Aces’ full house: Trades load Dbacks’ minor league system

Tahoe Onstage

The young faces in the Reno Aces and teams in Arizona’s system changed on Wednesday.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage photos

The Arizona Diamondbacks struck while the iron was hot.

The Reno Aces parent club held and played a lot of cards on Wednesday at the Major League trade deadline with three moves that bolstered a farm system loaded with future Triple-A Reno players. The Dbacks have four prospects in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100, but an organization can never have enough pitching. Eleven of their top 30 prospects toe the rubber.

“You want to see guys in the minor leagues reach their goal of being big leaguers,” Aces manager Chris Cron said. “When you have a trade deadline like the Diamondbacks had, it opens up more possibilities. We’re adding to that by getting some younger prospects that haven’t reached the MLB yet. It could be exciting as ever to help them fulfill their dream.”

John Ryan Murphy

Aces catcher John Ryan Murphy, an MLB veteran, was traded to the Atlanta Braves for cash considerations. The 28-year-old  hit .250 with nine homers and 26 RBIs in 36 games with the Aces. He went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs in Tuesday night’s win over Iowa in Reno.

He brought a big-league presence to the clubhouse.

“He’s a true pro,” Cron said. “He’s been in the big leagues over the past few years and came down here and treated everybody like a normal guy. There’s no (ego) in him and played like a big-leaguer.”

The Braves have three catchers on the 40-man roster. In Reno, Murphy formed a platoon with Corey Joseph and Alberto Rosario.

“I think the move is outstanding for him,” Cron said. “He gets an opportunity where the Braves organization really wanted him. … I think he’s getting another shot at the big leagues and that’s what it’s all about.”

During the final minutes of the deadline, Arizona traded starting pitcher Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros as the 2017 World Series winners gear up for another playoff push with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Greinke to headline a star-studded rotation.

Jon Duplantier might be Arizona’s top pitching prospect.

The Dbacks received four top prospects in return. Pitchers J.B Bukauskas and Corbin Martin joined first baseman/outfielder Seth Beer and utility player Joshua Rojas. Beer, Bukauskas and Martin ranked as the Astros’ Nos. 3, 4 and 5 prospects according to MLB Pipeline. Rojas was the No. 22 prospect on the list.

Beer, 22, was the 28th overall selection in the 2018 MLB Draft out of the University of Clemson. At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, he is equipped with lots of left-handed pop. He launched 56 homers in three years with the Clemson Tigers.

He slugged his way to Double-A Corpus Christi this season, batting .299 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs to go along with a .950 OPS.

While his power at the plate is evident, concerns about Beer’s defensive fit, lack of speed and plate discipline have raised some red flags surrounding his Major League future. Beer has struck out 58 times with just 24 walks with Corpus Christi.

Beer draws some comparisons to slugging first baseman Christian Walker. Walker’s power and potential at the plate is evident — he’s third on the Dbacks with 20 homers — but defensive limitations and swing-and-miss issues had him splitting time with Kevin Cron and Jake Lamb this season.

To showcase Walker’s defensive versatility, he had 18 starts in left field with the Aces in 2018. Beer has 23 starts in left field and 46 starts at first base with Corpus Christi.

Bukauskas, 22, was the 15th overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft out of the University of North Carolina. The right-hander is equipped with a four-pitch mix that includes an upper-90s fastball and a wipeout slider with late break on both sides of the plate.

He had a 2-4 record, 5.25 ERA and 1.58 WHIP with 98 strikeouts in 20 games with Double-A Corpus Christi. Bukasuskas has bounced back-and-forth between the starting rotation and mid-inning reliever role for the Hooks.

On July 24, Bukaskas tossed five scoreless innings in relief against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals . On July 29, he surrendered three earned runs — all solo home runs — in 4.2 innings against the Springfield Cardinals. Bukauskas’ impressive arsenal and improving command can help strengthen a young Dbacks’ pitching staff.

Martin, 23, was a second round selection by the Houston Astros in the 2017 out of Texas A&M. The right-hander made his MLB debut with the Astros on May 12. He pitched his way to a 1-1 record and 5.59 ERA in five starts with Houston this season.

Martin was optioned back to Triple-A Round Rock, but went down in mid-June with a lower elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He is not expected to return to the diamond until late 2020.

When healthy, Martin sports an advanced three-pitch mix of fastball, slider and changeup. His fastball sits between the low-to-mid 90s, but it’s reached 97 mph with late running action against right-handed batters.

Arizona is packed with young pitching prospects, and Martin can slot into the back-end of the starting rotation once he returns.

Rojas, 25, was a 26th round selection by the Astros in the 2017 MLB Draft out of the University of Hawaii. He was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock this season and has made an immediate impact, batting .310 with 12 homers, 39 RBIs and 16 doubles in 53 games.

The versatile utility player has bounced all over Dell Diamond Stadium. Rojas has 13 starts in left field, 11 at third base, 15 at second base and 15 more at shortstop with the Express. His skill set adds to a loaded Aces infield.

Arizona received plenty of young talent, but they traded away a former top prospect of their own as a result. Shortstop Jazz Chisholm was traded to the Miami Marlins for pitcher Zac Gallen.

Chisholm, 21, was the Dbacks’ No. 1 rated prospect — and MLB Pipeline’s No. 59 overall prospect — entering the 2019 campaign. But a disappointing season with Double-A Jackson knocked him down a few spots within the organization. He has lightning-quick hands at the plate to make contact to all sides of the field and makes highlight-reel defensive plays when he flashes the glove. But inconsistencies on both sides of the ball have raised some concerns.

The Dbacks received a safer option on the mound with plenty of upside in Gallen. The right-hander has a four-pitch mix that includes a mid-80s cutter that breaks on both sides of the plate. Gallen, 23, accumulated a 2.72 ERA in seven starts with the Marlins this season. He has the makeup to stick in the Dbacks’ starting rotation for the foreseeable future.

In one season, Arizona general manager Mike Hazen has traded franchise cornerstones in Paul Goldschmidt and Greinke. As a result, he’s received a haul of young talent to help rebuild the Dbacks back to contention.

Before these highly touted prospects make an appearance in the desert, they may make a quick stop with the Reno Aces at Greater Nevada Field.

— Isaiah Burrows

Iowa Cubs snap Reno Aces’ win streak

Reno lost 7-4 to the Iowa Cubs at Greater Nevada Field, but it was a night Aces right fielder Max Murphy won’t forget.

Murphy, 26, went 2-for-4 with a home run in his first Triple-A game. He was assigned to Reno from High-A Visalia Wednesday morning.

The loss snapped seven consecutive wins for the Aces, their longest streak of the season. 

Reno had nine hits. Domingo Leyba was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Juniel Querecuto was 1-for-4 an RBI. Ben DeLuzio was 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs. 

Aces starting pitcher Taylor Widener was tagged with his seventh loss on the season. Widener gave up five earned runs on six hits and a walk in 2.2 innings. Lucas Luetge and Bradin Hagens each tossed two scoreless innings. 

Iowa jumped out to a 5-2 lead after three innings. The Aces scored one run in the sixth. The Cubs answered with two in the seventh. Reno plated another run in the bottom of the frame for its final run. 

Notes: The Aces had five switch-hitters in the lineup Tuesday night against Iowa. Querecuto, Ildemaro Vargas, Leyba, Abraham Almonte and Blake Swihart. They combined for 7-for-20 with two home runs and eight RBIs. … Former Aces outfielder Tim Locastro hit his first Major League homer in the Dbacks’ 7-5 loss to the New York Yankees. … Reno is 12-14 in the month of July. … There was a paid attendance of 4,736. 

On Deck: Reno, 49-60, faces Iowa for the final game of the three-game series at 7:05 p.m. at Greater Nevada Field. Joel Payamps is expected to make his fifth start with the Aces. Colin Rea is the probable starting pitcher for the Cubs.

About Isaiah Burrows

Tahoe Onstage sportswriter Isaiah Burrows also is a general assignment reporter for CarsonNow.org, an online news source in Carson City. He is a journalism major at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he writes sports for the Sagebrush student newspaper. He is the Reno Aces beat writer for Tahoe Onstage.

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