D-backs and Aces well represented in AFL title game

The Arizona Fall League comes to an end tomorrow afternoon when the Salt River Rafters take on the Peoria Javelinas in the championship game.

If you’re not familiar with the AFL, there’s six teams packed with top prospects from around baseball. Each MLB organization sends six players to represent their club.

All Diamondbacks prospects are part of the Salt River Rafters, winners of the East Division with a 17-11 record. 2014 Aces Archie Bradley, Kaleb Fleck and Evan Marzilli are on the squad, along with possible future Aces Enrique Burgos, Jimmie Sherfy, Peter O’Brien and Brandon Drury.

Archie Bradley is the big-name prospect on the list. The 2011 first-round pick started 2014 with Reno but landed on the disabled list with an elbow injury after five starts. He finished the year in Double-A Mobile and went 2-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 12 starts. Although Arizona probably wished for better results this year from their #1 prospect, I’m sure they’re hoping he lands a spot in the rotation out of spring training in 2015.

Kaleb Fleck pitched with Reno in the postseason after a successful season with Mobile. With the BayBears, Fleck was 7-3 with a 2.56 ERA and 17 saves in 56 games out of the bullpen. He has pitched in eight games for the Rafters and carries a 3.12 ERA and a pair of saves into the championship game. It’s a safe bet for Fleck to start the season in Reno’s bullpen.

Evan Marzilli was another addition to the Aces late in the postseason. He split his 2014 season between Advanced-A Visalia and Mobile. By all accounts, Marzilli has impressed in the AFL. In 25 games he’s hitting .303 with 15 runs scored, 9 RBI and 7 SB. The speedy outfielder is known for his glove, and we’ll probably see him patrolling the spacious Reno outfield in 2015.

Enrique Burgos is an interesting talent who seems to be a late-blooming reliever. He’ll be 24 in a few days and is listed at 6’4”, 250 pounds. He spent the season with Visalia and was a midseason and postseason California League All-Star. He has been impressive in the AFL as well, posting a 1-1 record with a 3.65 ERA in 10 appearances out of the ‘pen. There’s also a chance we’ll see Burgos in the Reno bullpen at some point in 2015.

Another big arm in the bullpen is Jimmie Sherfy. The right-hander from the University of Oregon has climbed through the organizational ranks quickly. He split 2014 between Visalia and Mobile, compiling a 5-1 record with a 4.59 ERA in 48 games. In 49 innings, Sherfy racked up 68 strikeouts with a big fastball and wipeout slider. He’s been even better in the AFL, posting a 1-0 record with a 0.93 ERA in nine games. If he doesn’t start 2015 in Reno, he’ll be there eventually.

Peter O’Brien is a big-time power hitting catcher who was traded to the Diamondbacks as the key piece for Martin Prado heading to New York at the trade deadline. O’Brien was a second round pick by the Yankees in 2012 out of the University of Miami. He clubbed 34 home runs in 2014 and was a Futures Game selection. All reports say O’Brien is working hard to stay at catcher, but a position change may be inevitable. He could put up some huge numbers playing in the hitter-friendly PCL in 2015.

Another hitter likely slated for Reno in 2015 is Brandon Drury. The right-handed hitting third baseman has hit at every level, including Visalia and Mobile in 2014. He combined to hit .299 with 23 home runs, 42 doubles and 95 RBI in 136 games. Originally drafted by the Braves, Drury was part of the seven-player Justin Upton trade. A top-ten prospect in the Arizona organization, Drury will be with the Aces at some point in 2015.

Aces Offseason Shuffle – Edition 1

The crazy world of Major League Baseball free agency is starting to heat up. As the headlines roll and the $100+ million-dollar contracts are handed out, each organization is also working behind the scenes to build depth in their minor league system. Free agency, 40-man moves, re-signing players, releasing players, etc.

D-backs Director of Player Development, Mike Bell, and Assistant of Player Development, TJ Lasita, have been busy since the MiLB season concluded in mid-September. Unofficially, 22 players who donned a Reno jersey in 2014 have been involved in some kind of transaction since the season ended. Two other players who weren’t in the Arizona organization last year look like they might be part of the 2015 Aces. Let’s take a look.

Danny Dorn – Signed a 1-year minor league free agent contract with an invite to ML spring training (Assigned to Reno). Dorn was a key cog in Phil Nevin’s lineup for the majority of the season. Dorn opened the season on the DL with a broken arm and had another midseason stint on the DL with a shoulder injury. In 73 games, he hit .304 with 12 HR and 47 RBI. The left-handed hitter added 13 2B and 6 3B as well. It’s a good bet to see Dorn back with Reno come Opening Day 2015.

Bobby Wilson & Joe Paterson – Both Wilson and Paterson were removed from the 40-man roster and elected free agency. Wilson split catching duties with Blake Lalli (see below) and hit .267 with 3 HR and 38 RBI. Wilson led the PCL in throwing out would-be basestealers at a 54% clip. Paterson was a key member of the bullpen all year long. He was T-1st on the team with 56 appearances. The southpaw was 0-2 with a 2.95 ERA in 42 2/3 innings. Both guys got late season call-ups by Arizona.

Bo Schultz – Schultz was selected off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays. He led the Aces with 10 wins, getting the majority of his action in the rotation. The last five appearances with Reno came out of the bullpen for Schultz, which is where he’ll most likely find a home with his mid-90’s fastball. He also spent time with Arizona during the season.

Will Harris – Like Schultz, Harris was selected off waivers by another MLB organization. He was claimed by the Houston Astros on November 3. Harris was dominant for the Aces, posting a 3-2 record with a 0.99 ERA in 43 games. Harris was back-and-forth between Reno and Arizona for much of the season, and finished strong for the D-backs down the stretch. He did not allow a run over his final 16 appearances out of the bullpen.

Brett Jackson & Jordan Pacheco – Jackson and Pacheco were recently removed from the 40-man roster. Both spent time with the Aces and Diamondbacks in 2014. Jackson came to the D-backs organization via trade with the Cubs during the season, and Pacheco was claimed off waivers from Colorado in June.

Andy Marte, Mike Jacobs, Blake Lalli, Ronny Cedeno, Kameron Loe, Mark Serrano, Jess Todd, Clayton Richard, Dallas Tarleton, Argenis Diaz, Eric Brooks, Aaron Cunningham & Dustin Martin – All of the players listed here were granted free agency in recent weeks. It remains to be seen what the future holds for all, but there’s a possibility a few from this list return to the Arizona organization. For guys like Marte, Jacobs, Lalli & Todd, it may depend on if they get an invite to spring training.

Walter Ibarra & Matt Pagnozzi – Both have been signed by the Diamondbacks to 1-year minor league free agent contracts with invitations to ML spring training (Assigned to Reno). Ibarra is a 27-year old switch-hitting infielder who spent the majority of 2014 with Triple-A Albuquerque. He hit .269 with 5 HR and 32 RBI in 97 games with the Isotopes. Pagnozzi is a 32-year old catcher who has big-league time with St. Louis, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Houston and Milwaukee. He hit .215 with 11 HR and 29 RBI in 71 games with Triple-A Nashville in 2014.

A look at the records set by the 2014 Reno Aces

The 2014 Reno Aces tied a franchise record with 81 wins, matching the output of the 2012 Aces team that went on to win the Pacific Coast League Championship and Triple-A National Championship.

For the most part, offense was the name of the game for the Aces this year. They flirted with several records set by the 2011 and 2012 Aces teams. Reno finished among PCL leaders in: hits (1st – 1,480), average (2nd – .293), doubles (2nd – 296), triples (2nd – 51), OBP (2nd – .359), runs (2nd -790), total bases (3rd – 2,259), OPS (3rd – .806) and walks (T-5th – 510).

Several Aces put up big numbers at the plate, so let’s take a look at where they stack up among franchise single-season leaders and all-time ranks.

First a look at a few milestones that were hit this year. Both Nick Evans and Aaron Cunningham hit the 1,000 career hits threshold. Evans reached 1,000 hits with a fourth inning double in a 6-4 win against El Paso on April 13. Cunningham’s 1,000th hit was a fourth inning single on June 15th in Memphis. Veteran catcher Bobby Wilson, mostly known for his work behind the dish, collected career RBI number 500 with an eighth inning single in Nashville on June 12.

Several other milestones were hit this year, including Danny Dorn’s 500th career RBI, Bo Schultz’s 25th career win, Ender Inciarte’s 100th career double, and so on.

Looking at the all-time records for the Aces, several players from this year’s team climbed the ranks to the top, or near the top.

Charles Brewer is now the franchise leader in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. Brewer earned his 24th career Aces win with a dominant eight-inning, 10-strikeout effort over Omaha on August 27th. Zach Kroenke was the previous record-holder with 23 wins with Reno. Brewer’s 399 2/3 innings leads the way, and his 307 strikeouts is also tops. The closest in strikeouts is Kroenke with 201, then Mike Bolsinger with 185 (more on him in a minute).

Charles Brewer is the Aces franchise leader in wins, innings and strikeouts.

Charles Brewer is the Aces franchise leader in wins, innings and strikeouts.

Here’s a look at what Brewer had to say back in July about the records.

Kudos to fellow pitcher Joe Paterson who has pitched the most games in Aces history. He set the mark on July 10th against Las Vegas with his 132nd appearance. In all, Paterson has pitched in 152 games with Reno, spanning three years.

A guy to keep an eye on is Bolsinger. The right-hander has had a lot of success in Reno in just 35 career games. Bolsinger has 15 wins and 185 strikeouts in those 35 games. With a solid year in 2015, Bolsinger would threaten Brewer’s wins and strikeouts marks, despite being well short in innings pitched.

Mike Jacobs, who has become a Reno fan favorite, closed in on a number of records held by Cole Gillespie – the franchise’s leader in games played with 374. One record Jacobs did break was runs batted in. In a must-win game for the Aces on August 31 in Sacramento, Jacobs hit a solo home run to give Reno a 1-0 lead in the second inning. That run was RBI number 222 with the Aces, breaking Gillespie’s record.

Jacobs is second all-time in several offensive categories including: At-bats (1,163), runs (191), hits (343), doubles (69), home runs (55) and total bases (577). Jacobs has compiled those numbers in 318 games with the Aces.

A number of Aces moved into single-season top-10 lists, here they are:

Batting Average – Andy Marte, 5th – .329 & Nick Ahmed, 7th – .312
Hits – Andy Marte, 3rd – 155 & Mike Jacobs, 4th – 150
RBI – Mike Jacobs, 1st – 97 & Andy Marte, 6th – 80
Home Runs – Andy Marte, T-4th – 19 & Mike Jacobs, T-4th – 19
Triples – Mike Freeman, 9th – 7
Doubles – Mike Jacobs, 4th – 37 & Andy Marte, 8th – 32
Games Pitched – Joe Paterson, T-1st – 56, Kevin Munson, T-1st – 56, Jess Todd, 5th – 53
Innings Pitched – Bo Schultz, 7th – 135.1
ERA (minimum 115 IP) – Charles Brewer, 4th – 4.99
Wins – Bo Schultz, 5th – 10
Saves – Jake Barrett, 2nd – 16 & Matt Stites, 5th – 12

The 2014 Reno Aces came up one game short of another Pacific Coast League Championship, but the team led by manager Phil Nevin certainly left its mark in franchise history.

Pacific Conference Championship Series: Reno vs. Las Vegas

The two teams with the best record (81-63) in the Pacific Coast League will meet in the first round of the PCL Playoffs. Their paths to this point were quite different as Las Vegas clinched their postseason spot about two weeks ago. Reno, on the other hand, took it down to the final day of the regular season in Sacramento. Nine innings wasn’t enough as the two teams went to extra innings. It was in the top of the tenth when Nick Ahmed delivered Mike Freeman to give the Aces a 2-1 lead, and eventual win.

The Aces turned in an improbable run at the end of the regular season, winning 11 of 13 games and 4 of 5 in Sacramento, one of the best home teams in the league. A high-powered offense along with solid pitching down the stretch led the Aces to their third Pacific Northern Division title in the last four years. While MLB-rehabbers Chris Owings and A.J. Pollock will no longer be in the lineup on a daily basis, Reno’s offense shouldn’t skip a beat. They were second in the PCL in hitting, finishing mere percentage points behind Salt Lake with a .293 average.

They’ll have a tall task as the 51s feature six pitchers ranked among Baseball America’s top 30 prospects in the New York Mets organization. That includes starters Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Cory Mazzoni. Two position players on the 51s roster also made the list in outfielder Cesar Puello and catcher Kevin Plawecki.

Las Vegas has a tough offense to deal with as well, led by Andrew Brown and Allan Dykstra. Brown hit .283 with 21 home runs, 26 doubles and 69 RBI in 103 games with the 51s. Dykstra hit .280 with 16 home runs, 23 doubles and 74 RBI in 117 games. The 51s prodigious offense finished first in runs, home runs, total bases and walks.

Series Probables
Game 1 in Las Vegas: LHP Clayton Richard (1-0, 4.26) vs. RHP Rafael Montero (6-4, 3.60)
Game 2 in Las Vegas: LHP Andrew Chafin (5-6, 5.34) vs. RHP Matthew Bowman (3-2, 3.47)
Game 3 in Reno: RHP Bradin Hagens (1-1, 2.55) vs. RHP Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 4.60)
Game 4 in Reno: RHP Charles Brewer (8-10, 4.99) vs. TBA – If necessary
Game 5 in Reno: TBA vs. TBA – If necessary

Storylines for series against Omaha, Aug. 24-27

By: Mike Stamm

The Omaha Storm Chasers come to Reno for the first time this season, opening the final regular season series at Aces Ballpark. Omaha is currently leading the PCL American North by two games. The last meeting between the two teams occurred in May of the 2013, and the two teams split the series. Here are a few things to look for when Omaha comes to town:

  1. Omaha is coming off a series split in Tacoma and leads the American Northern Division by two games over Oklahoma City.
  1. Carlos Peguero is currently second in the Pacific Coast League with 28 home runs, and Francisco Pena is tied for third with 26.
  1. The Aces are currently two games behind the Pacific Northern Division leaders, the Sacramento River Cats. With nine games left of the 2014 regular season the Aces are looking to make a late push for the playoffs.

Storylines for series against Iowa, Aug. 20-23

By: Edgar Montoya

The Iowa Cubs are in town for four games starting tonight at Aces Ballpark for their only matchup against Reno this season. The last meeting between the two teams occurred in Reno during the early months of the 2013 regular season where the two clubs split that four-game series. Here are a few things to look for when Iowa comes to town:

  1. 3B Kris Bryant is the No. 2 Prospect for the Chicago Cubs according to Baseball America and you can find his name across the minor league leaderboards. He is tied for first in all of the minor leagues in Home Runs with 40 and leads the minors with 103 RBIs. In 57 games with Triple-A Iowa he has 18 Home Runs and 45 RBIs this season.
  2. Iowa player/coach Manny Ramirez has 2,574 hits and 555 Home Runs in the major leagues, with time spent with the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays. Ramirez is a career .312 big league hitter, but is only hitting .206 in 21 games with Iowa.
  3. Reno is currently 3.0 games back in the PCL Pacific Northern Division behind the Sacramento River Cats. With only 13 games left in the in the 2014 regular season, this home stand is going to be pivotal for Reno to make a push for the lead in the division.

Storylines for series against Sacramento, Aug. 7-11

By: Edgar Montoya

The Sacramento River Cats are in Reno for the second time this season to open a five-game series at Aces Ballpark tonight. The two clubs have played each other six times, including the first meeting on the 4th of July Weekend and Sacramento has a 4-2 record against Reno. Sacramento’s lead in the PCL Northern Division has shrunk to two games since the last time the River Cats were in Reno.  Here’s a few things to look for when Sacramento comes to town:

  1. Reno is currently 2.0 games behind Sacramento in the division. The two clubs play 10 games against each other in the last month of the season and it starts with this five-game stretch in Reno. This is a vital series for Reno if they want to take the lead in the division.
  1. OF Shane Peterson is still across the PCL batting leaderboards. Peterson leads the league in at-bats (456) and now leads the league in Runs (83), Hits (143), and Doubles (32) as well.
  1. Sacramento’s lead in the PCL Northern Division is due in large part to its ability to get men on base. The River Cats are among the league leaders in OBP (3rd, .361) behind Las Vegas and Reno. They also rank second in the PCL in RBIs with 589, trailing only Las Vegas.

Storylines for series against Albuquerque, July 25-28

By: Edgar Montoya

The Albuquerque Isotopes come to Aces Ballpark this weekend for a four-game series in Reno marking the fourth and final meeting in 2014 between The Aces and Isotopes. These two clubs split the first series against each other and Reno won both series in Albuquerque. Here are a few things to look for when Albuquerque comes to town:

  1. OF Joc Pederson is the No. 1 prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers according to Baseball America and has been knocking on the door to the big leagues all year. Pederson has been a terror for opposing pitchers this season, and he leads the league in OPS posting a 1.039. He is also among the league leaders in Runs (2nd, 69), Home Runs (2nd, 21), and batting average (8th, .323).
  2. RHP Zach Lee is the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect according to Baseball America. Lee has struggled this season with a 6-8 record and a 4.98 ERA. Lee is currently 0-1 against Reno this season.
  3. Albuquerque is currently second in the PCL in Home Runs with 123, but the Isotopes are also among the league leaders in Strikeouts (3rd, 882) this season.

Storylines for series against Tacoma, July 17-20

By: Edgar Montoya

The Tacoma Rainiers come to Reno tonight for the second time this season, opening up a four-game series at Aces Ballpark. This meeting marks the last time these two clubs will meet in the 2014 regular season, with Reno currently leading the season series, 7-5. The Aces won a series in Tacoma and have split two series against The Rainiers. Here are a few things to look for when Tacoma comes to town:

 

  1. RHP Taijuan Walker, who will start game two tomorrow, is the Seattle Mariners’ No. 1 Prospect according to Baseball America. Walker has spent some time in the big leagues and has a 3-1 record with a 3.79 ERA pitching for Tacoma this season.

 

  1. 2B Ty Kelly is among the league-leaders in on-base percentage (5th, .403) and walks (3rd, 62), all while still managing to hit .275.

 

  1. Tacoma is currently 22-25 on the road, but has won six out of their last 10 games. On the other side, Reno has lost six out of their last 10.

Storylines for series against Las Vegas 51s, July 7-10

By: Edgar Montoya

The Reno Aces and the Las Vegas 51’s open a four-game series at Aces Ballpark tonight, marking the last time the two clubs will meet in the 2014 regular season. Reno won their most recent series against the 51’s in Las Vegas and the 51’s won a series in Reno early in the season. The two clubs have also split a series. Here are a few things to look for as the four-game series opens up:

 

1.    Las Vegas leads the Pacific Coast League in Runs (583), Home Runs (117), and RBIs (537) while hitting with a .284 average as a team.

 

2.    RHP Noah Syndergaard is the New York Mets’ No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America. Syndergaard has started 16 games for the 51’s and has compiled a 7-4 record with a 5.31 ERA.

 

3.    Las Vegas currently has the best record in the PCL at 53-38 and leads the Pacific Coast League Pacific Southern Division with a 9.0 game lead over the El Paso Chihuahuas.

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