Double Dose of Double-A: Akron Aeros Bi-Monthly Review 8/9/09

aerosAfter changing this feature from every week to every two weeks and now effectively to every two months, I have decided to return to action on my last day as an Aeros employee. It has been an incredible summer working alongside one of the most successful minor league baseball teams in the past decade, as Akron is well on pace to become the first team in the 86-year history of the Eastern League to ever win 80 games in five straight seasons. The Aeros are also looking for a fifth consecutive Southern Division pennant this post-season and welcomed the addition of #6 prospect 3B Lonnie Chisenhall yesterday afternoon. Without any further touting of the franchise, here is my look at some of the recent events behind the scenes with the Akron Aeros.

Last Two Weeks: 10-2 (.833); Ever since a loss Sunday, July 26th against the last-place Altoona Curve, the Aeros have won 10 of their 12 games. In these 12 games, including a four-game sweep against then second-place Erie at Canal Park, Akron has out-scored their opponents 87-42 and out-hit them by a mark of 133-101.

Current Record: 71-43 (.623); the Aeros now have an eight-game lead over second-place Reading in the Southern Division. After winning two of three games over Connecticut from the Northern Division earlier in the week, Akron also has a 5.5-game lead on the Defenders for the best record in the entire league. The top two teams in each division make the playoffs and also currently contending for a playoff spot in the South are the Erie SeaWolves (9.0 games back) and Bowie Baysox (10.5 games back).

Boot Up: Carlos & Carlos – As has been written about extensively, C Carlos Santana has been on a tear recently while SS Carlos Rivero has also been impressive offensively. Santana had his career-high 14-game hitting streak snapped Friday night despite recording a walk, an RBI and a run scored, and then responded with a 3-4 performance with a home run and three more RBI’s Saturday. For the season, the top-prospect in the organization is now batting .286 (a 2009-high) along with 20 home runs (second in the EL), 82 RBI (second in the league) and 71 walks (second in the league). Rivero, on the other hand, has been good defensively all season but is starting to come around with his bat. Just 21 years old and still rated as a top ten prospect, Rivero is now batting a solid .284 with seven doubles and 19 RBI in his past 41 games to raise his batting average from .196 on the season to .229.

Boot Up: The Bullpen – I have been talking about this for a long time now, but the Akron Aeros bullpen has really been the story recently. Although the ‘pen struggled late in Saturday’s 11-7 victory over New Britain, it simply marked the end of an insane 24-game strech of late inning success. During these 24 games the Aeros were 15-9 as relievers posted a 2.13 combined ERA with 86 strikeouts against only 37 walks in 80.1 innings pitched. RHP Neil Wagner has come out of a poor month of June (5.25 ERA) and has now not allowed a run since July 11th. With 24-save closer Vinnie Pestano on the disabled list for possibly the rest of the season, RHP Josh Judy has stepped up in collecting a 1.26 ERA in nine games since the beginning of July. RHP Steven Wright also continues his assault on Double-A opponents and has allowed runs just twice in his past 17 contests.

Boot Down: The Canadian Sensation LF Nick Weglarz has been struggling at the plate, there is no other calm way to put it. Entering play last night, the burly native of Stevensville, Ontario was hitting just .153 (15-98) with only six extra-base hits and nine RBI in his past 31 games played. This came after Weglarz began the year hitting just .063 (3-48) and then bolting to a Player of the Week award in lifting his batting average all the way to .261. Ever since that high watermark on June 28th however, Weglarz is struggling to find contact and in the first four games of this current home stand was batting just 0-12 with six strikeouts. Shockingly however, the 21-year-old managed to collect 28 walks during this 31-game stretch and still posted a solid .359 on-base percentage.

Boot Down: Connecticut and the North The Aeros have lost in the Eastern League Championship Series in each of the past three seasons since winning it all in 2005. The Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, the Trenton Thunder, have done the honor the past two seasons while this year it looks like Giants’ affiliate Connecticut is firmly in command of the Northern Division. The Defenders feature top San Francisco prospect LHP Madison Bumgarner and 1B Brett Pill and gave Akron fits earlier in the week. The Aeros did come away with the series victory thanks to back-to-back walk-off hits, but things are shaping up for a brutal mid-September re-match between the two teams. With Chisenhall now on board for the Aeros, they have five of the top-ten prospects in the organization in their lineup everyday, and it will be a lot of fun in the coming weeks to see how that shapes out in regards to Akron’s position with Connecticut and the Northern Division.