It’s not usually defense that earns a player an All-Star nod, but Aeros first baseman Jesus Aguilar sure wouldn’t mind if that were the case.
At 6-foot-3, 250-pounds, Aguilar doesn’t have the best range around the bag, but the Aeros’ Eastern League All-Star takes as much pride in his defense as he does in his offense that has produced a league-leading 58 RBI.
“I think a lot of people think [first base] is really easy, but that’s not true,” Aguilar said. “You have to be ready every pitch and when you have a man on first base, you have to move every time and pay attention to him.
“I really try to do everything the right way. Some games you’re not hitting, but you can affect the game with a big play on defense. So many guys just focus on hitting, that’s not good.”
Despite the pride Aguilar maintains in his defense, his offense is what gets Aguilar noticed. In his first season at Double-A, Aguilar is batting .264 with 17 doubles and eight home runs through 71 games.
“Aguilar is a really good hitter,” Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “A lot of the line drives he hits go over the fence and he goes the other way very well. Eventually, he will start hitting those balls over the fence, too, when they’re not pitching him inside so much. He understands that he has to become a hitter first and then the power will show, because there’s no question that the power is there. It’s just a matter of him learning how to use it.”
Aguilar will be joined by right fielder Carlos Moncrief, left-handed starting pitcher Matt Packer and right-handed closer Jose Flores on the West Division All-Stars.
A converted pitcher, it’s no surprise Moncrief’s arm is a big weapon in the outfield.
Like Aguilar, Moncrief’s increasing competency at the plate is a bigger reason why he will participate in the July 10th midseason classic at New Britain Stadium.
“He started being able to handle those middle-away pitches and drive those pitches, so now his plate coverage is much better,” Rodriguez said.
As far as Rodriguez is concerned, Packer is the epitome of what minor-league baseball is all about — development.
After a rough start to the season, Packer has a 5-5 record with a 2.64 ERA in 15 games (13 starts). In 85⅓ innings, the left-hander has 61 strikeouts and 25 walks.
“The first three or four weeks of the season, he was struggling,” Rodriguez said. “His first week with velocity, the second week with his command, the third with his secondary pitches, you name it, he was struggling with everything. But his last six or seven starts, he’s been great. He’s been throwing his secondary pitches for strikes, he’s been commanding the fastball, his change-up is working and he can throw that change-up in any count.”
Flores (5-2, 2.70 ERA) is tied for the league lead with 32 appearances and 29 games finished. But it is his eight saves in nine opportunities that have made him so valuable to the Aeros.
Flores didn’t blow his first save until June 12 at New Hampshire in a 9-8 loss. He allowed two runs in a five-run ninth inning.
“Other than that game, Jose’s been very consistent,” Rodriguez said. “His velocity has been better lately, maybe one or two more miles. His slider has been better, harder and with a late break with command.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Aeros blog at http://www.ohio.com/aeros. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/sports.abj.