While the Aces were largely an older ball club, they weren’t devoid of talent. Nick Ahmed, Andrew Chafin and the newly-acquired Zach Borenstein joined a group of veterans to lead Reno to the PCL Championship Series where they eventually lost to Omaha in five games. It was a fantastic season for Reno, one in which they scored a ton of runs and limited the damage enough to make a deep postseason run, finishing one game shy of the PCL title.
Reno Aces at a Glance
Pacific Coast League (AAA) Ranks (out of 16 total teams)
- Record: 81-63 (2nd)
- Runs: 790 (2nd)
- OPS: .806 (3rd)
- HR: 127 (13th)
- SB: 71 (16th)
- K: 996 (3rd)
- BB: 510 (5th)
- Runs Allowed: 687 (6th)
- ERA: 4.36 (6th)
- WHIP: 1.47 (7th)
- K: 1071 (11th)
- BB: 537 (14th)
The Aces were an offensive-minded club, finishing second in runs scored and 3rd in OPS. They didn’t do it with the home run, however, as they finished near the bottom of the pack in the power department. Considering the run environment and the offense added to teams in the PCL due to park factors, the Aces did a nice job of making it work without power and speed. The pitching department ranked more in the middle of the pack and didn’t necessarily stand out. The PCL is brutal on pitchers, but everyone plays in the same league and the Aces were without many marquee names. They lost several contributors at one point or another to the major leagues as the Diamondbacks suffered a rash of injuries that hampered the Aces statistically.
Nick Ahmed, SS: the book on Ahmed has always been that he’s a terrific defender who will never do much at the plate as the bat doesn’t project to ever truly become a weapon. Then he went out and hit AAA pitching all year long to the tune of .312/.373/.425, good enough for a 110 wRC+, ten percent better than league average. It’s critical to account for the park factors of the PCL when looking at AAA performances and wRC+ factors that in. In short, Ahmed showed some offensive ability in AAA after scuffling in AA last season. He, of course, followed that up with a terrible offensive showing in a 25-game major league trial. At worst, he’s a defensive wizard who doesn’t hit hardly at all, but I think there’s some glimmer of hope that he can be something other than a black hole at the plate. He’s in the mix for a utility infield job on the major league roster in 2015, or he could head back to Reno, or he could be traded. Nick Ahmed is a name to watch closely this winter.
Andrew Chafin, LHP: I’ve been on the record for a while now suggesting that the Diamondbacks shift Andrew Chafin, who was once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, to the bullpen. He was alright at AA Mobile, then got crushed in the PCL with the Aces over 92 innings (5.00 FIP, 11 HR allowed, 1.87 K:BB ratio). Somehow, he still managed to log three big league starts for the Diamondbacks and just as my prediction was looking pretty solid, Chafin was somewhat decent in a short 14-inning sample. Of course, he still didn’t strike many guys out, walked too many but wasn’t too hittable and kept the ball in the park. I’m still not sold on his potential in the rotation as the K’s have slipped further and further the higher he’s climbed the ladder and so has his ability to command the strike zone. I’d like to see his stuff play up in the ‘pen, but for now, he’ll probably head back to Reno where he’ll get one last shot to improve his stock as a starting pitcher.
Jake Barrett, RHP: after the disaster that was the 2013 Diamondbacks bullpen, many were clamoring for Barrett to make the Opening Day roster back in Spring Training. Instead, the future closer proved to be further off than most had hoped and was assigned back to AA, where he was mostly excellent (2.73 FIP). He maintained his strikeout rate from last year (8.20 K/9) and didn’t surrender a homer, but his command was not what it had been in the past (4.10 BB/9). A midseason promotion to AAA saw him pay for walking these batters as his strikeout rate fell with the Aces and he finally gave up a few home runs, resulting in a 5.11 FIP. Barrett just isn’t there yet. The command has to sharpen up and he needs to pick the strike outs back up if he’s going to be a big league closer. Lefties are killing him and his change up is going to need to improve if he’ll be able dispatch them regularly. It’ll be back to AAA for Barrett in 2015 with a shot at the majors if he can make some adjustments.
Zach Borenstein, OF: in case you don’t recall, Borenstein came to the Diamondbacks from the Angels in the Joe Thatcher trade this summer. It was probably a bit of an unsettling year for Zach as he logged 48 games with the AA Arkansas Travelers in the Angels’ system, then 30 games with the AAA Salt Lake City Bees before being traded. He then spent 23 games with AA Mobile for the Diamondbacks before finding himself closing out the year with 20 games at AAA Reno. Although he spent a lot of time packing his bags, he also performed relatively well at the plate, putting up above-average offensive numbers at every stop. His game is power as he hit 15 homers and 25 doubles across his entire 2014 campaign. There are contact concerns, as he can rack up the strike outs at times, and he’s relegated to an outfield corner with left field being the best fit due to a below-average throwing arm. He should play most of 2015 in Reno with a chance at the majors should someone get injured or he force his way in through solid performance.
Position Players: the Aces got major contributions from a trio of older players in Andy Marte (526PA, 135 wRC+), Mike Jacobs (575 PA, 120 wRC+) and Alfredo Marte (317 PA, 142 wRC+). These guys were aided by Ahmed, Nick Evans, Danny Dorn and Roger Kieschnick. For Reno, offensive production wasn’t an issue as all of the names above produced runs at an above-average clip despite the fact that only Ahmed is really considered a prospect at this point. The rest are org-fillers and several notched AB’s for the Diamondbacks, including both Martes, Evans and Kieschnick.
Pitchers: big league reliever-turned-minor league starter Bo Schultz led the Aces in innings pitched, but he struggled in the rotation. Fortunately, Charles Brewer and Mike Bolsinger were able to pick him up as both pitched to sub-4.00 FIP’s as full time starters for Reno, although the latter received a handful of starts for the Diamondbacks. The bullpen was buoyed by Kevin Munson, who was selected from the D-backs by the Phillies in the Rule 5 Draft, then returned only to put up solid numbers in AAA all year (3.27 FIP, 11.84 K/9, 3.18 BB/9). He supported closers Matt Stites and, later, Jake Barrett all year long. Otherwise, most of the bullpen performances were pedestrian at best.
Most Valuable Position Player: Andy Marte, 3B
As a 30-year old journeyman with parts of seven major league seasons under his belt, Marte did all he could for the Aces. When Prado was dealt, however, the Diamondbacks promoted from their young depth at third, passing Marte up for Jake Lamb. Nevertheless, Marte hit .329/.388/.531 over 526 at-bats, including 19 homers and 32 doubles. He also managed to take a bunch of walks without striking out very often. Earlier this month, Marte made himself a minor league free agent and should sign on with someone shortly after the conclusion of the World Series.
Most Valuable Pitcher: Kevin Munson, RHP
I’ve said it before, I’m adverse to awarding the MVP to relievers, but it’s impossible to neglect how good Munson was this season as Reno’s set-up man. In a league that’s completely brutal on pitchers, Munson managed to put up consistently solid results, striking out a ton and managing to keep his walk rate workable. At this rate, he’s ready for a big league trial, although he’s packed in a group of young bullpen candidates. He deserves a long, hard look this spring and if he can translate the results, he’s got a chance to break camp with the Diamondbacks. Of course, he could get sent back to AAA or find himself traded before the season begins, so keep an eye out on Munson.
Despite being thin on marquee prospects for most of the season, the Aces used a strong set of organizational players to accrue wins and make yet another deep postseason run. Guys like Ahmed and Munson proved themselves ready for major league experience while some others, like Chafin and Barrett, showed that they need a little more refining but that they’re not exactly far off. Reno should see plenty of fresh faces in 2015 as there are a number of guys who did well at High-A and Double-A who may see time in the PCL before the conclusion of next season.
A check-in on Diamondbacks prospects in the Arizona Fall League and the Inside the ‘Zona Top-30 Prospect List
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