Catching up with the Aces: Nick Ahmed

Nick Ahmed has always been known for his slick defensive abilities. Ahmed’s glove was steady as always in 2014, making the difficult look routine. It was his bat that may have surprised people around the game.

In 104 games with Triple-A Reno, Ahmed hit .312 with 26 doubles, 4 triples and 4 home runs. Primarily hitting lead-off, Ahmed added 37 walks and 14 stolen bases to his stat-line. The shortstop became the 10th player in Aces franchise history to collect 5 hits in a single game when he accomplished the feat June 24th against Colorado Springs. It was just 5 days later when Ahmed got the call to the big leagues for the first time.

Although the stay was short (25 games), Ahmed held his own with the Diamondbacks before returning to Reno to finish the Triple-A season. He cracked his first big league home run July 31st against Pittsburgh.

Ahmed’s faith and natural teaching ability have kept him busy during the offseason. We catch up with him in this edition of “Catching up with the Aces.”

Aces: How’s the offseason going, what are you doing to stay busy?

Nick Ahmed: My offseason has been great. Working out and training hard 6 days a week to prepare for the upcoming season. Also, spending a lot of quality time with my family. My wife and I have been connected and invested with a new church back home called LifePoint church.

Aces: I noticed you have been running some camps back in your hometown. How has that process been going? Have you always liked the instruction part of the game?

NA: My brother Mike (who is in the minor leagues with the Dodgers) and I ran a defensive camp in December. We had about 40 kids and the camp went really well. We’re going to try to make it an annual camp. Yes I love the instruction side of the game. I enjoy passing on the information and skills that I have been taught over the years to the next generation of players.

Aces: You took a big step forward this year, especially with the bat. With an advanced glove, has hitting been a focal point for you lately?

NA: Improvement in every part of my game is always a focal point. Baseball has so many different skills and sides to the game. I take great pride in being good in all areas of the game and work extremely hard and smart to improve all areas of the game.

Nick Ahmed accepts his MiLB Gold Glove award with manager Phil Nevin

Nick Ahmed accepts his MiLB Gold Glove award with manager Phil Nevin

Aces: Speaking of your glove, you were named the top defensive shortstop in all of Minor League Baseball and presented the award during this past season. What do you remember from that day and what does it mean to win an award like that?

NA: That award is very special to me. I was very humbled to receive that award as there are so many amazing shortstops in minor league baseball. I remember the day very well, it was special to share the award and day with my teammates and coaches.

Aces: Was there a player you looked up to when you were growing up? Your manager, Phil Nevin, said you are the best defensive shortstop he has seen since Omar Vizquel. When you hear something like that, what goes through your head?

NA: Nomar Garciaparra of the Boston Red Sox. My brothers and I loved watching him. He was a dynamic shortstop on both sides of the ball. That’s a great compliment from a guy who has been around a lot of great players. I hope that with continued improvement each day I will be able to win several Gold Gloves in the Big Leagues like Vizquel did.

Aces: You made your Major League debut on June 29 and collected your first big league hit during the game. What were the emotions like for you?

NA: The emotions that day were crazy. I was anxious, excited, relaxed, and nervous all at the same time. Once the game started and the juices got flowing I was able to relax a lot more. I felt like I was able to compete and play the way I wanted to. It was great to get my first hit in my first game. It would have been nice to win that game and not ground into a double play my first at bat even though it was a quality at bat.

Aces: One-word answers here.

Favorite offseason place to be:
NA: Home (East Longmeadow, MA)

Aces: The 2014 Reno Aces team was:
NA: A tight knit group

Aces: Phil Nevin is:
NA: Competitive

Aces: I wouldn’t be who I am today without:
NA: My family

Aces: In 2015 I will be:
NA: Dominant

Catching up with the Aces: Andrew Chafin

The dream of every young baseball player is to one day play in the big leagues. Very few do, and a select few make their Major League Baseball debut in their hometown. Left-hander Andrew Chafin can say he did both.

Stringing together successful stints in Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno, Chafin was called up by the Diamondbacks in early August and made his debut at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on August 13th. RENO

Chafin went to High School in Collins, Ohio, about an hour drive to Cleveland. He later went on to pitch at Kent State University.

Chafin started that day in Cleveland and fired five shutout innings in the D-backs 1-0 win. He was sent back to Reno and threw a complete-game shutout against Las Vegas in the first round of the PCL Playoffs, then threw six shutout innings against Omaha in the PCL Championship Series.

We pulled Chafin away from hunting and fishing in this edition of “Catching up with the Aces.”

Aces: How’s the offseason going, what are you doing to stay busy?

Andrew Chafin: My offseason has been pretty good. I spend a lot of time working on my boat and jeep. As always I’ve spent a lot of time hunting and fishing.

Aces: You’re big into hunting, fishing…pretty much anything outdoors. How did you get started with all that stuff?

AC: My grandpa was the one that got me into hunting and my dad was the one that always took me fishing. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved the outdoors. If I’m outside I’m happy, simple as that.

Aces: You’re from Ohio and went to Kent State University. Considering their recent National Championship in football, is there any allegiance to Ohio State with you or your family?

AC: I grew up a fan of Ohio State, but going to Kent State I became a Golden Flash and that’s where my allegiance lies. However if we don’t win a championship I’m happy that it’s another Ohio team.

Aces: On to the baseball stuff. You took a big step forward this year, moving from Double-A, to Triple-A and eventually your Major League debut. How would you assess your season overall?

AC: I was happy with how the season turned out. I learned a lot and have developed more as a pitcher. Getting a taste of the big leagues at the end of the season was a great way to go into the offseason. I’m excited to come into this season knowing what I know now and look forward to competing this spring for a starting position.

Aces: You got to make your Major League debut in Cleveland, not far from where you grew up. What was the process like from being called up, to taking the ball in a Major League stadium for the first time?

AC: It was every kids dream. I get asked this a lot and to this day I can’t put it in words. The process itself was simple, but the mind blowing reality of it was a whole different animal. It’s a dream come true and that’s about all I can say about it.

Aces: After that start you came back to Reno and played a big role in the playoff push, then threw the complete-game shutout in game two against Las Vegas. You threw six more scoreless frames against Omaha in the PCL Championship Series. What did it mean for you to go out there and dominate those two games?

AC: Looking back on it, all I know is I went out there and gave it my all to try and help the team win. I was happy to be able to go out there and play a positive roll in the championship push.

Aces: Ok, one-word answers here.

In 2014 I was:
AC: 24

Aces: In 2015 I will be:
AC: 25

Aces: Best hitter you have ever faced:
AC: Cole Tilton

Aces: My favorite place to be in Reno is:
AC: Fishing

Aces: I wouldn’t be who I am today without:
AC: My Dad

Aces: If I wasn’t a professional baseball player I would be:
AC: A Mechanic

Aces Offseason Shuffle – Edition 4

The minor league transactions have slowed over recent weeks for the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, it’s not all quiet. The D-backs inked three players to 1-year minor league contracts with invites to Major League Spring Training in recent weeks. And the big splash – signing Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez who is likely to start in the minor leagues, but will also get an invite to Major League Spring Training.

At 6’4″, 190 pounds and 21 years old, Lopez signed for a record-setting $8.27 million bonus with Arizona this week. It’s the largest bonus under the new international guidelines. To read more about Lopez and watch video of his fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 90’s, check out this article from Jesse Sanchez at MLB.com.

In the article, D-backs GM Dave Stewart hints that Lopez will start the season with Double-A Mobile. A lot will depend on what he does in Spring Training, along with Archie Bradley, Aaron Blair and Braden Shipley. It sounds like there’s a very real possibility the four will all be in one rotation when the season begins.

As for the three players signed to minor league contracts, they were all assigned to Reno. Let’s take a look:

Dan Runzler - A left-handed pitcher, Runzler makes his money out of the bullpen. He spent 2014 with Fresno, the then Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. In 46 1/3 innings, the southpaw struck out 53 and turned in a 3.30 ERA. In 89 games big league games with the Giants, Runzler has a 4-2 mark with a 3.86 ERA.

Danny Worth - A right-handed hitting infielder, Worth comes from the Detroit Tigers organization where he played for Phil Nevin at Triple-A Toledo from 2011-13. A California native, Worth has 135 games of Major League experience.

Ben Francisco - At 33 years old, Francisco is a seven-year Major League veteran. He has played for Cleveland, Philadelphia, Toronto, Houston, Tampa Bay and New York (AL). Francisco was out of affiliated ball in 2014 and played for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League.

Catching up with the Aces: Bradin Hagens

Bradin Hagens took giant leaps in the 2014 season. Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the sixth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Merced College (CA), Hagens went 9-7 with a 3.86 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. He started the year in Double-A Mobile, made one start for the Aces, then found himself in Miami making his Major League Baseball debut. The right-hander from California pitched twice for the Diamondbacks before returning to Reno to help during the playoff run.

On August 25, during a stretch in which Reno was both red-hot yet also needed every win they could get, Hagens went out and delivered a masterpiece against the Omaha Storm Chasers. He threw the first complete game of his career in a 5-1 win for the Aces. He scattered five hits, did not walk a batter, and struck out a pair on 109 pitches.

He delivered another gem in the Pacific Coast League Championship Series. After Omaha won game one in Reno, Hagens tossed six innings of one-run baseball to lead the Aces to a series-tying 4-2 win. Hagens

Here’s Hagens on his 2014 season and what he’s doing in the offseason:

Aces: You came into your own this year making two big leaps. First to Triple-A for the first time, then later in the year to the big leagues. What was the year like for you?

Bradin Hagens: This year was an amazing experience. I had such a great time with the opportunities I had. I was beyond blessed to make a big league debut and then throw the first complete game of my professional career in Reno!

Aces: Speaking of the big league debut, it came on August 14 in Miami. What do you remember about that day? The emotions, being with a Major League Baseball team, everything that comes with it?

BH: The emotions were through the roof, literally, considering it was in a dome stadium. That was also a first for me. I was feeling blessed, excited, nervous, and amazed all at the same time!

Aces: You started the year in Mobile which had a very talented roster and pitching staff, then came to Reno right in the thick of a playoff race. What was the transition to the clubhouse in Reno like?

BH: The transition was really easy, the guys in Reno weren’t hard to get along with, and it made a smooth transition because I had previously played with a lot of the guys.

Aces: It looks like there will be opportunities with the big league club out of spring training. What’s the mindset going into it this year?

BH: I’m trying to be very optimistic in that if I come in to camp ready, anything can happen! So whatever happens I will just go from there and keep working.

Aces: You pitched five games in the Puerto Rican Winter League about a month back. What was the experience like?

BH: Playing in Puerto Rico was pretty incredible! The environment is relaxed but everyone still wants to win. The guys were extremely nice and fun to be around. The talent level was good and you couldn’t get by without trying to improve and grow as a player.

Aces: One-word answers here, Bradin.

Favorite offseason place to be:
BH: Home

Aces: Funniest guy on the 2014 Aces:
BH: Bobby Wilson

Aces: Mike Parrott is:
BH: Knowledgeable

Aces: Best place to eat in Reno:
BH: Duffy’s

Aces: In 2015 I will be:
BH: Optimistic

Aces Offseason Shuffle – Edition 3

The Baseball Winter Meetings signals a mid-point for the offseason. It’s hard to imagine pitchers and catchers reporting in under two months, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

The Baseball Winter Meetings is also a time for the top executives in the game to gather and restructure their organizations through free-agent signings and trades. The Arizona Diamondbacks have been quite busy lately, and the 2015 Reno Aces team continues to take shape.

The biggest news out of Arizona is the signing of Cuban OF/3B Yasmany Tomas. The D-backs signed the 24-year-old Tomas to a six-year deal. The Havana native put up big numbers in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and projects as a middle-of-the-order type of player with big power. There’s a realistic chance Tomas begins the year in Reno. Depending on what he does during Spring Training, the D-backs may want Tomas to get his feet wet in the minors rather than shoving him into big-league play right away.

The other big moves came via trades. Arizona shipped away veterans Wade Miley (Boston) and Miguel Montero (Chicago-NL) in separate trades. Boston sent right-handers Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa to Arizona in exchange for Miley. Both figure to be in the D-backs opening day rotation. Arizona also acquired Raymel Flores in the trade, a 20-year-old infielder who spent 2014 with short-season Lowell.

Right-handers Zack Godley and Jeferson Mejia are now members of the Arizona organization, coming from Chicago for Montero. Both pitchers are a year or two away from being in Reno.

In a separate trade with Boston, the D-backs shipped Zeke Spruill to the Red Sox for right-hander Myles Smith. Smith was a fourth round pick out of Lee University (Tennessee) in 2013. He spent last season between short-season Lowell and Single-A Greenville.

Arizona lost one player and gained one player in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Outfielder Brett Jackson was selected by the San Francisco Giants. Jackson will probably start the season with Sacramento. The D-backs selected right-hander Tim Crabbe from the Reds organization. A Tucson native, Crabbe was a 14th round pick by the Reds in 2009. He spent the 2014 season with Triple-A Louisville, compiling a 5-7 record with a 4.13 ERA.

The following players have signed 1-year minor league free agent deals with invitations to Major League spring training: Catcher Blake Lalli, right-hander Blake Beavan and right-hander J.C. Ramirez.

Lalli will make a return to Reno after spending 2014 with the Aces. Lalli helped form a successful tandem behind the dish with Bobby Wilson. He hit .275 with 3 home runs and 29 RBI in 93 games. More importantly, Lalli was rock-solid behind the plate, handling a pitching staff that was in constant flux and shutting down the run game. He threw out 28 of 69 runners, a 40.6 percent clip – a mark good for third in the Pacific Coast League.

Beavan was the 17th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Just 25 years old, Beavan has logged 293 MLB innings over the last four seasons. He is 16-20 with a 4.61 ERA in 54 games, including 44 starts. Beavan was drafted by the Rangers but has spent the majority of his career with the Mariners. A change of scenery could really benefit the right-hander.

Ramirez is a 26-year-old reliever with Major League experience with the Phillies in 2013. He was with Triple-A Columbus last year, posting a 1-3 record with a 3.45 ERA.

Aces Offseason Shuffle – Edition 2

The roster for the 2015 Reno Aces is starting to take shape with the signing of several players over the past two weeks. But first, let’s start with guys who played for the Aces this past year who have been involved in recent transactions. Names such as Nick Evans, Mike Bolsinger, Charles Brewer, Andy Marte, Roger Kieschnick, Joe Paterson and Xavier Paul. Outside of Paul, each of these guys had a major impact in Reno in 2014. Let’s take a look at where they’ll be playing in 2015.

Nick Evans – Evans signed a 1-year minor league free agent contract with an invite to ML spring training (Assigned to Reno). The utility man is back with the Diamondbacks organization after a successful 2014 in which he was a middle-of-the-lineup threat for Phil Nevin. Evans hit .354 with 11 home runs, 18 doubles and 47 RBI in 51 games with Reno before Arizona promoted him on May 28. Evans had two stints with Arizona before they released him on July 28 so he could sign with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. Evans was a great story last year, playing in Major League Baseball for the first time since 2011, and doing it for his hometown D-backs. There’s a great chance you’ll see him all over the diamond at Aces Ballpark come April.

Mike Bolsinger – With the 40-man roster deadline this past week, Arizona had to DFA a number of guys to make room for other top prospects needing protection from the Rule 5 draft. Enter Bolsinger who was designated for assignment and then traded to the Dodgers over the weekend for cash considerations. You’ll remember it was Bolsinger who threw the pitch near the head of Albuquerque’s Erisbel Arruebarrena on July 26, sparking a huge brawl that drew national attention. The day before, the Dodgers prospect homered off Kameron Loe and took a leisurely stroll around the bases. There’s a good chance the two become teammates at some point in 2015.

Charles Brewer – Brewer fell into the same category as Bolsinger. He was designated for assignment and days later was traded to the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations. Brewer was huge down the stretch for the Aces, living up the to “Big-game Brewer” moniker he earned while with Double-A Mobile. The right-hander is the Aces franchise leader in innings pitched (399 2/3), wins (24), losses (29) and strikeouts (307).

Andy Marte – Marte elected free agency in October and just recently signed with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization. Marte turned a successful season with Reno into a midseason call-up to Arizona. In his first game with Arizona on July 31, he hit a go-ahead homer late in the game to help the D-backs to a 7-4 win over Pittsburgh. It was his first home run in the big leagues since 2010 with Cleveland. In 126 games with the Aces, Marte hit .329 with 19 home runs, 32 doubles and 80 RBI.

Roger Kieschnick – On October 7, Kieschnick was selected off waivers by the Angels from the Diamondbacks. He was recently assigned to Salt Lake so there’s a possibility Kieschnick will be back in Reno, just not with the Aces. The outfielder was back-and-forth between Reno and Arizona in 2014. In 95 games with the Aces, Kieschnick hit .260 with 15 home runs and 25 doubles and 49 RBI.

Joe Paterson – Paterson was granted free agency in early November and just signed a minor-league contract with an invite to ML spring training with the Royals. The lefty specialist is the Aces all-time leader in games pitched with 152. Paterson was 0-2 with a 2.95 ERA in 56 games, spanning 42 2/3 innings in 2014. The Aces visit Omaha, and maybe Paterson, in late May.

Xavier Paul – Paul has seen his fair share of organizations over the past three months. He was released by Baltimore August 3, signed by Arizona August 7, released by Arizona August 29, and recently signed a minor-league contract with an invite to Major League spring training with Philadelphia. Paul played one game with Reno before the D-backs called him up in early August.

So with several minor league free agents departing from the Diamondbacks organization, where will the reinforcements for Reno come from? Several players have been signed and assigned to Reno in recent weeks. Included is Jamie Romak, Nick Buss, Julio DePaula and Justin Marks.

Jamie Romak – Arizona signed Romak to a 1-year minor league free agent contract with an invite to ML spring training (Assigned to Reno). Romak has been with a number of teams, most recently the Dodgers in 2014. Drafted by the Braves back in 2003, Romak made his Major League debut on May 28, 2014 with L.A. He played in 108 games with Albuquerque, hitting .280 with 24 home runs, 30 doubles and 85 RBI last year. Look for Romak to get time at both corner infield spots, and possibly left field in Reno.

Nick Buss – Like Romak, Arizona signed Buss to a 1-year minor league free agent contract with an invite to ML spring training (Assigned to Reno). Buss started the year in the Dodgers organization before being claimed off waivers by Oakland in early May. He played 110 games with Sacramento and hit .307 with 79 runs scored, 45 RBI, 23 extra base hits and 14 stolen bases. Look for Buss to patrol the outfield at Aces Ballpark in 2015.

Julio DePaula – A right-handed pitcher, DePaula was signed to a 1-year minor league free agent contract (Assigned to Reno). DePaula spent 2014 with the Bowie Baysox, the Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, posting a 1-5 record with a 4.97 ERA. DePaula pitched in the big leagues back in 2007 with Minnesota when he was 24 years old.

Justin Marks – The D-backs signed Marks to a 1-year minor league free agent contract with an invite to ML spring training (Assigned to Reno). The 26-year old lefty spent time with Omaha, Sacramento and Round Rock in 2014. He compiled a 3-3 record with a 5.03 ERA in 22 games. He also made his Major League debut with the Royals on April 20.

The Diamondbacks purchased the contracts of five different players at the 40-man, Rule 5 draft deadline this past week. Kevin Munson, Brandon Drury, Socrates Brito, A.J. Schugel and Will Locante were all added and protected.

Munson certainly pitched well enough in Reno this past season to warrant a September call-up, although it never came. He’ll bid for a job in the D-backs bullpen during spring training. Drury and Schugel are both good bets to see time in Reno in 2015. Locante and Brito are probably a year or two away from the Triple-A level.

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

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