As the Double-A Eastern League season winds down; the Akron Aeros are finding themselves in a familiar position atop the league standings. The Aeros have won the South Division of the league five of the last six seasons, and are all but a lock to do so again. They have won the league championship in two of those five seasons (2003 and 2005). The success sustained at this level of play can certainly attribute itself to the influx of young talent to the Indians’ organization over the years.
Several of Cleveland’s top prospects have found themselves in Akron for an extended stay this season, most notably, catcher Carlos Santana. The 23-year old Santana has been a mainstay in Akron this season, due in part to the depth the Indians have at the catcher position. This does make one wonder why the Indians insisted on obtaining a catcher in the Philadelphia trade earlier this season.
Santana is currently hitting .288 in 400 at-bats, while driving in 90 runs and hitting 21 homers. Santana leads the team in all three categories. Santana is 2nd in the Eastern League in long balls, and 2nd in RBIs as well. Santana also leads the Aeros in slugging percentage (.525); on-base percentage (.410), total bases (210), walks (84), and doubles (28). Santana, without a doubt, is the primary reason the Aeros are cruising through the South Division with a 10 ½ game lead over Reading.
Also at 23 years of age, corner infielder Beau Mills is slowly making his way up the Indians’ system. Despite leading the team with 88 strikeouts, Mills has scratched out 124 hits, 10th in the league, and most out of anyone on Akron’s roster. He is 7th in the league with 76 RBIs, but must improve on the .264 average if he wants to make a move to triple-A Columbus. Improving on 29 walks should be a start.
One of the odder first-round draft picks in recent seasons for Cleveland was that of infielder Lonnie Chisenhall. Chisenhall has moved up the system as anticipated by the Indians’ front office, but in just 18 games with Akron he has only mustered a .182 batting average. However, with the Kinston Indians of class-A, Chisenhall belted 18 home runs and drove in 79 runs, by far team bests.
Currently on the DL, Nick Weglarz has pieced together one of Akron’s most interesting stat lines thus far. While hitting only .227 in 339 at bats, Weglarz has made sure the base hits are counting. Sixteen of Weglarz’s 77 hits have gone out of the yard, while 19 more have gone for extra bases (17 doubles, 2 triples). Weglarz is also 3rd on the team in RBIs (67) and strikeouts (78).
Obtained in the Ryan Garko trade to San Francisco, Scott Barnes (1-2) has disappointed somewhat with 7.20 ERA in four starts with Akron. Barnes was dominating lower level competition within the Giants organization before being shipped to the Indians system. However, in just 20 innings pitched, Barnes has allowed 23 hits, 16 earned runs, and an eye-popping six home runs. Hopefully, this is not a sign of what is to come from Barnes.
Jeanmar Gomez, a 21 year-old righty from Venezuela, checks in as the team’s ace for now. Gomez has cruised to a 10-4 record with a 3.09 ERA, thanks to 101 strikeouts and only 35 walks. Josh Tomlin’s 116 to 26 ratio does rank higher, as do his 13 wins, but Gomez has managed to keep the ball down in the zone and in the yard, something Tomlin has struggled with in allowing 20 home runs. Gomez has also allowed opponents only a .237 average against, and has tossed the team’s only complete game shutout.
The Eastern League playoffs should serve as a great opportunity for these Aeros to showcase their skills to the men in suits in Cleveland. With all of the changes the organization has made recently, seeing any of the aforementioned players in Cleveland next season would not surprise.