The Arizona Diamondbacks optioned infielder Kevin Cron and right-handed pitcher Taylor Clarke to Triple-A Reno on Tuesday.
Cron and Clarke joined shortstop-second baseman Domingo Leyba and right-handed pitcher Joel Payamps as the four players optioned back to the Reno Aces. The moves left the Dbacks with 47 active players in major league camp. The team must get to a 25-man roster by the start of the regular season.
“These four players will be an amazing addition to the Reno roster in 2019,” said Aces General Manager Emily Jaenson in a news release. “Kevin and Taylor have both showed they can dominate the Triple-A level while Joel and Domingo have ascended quickly through the minor leagues. We are excited to go all in with them.”
Cron, 25, hit .292 with two homers and five RBIs in 24 at-bats in his first-ever Major League camp debut. He will join his father, Chris Cron, the new manager of the Reno Aces in the Biggest Little City. Cron’s minor league options haven’t been used and he remains on the Dbacks’ 40-man roster. The slugging third and first baseman can be called up to Arizona throughout the regular season.
Cron’s absence on the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Opening Day roster potentially clears a path for first baseman Christian Walker on the 25-man squad. Walker, 27, has a homer and 11 RBIs with an impressive .943 OPS this spring. He and former Dbacks’ third baseman Jake Lamb will look to make up the first base position, with Walker being used as a right-handed bat with plenty of pop.
Clarke, 25, will return to the Aces after leading the team with 125 strikeouts and 13 wins in 2018. He gave up three earned runs in 7.1 innings pitched with the Dbacks’ in spring training. Like Cron, Clarke’s minor league options haven’t been used and he remains on Arizona’s 40-man roster. The flame-throwing righty is rated as the Dbacks’ No. 11 prospect according to Baseball America.
Rangy infielders Ildemaro Vargas and Juniel Querecuto and outfielder Socrates Brito are still in the Dbacks’ spring training. Each player excelled with the Aces in 2018.
Vargas hit his first home run of the spring on March 19 to left-center field and still holds a .433 batting average with 13 hits in 30 at-bats. Vargas, 27, can slot in as versatile infielder behind shortstop Nick Ahmed and second baseman Wilmer Flores on the big-league roster.
Brito, 26, has just five hits and one RBI in 32 at-bats with Arizona, but his speed on the base paths and left-handed bat can be used in left, center and right field. The Dominican Republic native already has four runs scored this spring. Brito can take advantage of the 334-foot short porch in Chase Field.
Querecuto, 26, still remains on the Dbacks’ spring training squad. Nicknamed “JQ” during his tenure with the Aces last season, the shifty second baseman-shortstop has five hits and one stolen base in 16 at-bats. He played shortstop for Venezuela last month in the Caribbean World Series. Querecuto is not on Arizona’s 40-man roster and will likely be sent to Triple-A Reno. He and Vargas were teammates playing baseball in Venezuela in 2015.
The Reno Aces’ roster is also beginning to take shape. Leyba, 23, will be a newcomer with the team this season. He has remained on the Dbacks’ 40-man roster for three-straight seasons.
The middle infielder missed a large part of the 2017 season with shoulder surgery and was sent to Double-A Jackson in the process. Leyba hit .269 with five homers, 39 RBIs, 43 runs and 35 walks in 83 games with the Generals last season.
Payamps went 9-4 with a 2.90 ERA in 90 innings with Double-A Jackson last season. He struggled with the Aces as a late call-up, going 0-4 with a 7.18 ERA in six games.
The Aces open their 2019 season on Thursday, April 4, at 7:05 p.m. against the Fresno Grizzlies at Chukchansi Park and return for Opening Night on Tuesday, April 9 at Greater Nevada Field.
— Isaiah Burrows
Notes: Brito’s bid for a roster spot became more difficult on Monday when free agent center fielder Adam Jones signed a one-year deal with Arizona. … Infielder Kristopher Negron, who spent most of 2018 with the Aces before being traded to Seattle, was outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday. … On Tuesday, the Dbacks sent right-handed pitchers Emilio Vargas and Bo Takahashi to Double-A Jackson. … The Houston Astros optioned its top outfield prospect Kyle Tucker to Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday. Tucker played 28 games with the big league team in 2018. Last season, the Astros Triple-A team was the Fresno Grizzlies. Fresno is now the affiliate of the Washington Nationals. … Collin Cowgill, whose .354 batting average in 2011 is second highest in Aces history, is battling for a roster spot with the Washington Nationals. The 32-year-old outfielder last played in the big leagues in 2016 with Cleveland.