Launching off with the Aeros: The 2013 season in review
Losing season doesn't dampen successful developmental year
By Jim Piascik
September 3, 2013
On the surface, calling a 68-73 season a success -- especially when that season follows a championship campaign -- would be ludicrous. In the case of the 2013 Akron Aeros, however, it would be true.
While last year brought Akron an Eastern League championship, 2013 saw the arrival of numerous top prospects and brought the future one step closer to Cleveland. The ultimate goal of the minor leagues is development and graduating players to the major leagues, something Akron excelled at this season.
If you made it out to Canal Park this year, you saw the future of Cleveland. To recap that future and everything that happened in 2013, join me for one last time and go Launching off with the Aeros.
Carlos Moncrief, OF
.284/.354/.470 line, .363 wOBA, 139-for-489, 77 R, 26 2B, 7 3B, 17 HR, 75 RBI, 98:55 SO:BB, 15 SB, 7 CS in 552 PA
Akron's best season belonged to Moncrief, who used 2013 to cement himself as a top prospect and potential option in Cleveland in 2014. After starting his career as a pitcher, the toolsy Moncrief showed flashes of what he could be but had yet to put it all together.
Moncrief put up decent stats in Carolina in 2012, but his 31.0 percent strikeout rate pointed to a player still looking for a consistent approach at the plate. The outfielder found it this year, slashing that rate to 17.8 percent while making the leap to Double-A (widely considered the biggest in the minor leagues).
If Moncrief continues to hit like this, in addition to his solid defense and baserunning, he will be worth taking a look at in right field in 2014. He still needs more reps -- a byproduct of starting his career as a pitcher -- but it is not like Drew Stubbs is tearing it up. Moncrief could be a long-term answer and he could be it sooner than you would think.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B
.275/.349/.427 line, .358 wOBA, 137-for-499, 66 R, 28 2B, 16 HR, 105 RBI, 107:56 SO:BB, 0 SB, 1 CS in 567 PA
The number that draws everyone's attention is Aguilar's 105 RBI, but we all know the problems with using RBI as an evaluation tool. More importantly for Aguilar's development, the first baseman made a change to his swing at the beginning of June that should help him in the long-term.
Aguilar changed the position of his hands to simplify his swing and the results followed. After June 4, Aguilar posted a .292/.366/.462 line in 344 plate appearances, raising his overall line and his power.
First base has been a problem for the major league club for a long time and Aguilar is set to try to fill it at some point in 2014. Aguilar does not figure to be the next Joey Votto, but if he can be league-average, it will be an upgrade from the Casey Kotchmans of the world.
Matt Packer, LHP
28 G (25 GS), 12-9 W-L, 3.27 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 6.95 SO/9, 2.57 BB/9, 1.40 WHIP, 172 H, 71 R (56 ER), 119:44 SO:BB, 8 HR, 8 HBP in 154.0 IP
Packer pitched the most innings of any Aeros pitcher in 2013, an impressive feat considering where the left-hander was last year (and even this April). Following a rotator cuff injury last spring, Packer's velocity was down and his results suffered.
Personally, I thought Packer looked lost this April, but to his credit, the left-hander really pulled himself together. He will never overpower anyone, but even with that rough April, Packer posted a strong ERA with the peripherals to match.
Finally healthy again and with his stuff all the way back, the 26-year-old Packer will be an option in Cleveland in 2014. He profiles as a back-end starter or reliever, but since he throws left-handed, Packer offers some decent value in the years ahead.
Austin Adams, Jose Flores, Bryce Stowell, & Enosil Tejeda, RHPs
Adams: 45 G, 3-2 W-L, 4 SV, 2.62 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 12.44 SO/9, 4.75 BB/9, 1.33 WHIP, 44 H, 19 R (16 ER), 76:29 SO:BB, 3 HR, 2 HBP in 55.0 IP
Flores: 59 G, 7-3 W-L, 16 SV, 2.71 ERA, 1.99 FIP, 11.80 SO/9, 3.66 BB/9, 1.24 WHIP, 55 H, 26 R (20 ER), 87:27 SO:BB, 1 HR, 3 HBP in 66.1 IP
Stowell: 36 G, 4-1 W-L, 4 SV, 2.58 ERA, 2.43 FIP, 12.31 SO/9, 4.17 BB/9, 1.19 WHIP, 33 H, 18 R (13 ER), 62:21 SO:BB, 2 HR, 2 HBP in 45.1 IP
Tejeda: 33 G, 1-1 W-L, 0.89 ERA, 2.39 FIP, 7.97 SO/9, 2.88 BB/9, 0.89 WHIP, 23 H, 6 R (4 ER), 36:13 SO:BB, 0 HR, 5 HBP in 40.2 IP
Cleveland's right-handed relief depth extended down to Akron, with Adams, Flores, Stowell, and Tejeda leading the charge.
Flores was manager Edwin Rodriguez's go-to guy in 2013, logging 59 appearances, tied for the most in the Eastern League. The right-hander delivered when called upon, posting a sub-two FIP and generally pitching above his results. The deception in Flores' delivery lets his stuff play up and might allow him to keep succeeding with average stuff.
The same goes for Tejeda, who has not allowed a home run since 2010 in the Dominican League. A sub-one ERA and WHIP could spell great things for Tejeda if he can continue to suppress home runs like this.
Adams and Stowell both have power stuff, though they are going the opposite way on the injury front. While Adams made it back from shoulder surgery and pitched exceedingly well, Stowell struggled with injuries again, negating a lot of the benefit from his strong campaign.
The whole organization has plenty of relief depth, but in 2013, these guys were the best of the best in Akron.
T.J. House, LHP & Danny Salazar, RHP
House: 4 GS, 2-1 W-L, 3.22 ERA, 1.77 FIP, 10.88 SO/9, 1.21 BB/9, 1.03 WHIP, 20 H, 8 ER, 27:3 SO:BB, 1 HR, 0 HBP in 22.1 IP
Salazar: 7 GS, 2-3 W-L, 2.67 ERA, 1.45 FIP, 13.63 SO/9, 2.67 BB/9, 1.10 WHIP, 27 H, 10 ER, 51:10 SO:BB, 1 HR, 0 HBP in 33.2 IP
House and Salazar did not spend much time in Akron, but their accomplishments at the beginning of the year foreshadowed what was to come in 2013.
Salazar made his mark in the majors but the right-hander started the year with the Aeros. He was the same dominant force that you can watch on your television now, striking out 51 batters in 33.2 innings with his nice, easy velocity and his devastating split-change.
House may not have gotten a callup in September, but the left-hander pitched extremely well in Akron and solidified himself after a rough start in Columbus. The left-hander knows how to control his pitches and will be an option in 2014.
Cleveland has not developed much starting pitching over the past few years, but in Salazar and House, it has two starting options, possibly as soon as next year.
(Previous Winners: Austin Adams (5/14, 7/23, 8/13, 8/27), Jesus Aguilar (6/18, 8/6, 8/13), Shawn Armstrong (7/23, 8/13, 8/27), Kyle Blair (8/27), Rob Bryson (5/21, 7/23), Chun-Hsiu Chen (4/16, 4/30, 5/14), Cole Cook (5/21), Jordan Cooper (7/9, 7/23), Kyle Crockett (8/13, 8/27), Jose Flores (5/14, 5/21, 7/23, 7/30, 8/27), Trey Haley (5/14, 7/23, 8/13, 8/27), Tyler Holt (4/23, 5/21, 7/16), T.J. House (4/9, 4/23), Cedric Hunter (5/28, 7/2), Jeff Johnson (7/23, 8/13, 8/27), Quincy Latimore (4/16), Matt Lawson (8/20), Francisco Lindor (7/23), Jake Lowery (7/9, 7/30, 8/13), Carlos Moncrief (4/16, 5/7, 6/11, 6/18, 7/2, 7/16, 7/23, 8/27), Alex Monsalve (8/13), Toru Murata (4/9, 8/6), Brett Myers (5/21), Tyler Naquin (8/20), Matt Packer (5/28, 7/2, 7/9, 8/27), Roberto Perez (6/4), Bryan Price (5/14, 5/21), Jose Ramirez (4/9, 4/30, 6/4, 7/9), Will Roberts (6/11, 7/9, 7/16, 7/30), Ronny Rodriguez (5/28, 6/4, 6/18), Danny Salazar (4/23, 4/30, 5/7), Bryce Stowell (5/14, 8/13, 8/27), Enosil Tejeda (7/23, 8/13, 8/27), Josh Tomlin (8/20), Justin Toole (5/14), Giovanny Urshela (5/7, 6/11, 8/6), Blake Wood (5/21))
Note that this Temporarily Grounded section is for players without the best statistics but bright futures based on this season's results.
Jose Ramirez, 2B/SS/3B
.272/.325/.349 line, .313 wOBA, 131-for-482, 78 R, 16 2B, 6 3B, 3 HR, 38 RBI, 41:39 SO:BB, 38 SB, 16 CS in 533 PA
Ramirez's statistics were not the best, but how can anyone call this season a failure? He made it to the major leagues!
Those stats are fairly middle-of-the-road, but his speed, versatility, and defensive ability will allow Ramirez to help as a utility infielder down the stretch. Ramirez rarely strikes out and, based on his history, his on-base percentage should rise with his BABIP.
Now as a smaller guy, Ramirez may end up having some issues making hard contact, which would explain the lower BABIP and the lack of power. Ramirez turns 21 years old in a few weeks and is already in the major leagues. Based on how quickly he conquered the minors, any issues he has will be worked out soon enough.
Ronny Rodriguez, 2B/SS
.265/.291/.376 line, .300 wOBA, 124-for-468, 62 R, 25 2B, 6 3B, 5 HR, 52 RBI, 76:16 SO:BB, 12 SB, 3 CS in 498 PA
The overall season stats are not good, but there are bright spots to be found here for Rodriguez. After going through a normal adjustment at the beginning of the season, Rodriguez caught fire in mid-May. A hamstring injury in late June led to problems over the last two months, but for a while, Rodriguez had Double-A figured out.
Through the adjustments and injuries, Rodriguez still improved his plan at the plate. His walk rate has always been a cause for concern (it has always hovered around three percent), but Rodriguez cut down on his strikeouts for the second consecutive year.
Despite jumping to Double-A, Rodriguez lowered his strikeout rate from 18.2 percent to 15.3, a real accomplishment given the competition. He still needs to work on those walks, but the positive progress on the strikeouts bodes well for Rodriguez in the future.
Giovanny Urshela, 3B
.270/.292/.384 line, .306 wOBA, 120-for-445, 42 R, 23 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 43 RBI, 48:14 SO:BB, 1 SB, 1 CS in 466 PA
Urshela and Rodriguez ended the year with similar-looking lines and the two both have similar things to work on. The biggest issue facing Urshela is that his hand-eye coordination is almost too good at the plate. He can make contact on pitches outside of the zone, though those pitches do not lend themselves to power and hard contact.
As Urshela learns to swing at the pitches he can do something with and let the others pass, his walks and power will rise. It is not a guarantee that it will happen, but Urshela is still young and has upside.
Urshela is set on the defensive end and now is just waiting for his bat to catch up. He might start next year in Akron (the same goes for Rodriguez), but this year will set him up to get going in 2014.
Tyler Holt, OF
.267/.338/.359 line, .334 wOBA, 139-for-521, 83 R, 24 2B, 9 3B, 2 HR, 42 RBI, 90:55 SO:BB, 28 SB, 7 CS in 589 PA
Holt continued the evolution of his swing with good but not great results, though in the big picture, the outfielder is better set for his long-term success. He continued to level his swing, eliminating the extreme uppercut, and it should get more consistent with time.
The other big development for Holt was him getting work in the corner outfield positions, as his likely future is as a fourth outfielder. Holt plays an elite center field, though he needs work in the corners to get used to the different angles the ball takes.
Holt may have ended up with another sub-.700 OPS -- though his .698 mark was the best of his three full-season years -- but he improved the outlook for his future. He will continue to work on that next year, probably in Triple-A, and could be an option in Cleveland in the near-future.
Shawn Armstrong & Trey Haley, RHPs
Armstrong: 30 G, 2-3 W-L, 4.09 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 11.73 SO/9, 5.73 BB/9, 1.61 WHIP, 32 H, 18 R (15 ER), 43:21 SO:BB, 2 HR, 2 HBP in 33.0 IP
Haley: 39 G, 1-4 W-L, 7 SV, 4.70 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 9.41 SO/9, 7.98 BB/9, 1.73 WHIP, 37 H, 24 R (23 ER), 46:39 SO:BB, 0 HR, 8 HBP in 44.0 IP
This pair of hard-throwing relievers could have started their major league careers in 2013 with good results, though both had issues that set them back.
Armstrong ended the year with decent statistics, though his self-inflicted hand injury cost him a big chunk of the season and set him back. Losing those valuable reps really hurt him and he will need to make up for lost time in 2014.
Haley fought through another injury early in the year and midseason, though he was slightly better once he got healthy at the beginning of June. He can touch the upper 90s, but Haley still needs to work on controlling where the ball goes once he lets it fly.
Both still throw hard and could bounce back next year, though they both have work to do. The talent is there and will give them more chances to succeed, though they are not there yet.
(Previous Losers: Adam Abraham (6/4), Austin Adams (4/23, 5/28, 8/20), Jesus Aguilar (5/7, 5/14, 8/27), Cody Anderson (8/27), Shawn Armstrong (4/23, 7/1, 8/6, 8/20), Brett Brach (4/23, 5/28, 7/2, 7/9, 7/30, 8/6), Rob Bryson (5/28, 6/18, 7/2, 8/6), Cole Cook (4/23, 5/14, 5/28, 7/2, 7/9), Jordan Cooper (5/21, 5/28), Paolo Espino (4/16, 5/28, 7/23), Jose Flores (5/28, 7/2, 7/16), Trey Haley (5/21, 6/18, 8/20), Tyler Holt (4/9, 6/11, 7/30, 8/13, 8/20), T.J. House (4/16), Jeff Johnson (8/6), Kyle Landis (4/23, 7/2), Quincy Latimore (4/23, 5/21, 5/28, 7/2), Matt Lawson (7/23), Chen-Chang Lee (7/2), Jake Lowery (7/23), Fabio Martinez (4/16), Carlos Moncrief (4/9, 4/30, 8/13), Toru Murata (4/16, 5/28, 7/9, 7/16), Brett Myers (5/28), Tyler Naquin (8/27), Rob Nixon (5/28), Matt Packer (4/9, 4/16, 4/30, 8/13), Edward Paredes (4/16, 4/23), Chris Perez (7/2), Bryan Price (5/28), Jose Ramirez (4/16, 5/7, 6/11, 6/18, 8/6), J.D. Reichenbach (7/2, 7/9, 7/16), Will Roberts (7/2), Ronny Rodriguez (4/9, 4/23, 5/7, 5/14, 7/16, 7/30, 8/20), Danny Salazar (4/16), Nate Spears (6/4), Enosil Tejeda (7/2), Justin Toole (6/11), Giovanny Urshela (4/9, 4/30, 7/9), Robert Whitenack (4/23, 6/4), Blake Wood (7/2))
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
First baseman Chun-Hsiu Chen spent his first 38 games with the Aeros, where he dominated to the tune of a .974 OPS. That dominance led to a callup to Columbus, though Chen saw his results dip in a big way. His .651 OPS after leaving Akron leaves him behind the eight-ball going forward, as Chen's bat is what carries him. If he can hit, he will get a chance; it's as simple as that.
Cleveland selected left-hander Kyle Crockett in the fourth round of this year's draft and Crockett wasted no time tearing through the system. There was even some talk of Crockett ending his season in the majors, though that did not come to pass. Crockett did not allow a run in his 10.1 innings, owned a 9:2 SO:BB, and should get a shot in Cleveland next year. He knows how to use his arsenal effectively and should only get better with a whole offseason and spring training in the organization.
Catcher Jake Lowery used a .275/.363/.449 line in 71 games to reestablish a lot of his lost prospect value, but his .358 BABIP gives reason to pause before declaring Lowery back. Regressing that BABIP back to a normal level -- something that will likely happen next year if Lowery plays a full season -- leaves the catcher with something resembling an average line on offense. Lowery's defense is still questionable, meaning that if he gives back value on offense, he will not have nearly as much left.
With two wins in 2013, right-hander Paolo Espino became the Akron Aeros' winningest pitcher of all-time with 24 victories (though Packer tied that mark this past week). While I am with MLB Network's Brian Kenny and want to #KillTheWin, the mark is still impressive for Espino. He did not have the best year, posting a 5.35 ERA and 4.02 FIP in 79.0 Double-A innings, but Espino will always have this mark to hang his hat on. His major league future is not bright, but Espino is one of the Aeros' pitching titans.
Once again right-hander Toru Murata pounded the strike zone, posting a 104:21 SO:BB in 131.0 innings. The high SO:BB is Murata's calling card, though sometimes he is around the zone too much. Murata allowed 18 home runs in 2013, something that sent his FIP soaring to 3.88 despite the strong strikeout and walk figures. Like Espino, Murata's value comes in his ability to haul innings in the upper levels of the minors. Despite the home run problems, Murata's strong SO:BB allowed him to do that once again this year.
Odds & Ends
Shortstop Francisco Lindor looked good in his late-season taste of Double-A (.801 OPS, 7:14 SO:BB in 21 games) before he was shut down with a back injury. Hopefully he gets healthy over the winter and hits the ground running in 2014.
A few other top prospects who got a late call to Akron were outfielder Tyler Naquin (.571 OPS in 18 games) and right-hander Cody Anderson (5.68 ERA, 5.81 FIP in 12.2 innings). Though they stumbled, what is important is that these two use what they learned in their brief time to better themselves and get a quick start next year.
Right-hander Will Roberts posted a 4.57 ERA and 3.83 FIP in 134.0 innings, not awe-inspiring numbers but enough to make him interesting. Roberts was throwing harder and, given his already strong control, will look to turn some of that better stuff into a higher strikeout rate (6.04 SO/9).
Right-hander Brett Brach (4.79 ERA, 4.28 FIP in 129.2 innings) continued to eat innings, though the results could have been better.
Kyle Bellows did not hit well during his time in Akron (.551 OPS in 33 games), but the former third baseman was given a second life as a reliever. He was sent down to the Arizona League midseason to work on harnessing his plus arm on the mound.
Hitters who struggled in limited time included infielder/outfielder Matt Lawson (.683 OPS in 58 games), outfielder Bo Greenwell (.599 OPS in 10 games), catcher Jeremy Lucas (.600 OPS in five games), and infielder Nate Spears (.508 OPS in four games).
Pitchers who helped the Aeros in limited time included right-handers Jeff Johnson (2.49 ERA in 21.2 innings), Bryan Price (0.56 ERA in 16.0 innings), C.C. Lee (3.38 ERA in eight innings), Rob Nixon (2.45 ERA in 3.2 innings) and left-hander Francisco Jimenez (no runs allowed in one four-inning spot start).
Pitchers who struggled in limited time included right-handers Cole Cook (7.17 ERA in 54.0 innings) and Robert Whitenack (27.00 ERA in six innings) and left-hander J.D. Reichenbach (25.20 ERA in five innings).
Aeros players who were released or traded included outfielders Delvi Cid (.440 OPS in nine games) and Quincy Latimore (.659 OPS in 81 games), left-handers Eric Berger (4.15 ERA in 4.1 innings) and Edward Paredes (8.10 ERA in 6.2 innings), and right-handers Kyle Landis (10.54 ERA in 13.2 innings) and Fabio Martinez (33.75 ERA in 2.1 innings).
The Aeros had their share of major league rehab assignments, including catcher Lou Marson (1-for-3 in his only game) and right-handers Zach McAllister (two runs allowed in 3.1 innings), Brett Myers (six runs -- four earned -- in 10.2 innings), Chris Perez (five runs allowed in one inning), Josh Tomlin (one run allowed in six innings), and Blake Wood (seven runs -- three earned -- allowed in six innings).
The Aeros were busy on the injury front in 2013. Here are those who have not already been mentioned due to injury:
Catcher Alex Monsalve missed most of the season with a UCL injury in his throwing elbow, though he managed to avoid surgery. Monsalve hit decently (.753 OPS in 21 games) but will see his stock hurt by essentially missing a whole season's worth of development.
Right-hander Jordan Cooper did well in his first exposure to Double-A (3.11 ERA, 4.03 FIP in 72.1 innings), though the 24-year-old hit the disabled list with the dreaded right forearm strain July 31.
Outfielder Cedric Hunter did quite well when on the field (.912 OPS in 61 games), though his season ended with a bad case of stomach irritation.
Early in the season it looked like catcher Alex Lavisky (.530 OPS in six games) was going to get a chance to shine, but a broken left big toe forced him to miss time and opened the door for Lowery to step in.
Right-hander Rob Bryson only threw 18.0 innings -- and he struggled to the tune of a 12.50 ERA in them -- due to right hip issues. This might be it for Bryson, as his injuries plus his performance issues might be too much for him to overcome.
Catcher/designated hitter Chris Wallace was on and off the disabled list with a bad knee, though when he was playing, Wallace hit well (.768 OPS in 31 games) and added a veteran voice to the clubhouse.
Infielder/outfielder Adam Abraham once again had issues staying healthy, something that likely hurt his power (.068 ISO). Abraham is well-liked though as he puts the work in; he just cannot seem to stay healthy.
Right-hander Kyle Blair only pitched in one game for the Aeros before leaving with a right forearm strain, though reports from the game pegged the injury as an elbow that did not look good.
Moves (Like Orbit)
August 29 - RHP Brett Myers recalled from rehab assignment and released
August 30 - RHP Cody Anderson placed on temporarily inactive list
August 30 - LHP Francisco Jimenez received from High-A Carolina
August 31 - 2B Jose Ramirez promoted to Cleveland
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