and is essentially a black hole in the lineup right now. If Abraham and Chen are legitimately hurt, I would much rather see the Indians call Jesus Aguilar up to Akron for the stretch run to get him in a playoff hunt and get him some exposure at the next level so he can start 2013 off strong in AA.
As much as 2B/3B Ryan Rohlinger’s experience and versatility has helped the Aeros this year, his batting stats really are poor. After last week’s .174/.208/.217 slash line and .233 wOBA, Rohlinger’s season slash line is a dismal .213/.318/.294 and his .297 wOBA isn’t much better. Now, Rohlinger does control the strike zone very well (50:42 SO:BB in 355 plate appearances) and his BABIP is quite low (.236), but this still hasn’t been a good season at the plate. Whether Rohlinger has been particularly unlucky with his balls in play this year or he simply isn’t making good, hard contact, these offensive numbers will make it hard to convince the Indians (or anyone else) that a player entering his age-29 season with only 67 Major League at-bats is worth taking a chance on.
(Dishonorable Mentions: Rob Bryson, Juan Diaz, Thomas Neal, Roberto Perez)
(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, 7/24, 8/7), 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, 7/24), Jordan Henry (6/26, 7/17), Michel Hernandez (7/31), Tyler Holt (7/24, 8/7), T.J. House (6/19), Francisco Jimenez (6/26), Kyle Landis (5/22, 6/26, 7/24), 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), Giovanni Soto (5/15, 6/5, 6/26, 7/31), Davis Stoneburner (7/3, 7/24), 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.
One of the biggest strengths of the Tribe’s minor league system is their plethora of bullpen arms and Akron is currently benefiting. Last week, their relievers (minus one big exception that will be noted below) posted a 0.77 ERA in 23.1 innings. Those relievers – Shawn Armstrong (0.00 ERA, 4.02 FIP in 3.2 innings), Jose Flores (2.45 ERA, 4.29 FIP in 3.2 innings), Preston Guilmet (0.00 ERA, 2.20 FIP in 3.0 innings), Trey Haley (1.69 ERA, 2.64 FIP in 5.1 innings), Kyle Landis (0.00 ERA, 0.20 FIP in 2.0 innings), Bryce Stowell (0.00 ERA, 1.20 FIP in 1.0 inning), and Loek van Mil (0.00 ERA, 2.34 FIP in 4.2 innings) – truly dominated the competition with a 2.73 FIP, 0.99 WHIP, and 20.9 K% last week. The Indians will likely never need to look anywhere but internally for bullpen arms down the road since these guys and more will be following the footsteps that Cody Allen blazed earlier this season.
Here is the big exception to the Aeros’ bullpen dominance last week: RP Rob Bryson and his 11.57 ERA. It actually gets worse when you look at his peripheral stats. In only 2.1 innings last week, Bryson managed to allow two hits, three runs, six walks, and two home runs. Bryson’s FIP of 19.49 and BB/9 of 23.14 are easily the worst any Aero has posted in a week this season. The way Bryson is able to overpower opposing hitters remains seductive (he has struck out 28.6% of batter this season), but when it is attached to outrageous walk numbers (6.71 BB/9, 16.8 BB%), it is largely neutralized. It’s a good thing that Michael Brantley is giving the Indians some return on the CC Sabathia trade because Bryson seems unlikely to contribute at the Major League level at this point.
I know that a lot of people are starting to jump on SS Juan Diaz’s bandwagon. One scout I talked to over the past week mentioned him as one of the few players on the Aeros will a chance at a Major League future, but count me as a holdout for now. One of my big problems with him is his all-or-nothing approach at the plate, which often comes out with nothing. Sure, Diaz his three doubles in 26 plate appearances last week, but he also struck out 10 times. Those strikeouts led to a .217/.308/348 slash line and .295 wOBA for Diaz despite a well above-average .385 BABIP. There seems to be a real chance that his power is for real (.164 ISO, 24 doubles, 11 home runs in 405 plate appearances this year), but until he can control the strike zone (he has a 95:25 SO:BB in 96 games during his second time through the AA-level), I’ll remain skeptical. Maybe Diaz is like Manny Machado – as in he could kick it into another gear when challenged by AAA or the Major Leagues – but that is typically reserved for Top 10 prospects, not guys ranked 50th in their own organization before the season.
Odds & Ends
It wasn’t the best of weeks for OF Thomas Neal (.136/.269/.318 slash line, .269 wOBA in 26 plate appearances), but he did he did hit his 10th home run of the year Friday night. That counts for something, right? Regardless, Neal needs to be in Columbus; end of story.
INF Davis Stoneburner managed to get on base this week (.381 OBP), but he’s still suffering from a serious lack of hitting ability (.188 AVG/SLG in 21 plate appearances). The same was true to a lesser extend of 2B Matt Lawson, who posted below-average numbers (.250/.400/.250 slash line, .324 wOBA in 10 plate appearances) in his first action since being activated from the disabled list.
OF Jordan Henry managed some extra-base power this past week with two doubles, but it wasn’t enough to salvage his overall line (.259/.333/.333 slash line, .325 wOBA in 31 plate appearances). C Michel Hernandez followed the same blueprint as Henry (.167/.286/.333 slash line, .280 wOBA in 7 plate appearances), as did C Roberto Perez (.267/.278/.333 slash line, .259 wOBA in 18 plate appearances).
SP Brett Brach’s overall line didn’t look great (4.50 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 1.25 WHIP, 5:3 SO:BB in 8.0 innings), but his outing on Sunday was surprisingly great. He was generating swings-and-misses often and generally looked dominant. I don’t know if Brach can ever harness that side of himself consistently, but if he ever does, he will shoot up people’s prospect lists.
I got the pleasure of seeing SP Danny Salazar for the first time Saturday night and it was a beautiful sight. He has a smooth delivery and generates velocity easily. In his start Saturday night, Salazar made it through five innings of one-run ball (an unearned run at that), striking out two while only walking one and allowing four hits. Salazar is still working back to full arm strength after Tommy John surgery in August 2010, but his membership on the Indians’ 40-man roster seems well-deserved.
SP T.J. House had a “bad” start Thursday night, allowing three runs on seven hits in five innings, but he also struck out five and only walked one. Sure, it wasn’t his best outing, but House has gone out every fifth day this year and gotten the job done. Everyone has a clunker every once and a while, but it’d be hard to have a 3.58 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, and 77:33 SO:BB in 105.2 innings like House does without being a pretty good pitcher.
Last but certainly not least, SP Paolo Espino went out and had another very good outing (six innings, one run, four strikeouts, no walks, three hits). If he’s not careful, Espino might turn himself into a prospect instead of the organizational depth he’s supposed to be.
Unfortunately for Akron and Cleveland fans, 1B Chun Chen reinjured his thumb during a swing in Wednesday night’s game. Chen dropped the bat in pain and did not bat during his next turn at the plate. While he has not been put on the DL, Chen has not played since and recently missed 24 days without being on the DL for a similar (if not the same) injury.
1B/DH Adam Abraham was placed on the DL without playing in a game this week due to a lower back strain. Hopefully this doesn’t keep him down for long, but this is a really untimely injury for a player that needs to leave a good impression on everyone’s minds going into the offseason.
RP Bryce Stowell was activated off of the DL this past week and hopefully he can finally kick the injury bug for good. He will need to stay healthy if he hopes to stay relevant. Same goes for 2B Matt Lawson. Both are good players, but another DL stint for either could be the end of the road for them as anything more than depth options.
OF Jeremie Tice and C/1B Patric Tolentino have been transferred off of the Aeros’ disabled list (but are still inactive), but 3B Kyle Bellows remains on the DL in Akron. After 36 games missed, it’s hard to see Bellows being very effective down the stretch for the Aeros if he is activated.
Moves (Like Orbit)
August 2 RP Bryan Price promoted to AAA Columbus
August 3 RP Trey Haley promoted from High-A Carolina
August 3 SP Danny Salazar promoted from High-A Carolina
August 4 SP Brett Brach promoted from A Lake County
August 9 1B Adam Abraham placed on DL (Lower Back Strain)
August 9 2B Matt Lawson activated from DL
August 10 SP Giovanni Soto shut down (reached innings limit)
August 10 RP Bryce Stowell activated from DL
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