Launching Off With The Aeros: 4/16/13 – 4/22/13
Youth and inexperience continue to plague Akron
The Akron Aeros nearly got over .500 in a week for the first time, but fell short after they dropped four of seven. The Aeros held leads deep into the game but stumbled to close out games, something manager Edwin Rodriguez remarked upon Sunday afternoon.
"When the players get to Double-A," Rodriguez said. "They have the talent to be here, but they have to develop the mental toughness and the ability to concentrate in those situations. The tougher it gets, the more they have to keep themselves in control."
Akron is currently 6-12 and at the bottom of the Eastern League, a risk Rodriguez and the organization took willingly when so many young players were assigned to the Double-A level.
"When we talked about it in Spring Training," Rodriguez said. "We knew that we were taking a chance for that to happen. So hopefully a month from now, maybe before then, we can have a more consistent game from the younger players."
The Aeros will try to turn things around with two more home games against the Trenton Thunder Tuesday and Wednesday before heading out to Binghamton and Altoona on a seven game road trip.
T.J. House, LHP
1.54 ERA, 0.37 FIP, 0.77 WHIP, 8 H, 2 ER, 18:1 SO:BB, 0 HR in 11.2 IP
One of the most impressive starts to the season belongs to House, who currently owns a 27:3 SO:BB in 22.1 innings despite not being a strikeout pitcher. The control is a big part of his game, but the addition of the strikeouts, if sustained, could add a new level to his ceiling.
So, with the small sample size caveat in full force, we look for any changes in approach from House's game.
"We're working on my curveball a lot," House said. "Especially getting it over for first pitch strikes, kind of getting them off my fastball, my slider, my changeup since all those pitches are down. Get them seeing things up a little bit, changing their eye level."
You never want to overreact to a few starts, but if House's curveball is consistent enough to take him to the next level, then this is a taste of what could come.
Danny Salazar, RHP
0.00 ERA, 0.20 FIP, 0.60 WHIP, 2 H, 0 R, 9:1 SO:BB, 0 HR in 5.0 IP
Speaking of really good starting pitching on the Aeros, Salazar and House have been pushing each other so far in the season.
"It's always good when you have other guys on this team that want to excel for greatness," House said of competing with Salazar. "When you're with them, you want to push them, and by doing that, you go out there and you try to outperform them. It's in good spirit and it's a fun thing to compare outings to outings and see who can get there first. It's all fun and games."
Salazar credits some of his success to using his slider more -- especially against righties -- because he recognizes that he needs to develop that pitch to succeed going forward.
"When I use my secondary pitches," Salazar said. "I feel better because my fastball is really flat and easy to hit, so I have to go to the corners. But then they're on the fastball, because I know I can throw hard sometimes, but I have to use my changeup and slider too."
These two starters have dominated so far in the season, giving some hope that they will help fill the holes in the rotation sometime in 2014. House and Salazar are on the right track and are two players to watch closely in 2013.
Tyler Holt, CF
.357/.486/.536 line, .464 wOBA, 10-for-28, 7 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 6:6 SO:BB, 1 SB, 1 CS in 36 PA
Two weeks into the season, Holt was ice-cold. Not to make too much of any small sample, but seeing Holt not get on base at all was a huge concern for someone who is supposed to be a tablesetter.
One week does not fix everything, but it can go a long way to fixing things. Plus, Holt has made some adjustments to get his swing back on track.
"He's been working with [Jim] Rickon, the hitting coach." Rodriguez said. "He's been staying back longer on the pitch, which makes him see the pitch better, recognize the pitch better. So he's getting more pitches to hit."
If Holt keeps hitting well, then we will know this adjustment is working. Or not. Baseball is weird that way. Let's just leave it at Holt is hitting better and that is a good thing.
Austin Adams, RHP; Shawn Armstrong, RHP; Brett Brach, RHP; Cole Cook, RHP; Kyle Landis, RHP; Edward Paredes, LHP; Robert Whitenack, RHP
18.60 ERA, 7.40 FIP, 3.40 WHIP, 36 H, 34 R (31 ER), 17:15 SO:BB, 4 HR in 15.0 IP
Well, there just is not much a baseball team can do when the majority of the bullpen implodes. That statline is something that not even Ubaldo Jimenez can pull off.
Paredes and Whitenack have already been cut and demoted respectively, while Armstrong found himself on the disabled list after Friday's outing. It is still early for Cook (10.13 ERA in 10.2 innings), Landis (7.71 ERA in 9.1 innings), and Brach (6.48 ERA in 8.1 innings), but if they all keep pitching like this, they could find themselves on the way out.
On the bright side, Adams is getting his first work since shoulder surgery last year, so his struggles are to be anticipated. As a whole, however, the nicest term for the Aeros bullpen is a train wreck.
Quincy Latimore, LF
.080/.179/.120 line, .188 wOBA, 2-for-25, 4 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 4:2 SO:BB, 1 SB in 28 PA
Latimore's early season hot streak was bound to come to an end, but no one could foresee it ending so abruptly.
The left fielder did not have a hit over the past week before Monday's game. He also got hit in the head during Sunday's game. Overall, this was a week I am sure Latimore wants to forget.
Most of Latimore's problems trace back to the fact that he still has not developed an ability to keep his SO:BB in check during his third season in the Eastern League (14:3 SO:BB in 66 plate appearances). Power is not a big enough part of Latimore's game to justify such an aggressive approach and when things go bad, this is what happens.
As the return for Jeanmar Gomez -- a serviceable depth starter but not much more -- it should not be surprising that Latimore has some issues. He's a decent Double-A player, but is still a ways away from moving up the ladder.
Ronny Rodriguez, SS
.241/.258/.276 line, .297 wOBA, 7-for-29, 5 R, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 4:1 SO:BB, 1 SB, 1 CS in 31 PA
Considering how slowly Rodriguez started last season, it is far from time to worry about him in 2013. Adjusting to a new level takes time, especially one as pitching-friendly as the Eastern League.
Still, there are things that are really concerning about the first few weeks of Rodriguez's season.
To start, Rodriguez currently has 15 strikeouts and only one walk. 17 games, one walk. No player is good enough to make that work over a full season, and it is really showing in Rodriguez's season line (.239/.246/.328 in 71 plate appearances).
The emergence of some power at Carolina last year made the poor strikeout and walk figures easier to take, but that power has not shown up just yet (.090 ISO). I have faith that Rodriguez will adjust and improve as the season goes on, but that does not make his struggles early this season disappear.
(Dishonorable Mentions: Delvi Cid, Jose Ramirez)
(Previous Losers: Paolo Espino (4/16), Tyler Holt (4/9), T.J. House (4/16), Fabio Martinez (4/16), Carlos Moncrief (4/9), Toru Murata (4/16), Matt Packer (4/9, 4/16), Edward Paredes (4/16), Jose Ramirez (4/16), Ronny Rodriguez (4/9), Danny Salazar (4/16), Giovanny Urshela (4/9))
See full weekly and yearly Aeros stats here.
Well, I spent all last year asking for designated hitter/first baseman Chun-Hsiu Chen to show a little more consistent power, so this is better late than never. Chen has launched three home runs in his first 15 games, not necessarily overwhelming power, but more than enough after Chen only hit five home runs in 2012.
Edwin Rodriguez may not have been with the organization for all that long, but he is happy with what he is seeing out of Chen so far.
"He's been showing that for years," Rodriguez said. "He's a very good hitter. He's staying more inside the ball, he's driving the ball [to the] opposite field better."
Time will tell if Chen can keep this pace up, but at least for now, there is more hope that Chen can make some noise in Columbus -- and even Cleveland -- than there was before the season.
When a player has all the tools that right fielder Carlos Moncrief owns, walks are pretty far from the front of anyone's mind. Despite that, Moncrief's 10 walks (and only six strikeouts) are what has impressed me most about the right fielder in 2013.
Moncrief struck out 126 times in 101 games last year while only drawing 46 walks, making this season's turnaround all the more impressive. The power has not appeared yet -- his overall line currently sits at .259/.362/.328 -- but that should come with time.
The major question mark on Moncrief heading into 2013 was the plate discipline. Just 18 games into the season, Moncrief is doing plenty to answer that question.
On the flip side of the walks-strikeouts debate, third baseman Giovanny Urshela did not walk once this past week. What he did do, however, was crank up the power. Urshela hit five extra base hits (four doubles and a home run), flashing the power he needs to take his defense-first profile to the major leagues.
Despite the errors he has committed in the early going, Urshela's defense is still considered top-notch. The issues come in when you get to the third baseman's bat, as his career batting line was .263/.296/.380 coming into 2013. Things were much better in Carolina last year (.278/.309/.446), but there is still plenty of work to do.
Showing that the power is real is one of the battles for Urshela, along with getting on base consistently. It'll take what I can get, though, and Urshela's early season power is a good sign for his season.
Odds & Ends
It may seem strange to use first baseman Jesus Aguilar's 22 RBI so far this year as a bad thing, but I am about to. It looks like Aguilar has been elevating his game when there is a chance to bring runners in, but I wonder why not do that all the time? There is nothing wrong with Aguilar's season to date, but if he had that approach all the time, could he be even better? These are the questions rolling around in my head.
Unlike the rest of their bullpen mates, right-handers Jose Flores, Trey Haley, Bryan Price, and Bryce Stowell combined for a 0.75 ERA and 13:7 SO:BB in 12.0 innings. It was not enough to erase the damage of the others, but those four did their job this past week.
Left-handed starter Matt Packer was lucky over the past week, allowing seven runs in 9.2 innings but having all of them unearned. He also had an uncharacteristic 5:6 SO:BB and generally has not looked right this season.
The catching carousel seems to have settled in Akron, with new addition Chris Wallace posting a .400/.478/.450 line in 23 plate appearances. Wallace is not more than organizational depth, but he is depth that is helping to stabilize the catching situation.
The Aeros had a busy week involving the disabled list, but luckily it was most players being activated. Relievers Trey Haley and Austin Adams made their season debuts this past week, while fellow reliever Bryan Price made his Akron debut.
Shawn Armstrong did make his way to the disabled list, however, after suffering a right hand contusion. There is no current timetable for when he will be pitching with the Aeros again.
Moves (Like Orbit)
April 17 - RHP Fabio Martinez assigned to Mahoning Valley Scrappers
April 17 - RHP Robert Whitenack added to active roster
April 19 - RHP Robert Whitenack assigned to Mahoning Valley Scrappers
April 19 - LHP Edward Paredes released
April 19 - RHP Trey Haley activated from 7-day DL
April 19 - RHP Austin Adams activated from 7-day DL
April 21 - RHP Shawn Armstrong placed on 7-day DL
April 21 - RHP Bryan Price assigned from Columbus Clippers 7-day DL
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Aeros as a whole: Rat Fiesta
Aeros bullpen; Clown Show