20 November 2017

Jayson Aquino - Former Rockie, Blue Jay, Pirate, Indian, Cardinal, Oriole (?)

Joe Reisel's Archives

In every season Jayson Aquino has spent with a full-season team, he's been charged with ten or more losses. Photo courtesy of Steven Goldburg / Norfolk Tides

In a recent Depot article, Jon dismissed most of the 2017 Norfolk Tides starting pitchers as "a decent collection of AAA workhorses, but not exactly a [group from which]you feel comfortable bringing more than one player up." Having watched 52 Tides games at Norfolk's Harbor Park in 2017, I more or less agree with that statement, although I think it a little harsh. Gabriel Ynoa rebounded from a truly dreadful first half with an impressive second half, and I would like to see what he could do as a fifth starter. Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright have each pitched around 140 major-league innings. While that's probably not enough to prove that they can't be major-league pitchers (see 2009-2011 Chris Tillman), they've pitched poorly enough that they will only get another chance out of desperation (see 2012 Chris Tillman.) Most of the other pitchers the Tides trotted out to start games are, indeed, AAA roster filler.

With one exception. At age 20, Jayson Aquino was a top-ten prospect in the Colorado Rockies' system, upon which he went a combined 0-10 for Tri-Cities (short-season Class A) and Asheville (Class A.) Since then, he's been a fringy prospect, occasionally appearing toward the bottom of top-30 prospect lists and bouncing from team to team, ending up with the Orioles before the 2016 season. He spent most of 2016 at Bowie before getting a late-season promotion to Norfolk; overall, he pitched well enough to be in the 2017 Norfolk rotation.

In the aggregate, Aquino didn't pitch well. Neither his basic stats (3-10 record, 4.24 ERA, 41/89 BB/K ratio in 115 innings) nor more analytical measures (as detailed by Jon in his article) are impressive. However, in the 8 games I saw Aquino pitch I saw enough to suggest that he might be a usable major-league pitcher - not a star, not necessarily even a key member of a staff, but someone who could give a team 20 starts of acceptable performance. It's important to realize that we're not looking for perfection out of Aquino's starts, but merely reasonably good performance.

April 14 vs Charlotte - 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO

There's nothing negative about this performance at all. In the third inning, Aquino gave up two singles with one out but got Yoan Moncada to ground into a double play. The Knights scored their run in the fourth when Logan Schafer committed an error on an inning-ending fly ball that allowed Ryan Raburn to score from first. (The Tides' official scorer is more inclined than I to call borderline plays hits, rather than errors.) Aquino gave up a leadoff double in the fifth inning but stranded the runner at second base.

May 5 vs. Durham - 7 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO

This game is the first suggestion that there's more to Aquino than is apparent from the year-end summay line. In the second inning, Aquino gave up four runs to the Bulls on a walk, three singles, a sacrifice fly, and a double. .But he retired all nine batters he faced in the third, fourth, and fifth. In the sixth, he did give up a run on a walk, a swinging-bunt groundout, and a single. But in the seventh, he walked the first batter before picking him off and getting two groundouts. It's impressive that he righted himself after a bad inning and ended up with a line that isn't terrible. (That second inning raised his season ERA from 3.96 to 4.24.)

May 18 vs. Charlotte - 5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 1 SO

Not a good performance. He gave up a walk and home run to the first two batters and put at least one man on base in almost every inning after that. But only one other run resulted from all those runners, as Aquino (and reliever Paul Fry, who finished the sixth inning) stranded eight Knights. If one is looking for a silver lining, the fact that the Knights had twelve baserunners (one reached on an error) in six innings and only scored three runs at least says that Aquino could work his way out of jams.

June 4 vs. Rochester - 6 2/3 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO

Aquino pitched six shutout innings before weakening in the seventh. In those first six innings, the Red Wings only had one mild threat, when a two-out double put runners on second and third in the fifth inning. In the seventh, however, the first two batters singled - the second a soft fly ball to right field that fell in, allowing the runner on first to go to third - and the third batter hit a sacrifice fly. One out later, a triple scored the runner from first and knocked Aquino out of the game.

June 18 vs. Louisville - 8 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO

Aquino didn't pitch quite as well as the line indicates. The Tides' official scorer is overly generous to pitchers when determining if runs are unearned, and the run Aquino allowed could easily have been an earned run. Also, a batter-runner was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. And the wind, at least at the start of the game, was blowing in from center field. Nevertheless, this was a good performance. 

July 25 vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre - 6 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO

Another game in which Aquino wasn't all that sharp, but with the help of his defense (2 double plays and a caught stealing) and his ability to avoid the big inning he was able to keep the opponents in check and his team in the game. The first two batters produced the first run on a double off the center-field wall and a single; the other two runs scored in the third when, with two outs, a walk was followed by a home run. Not a perfect performance, but not terrible either.

July 30 (Game 2) vs. Columbus - 5 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 3 SO

Aquino did not pitch well in this game. In the second inning, a batter-runner was thrown out trying for an inside-the-park home run. The Clippers scored all four runs in the third inning, on two doubles, two singles, a home run, and a walk; they could have scored more except for a fine play on a line drive by shortstop Luis Sardinas. Again, in the two innings Aquino pitched after that four-run third he avoided serious trouble and allowed no more runs.

August 31 vs. Gwinnett - 4 2/3 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO

The Tides' played a very sloppy last home game of 2017, and Aquino didn't pitch well - although he probably deserved better results than he got. After pitching two scoreless innings, he gave up a three-run home run in the third. He should have gotten out of the fourth inning 1-2-3, but with two outs third baseman Sardinas dropped a routine pop fly. Aquino struck out the next batter, but Francisco Pena was unable to block the third strike and the runner reached on a wild pitch. An infield single followed by a wild throw led to one run, and ultimately four runs scored in that inning. Another run scored in the fifth before Aquino was lifted.

From these eight games, there a two major reasons why I think Jayson Aquino would be capable of handling a low-level position in a starting rotation. First, none of these eight games were true "disaster starts" in which there is nothing positive to report. Indeed, of all his starts - including those I didn't see - in only two did he not pitch at least four innings (in one of which he was pulled early to save him for a promotion.) And second, he was always able to rebound and pitch well after he enduring a big inning.

Again, I am in no way suggesting that Jayson Aquino is going to be a star or even an important major-league pitcher. I'm not even saying the Orioles were wrong to let him explore minor-league free agency while awarding spots to Alec Asher, Stefan Crichton, Chris Lee, Yefry Ramirez, or Jimmy Yacabonis. I am saying that Jayson Aquino deserves a real shot at a major-league job, perhaps in what I would call the T.J. McFarland role; and, if I were a bad team trying to get through the season (such as the Tigers, White Sox, or Athletics), I would offer Aquino a real chance to be the #5 starter.

Actually, I must confess the real reason I like Jayson Aquino as the pitcher. In that April 14 start, Yoan Moncada - the White Sox second base prospect who was seemingly regarded as the greatest prospect since sliced bread - was in the lineup. Aquino's command and control of breaking stuff made Moncada look like an overmatched high schooler. I know that we're suppose to ignore such individual plate appearances when evaluating players, but I won't. Any pitcher who can make a Yoan Moncada look that bad has got something to offer.


Unknown said...

6 organizations says it all.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Rich Hill has been in 8 organizations.

Unknown said...

There have been players - especially pitchers - who spent years in the minor leagues before having moderate success. Darren O'Day is a reasonably good example, but perhaps the best example is Billy Taylor, the A's relief pitcher of the late 1990's.