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Diamondbacks Minor League Season in review: Reno Aces

How did our farm system fare at the highest level?

"And how do you spell that?"
"And how do you spell that?"
Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Reno weren't able to repeat last year's success, when they were tied for the best record in the Pacific Coast League, and fell short of a .500 record, finishing 14.5 games back of the division winners, Fresno. Still, there was a steady stream of players going up and down from Reno to the major-league club, for both short and long-term purposes. Of the 49 players used by the Aces this season, 21 appeared in one or more games for the Diamondbacks as well, although the degree of success which they saw at the major-league level was, shall we say, somewhat varied.

  • Team record: 70-74 (3rd of four)
  • Runs scored: 758 (5.26 per game)
  • Runs allowed: 778 (5.40 per game)
  • Age: 27.8 (league average: 26.7)
  • BA: .286 (.272)
  • OBP: .347 (.338)
  • SLG: .453 (.412)
  • OPS: .801 (.750)
  • SB/CS: 43/29 (103/41)

At first, this looks pretty good, but never forget: it's Reno, which sits at an altitude of about 4,500 feet. The team even installed a $15,000 humidor for the 2014 season to try and mitigate the effects of the environment, but seems it has only been partially successful, as the OPS here is actually higher than the one posted in the last pre-humidor season (.770 in 2013). Still, even allowing for this, the offense seemed fine, albeit (as we'll see) powered by some silly numbers from AAAA batters. Walk-rate was a tick lower (8.2% vs. 8.4%) and K's too (18.5% vs. 18.6%), but the team were very content to sit back and wait for the three-run bomb, with a PCL-low 43 stolen bases for the entire year.

Leaders (min 200 PA for rate stats)
  • Runs: Jamie Romak (87)
  • Hits: Nick Evans (161)
  • 2B: Romak (42)
  • 3B: Peter O'Brien (9)
  • HR: Romak (27)
  • RBI: O'Brien (107)
  • BB: Romak (60)
  • K: Romak (143)
  • BA: Danny Dorn (.386)
  • OBP: Dorn (.444)
  • SLG: Dorn (.618)
  • OPS: Dorn (1.062)
  • SB: Mike Freeman + Nick Buss (10)

And this is what I mean by AAAA players. Danny Dorn, Nick Evans and Danny Worth all batted at least .310 in over 300 plate-appearances for Reno, led by Dorn's insane .386, at the time the Blue Jays picked him off waivers in late August. No other minor-league player at any level, for any team, hit that over the full course of the season. Peter O'Brien led the team in RBI and, perhaps surprisingly, triples, but seems a man without a position for Arizona (or, at least, not the position he wants). So let's honor instead Jamie Romak, who took 11 years to reach the majors, and got a second cup of coffee with the D-backs this season, batting .284 with 27 HR and a .912 OPS.

  • Age: 26.0 (26.8)
  • ERA: 5.17 (4.37)
  • WHIP: 1.587 (1.420)
  • K/9: 7.2 (7.3)
  • BB/9: 3.9 (3.3)
  • K/BB: 1.85 (2.22)

Everything said about hitting applies, just in reverse, to pitching - the Aces' arms' likely weren't quite as bad as these numbers indicate, the extreme environment inflating figures. But it's not just Reno either, as of the 17 "formal" minor leagues (excluding foreign and indie ball) only the Pioneer League had a higher overall ERA than the PCL. On that basis, reluctant to read anything meaningful into this, beyond what we already knew, i.e. that the PCL in general, and Reno in particular, is a tough place for pitcher to develop. We saw a few this season bypass it almost entirely, and suspect that's something we'll continue to see in 2016.

Pitching leaders (min 50 IP for rate stats)
  • Wins: Caleb Clay (8)
  • Losses: Justin Marks (9)
  • ERA: Aaron Blair (3.16)
  • Saves: Jake Barrett (11)
  • K: Marks (84)
  • BB: Marks (50)
  • WHIP: Vidal Nuno (1.164)
  • K/9: Kaleb Fleck (11.4)
  • BB/9: Nuno (1.4)
  • K/BB: Nuno (5.13)

Reno has the capability to chew up and spit out pitchers. That's what it did to A.J. Schugel (10.18 ERA in nine starts) and Allen Webster (8.18 in 15 starts) - hell, even those with previous good MLB numbers can struggle, like Evan Marshall and his 6.40 ERA. Non-sucky pitchers included J.C. Ramirez (2.88 ERA), Jhoulys Chacin (3.22), but the winner here is Aaron Blair, for his 3.16 ERA in 77 innings for Reno after his promotion. Since the Aces became our affiliate in 2009, they have only had one other pitcher throw even 60 innings with an ERA that low; Trevor Bauer in 2012. Good thing KT isn't around here any more, or he'd probably trade Blair for a middle-infielder. /deadhorse.png