Aces 2020 vision: Slew of personnel decisions to be made

Manager Chris Cron, left, and coach and former Aces manager Greg Gross will guide the Triple-A club again in 2020.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage photos

Baseball’s winter meetings are underway, and the Reno Aces’ 2020 season is right around the corner. The Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate has offseason shakeover to take care of before the team opens against the Sacramento River Cats on April 9. 

Before the Aces hit the field, here’s an offseason preview of free agents, roster additions and potential prospects to keep an eye on. 

SHIPLEY HEADLINES 2020 ACES FREE AGENTS

The minor league free agent class has more than 510 total players, including 17 players from last year’s Triple-A Reno squad. 

Players become free agents when they’ve been released from their original contract with the big-league club or after six full years in the minors. Unlike most MLB free agents, a minor league player’s status for the next season is uncertain. 

 MiLB free agent information was found via Baseball America. 

Here is a list of notable Aces free agents from last year’s team: 

Shaun Astor
Aces all-time win leader Braden Shipley

Braden Shipley (RHP)

Shipley has been apart of the Aces franchise for the past four seasons. Arizona selected him out of the University of Nevada, Reno with the 15th overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft.  The 27-year-old is Reno’s all-time wins leader with 25. He had a 5.95 ERA in 30 games last season. 

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Travis Snider

Travis Snider (OF)

Snider, 31, signed a minor league contract with the Dbacks last season and was assigned to Triple-A Reno. He hit .294 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs in 93 games. Snider was a first-round selection by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2006 MLB Draft. 

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Matt Koch

Matt Koch (RHP)

Koch, 29, accumulated a 5-10 record and a 7.38 ERA in 21 games with Reno last season. He made nine appearances with the Dbacks, sporting a 9.15 ERA in 20.2 innings. 

Shaun Astor
Alberto Rosario

Alberto Rosario (Catcher)

Rosario was a solid option behind home plate for the Aces last season. The 32-year-old had 37 starts at catcher. He batted .250 with one homer and 11 RBIs. 

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Bradin Hagens

Bradin Hagens (RHP)

Hagens, 30, made his third career appearance with Triple-A Reno this past season. His first appearance with the Aces was in 2014. Hagens had a 4-2 record and 6.03 ERA in 22 games last year. 

Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
Matt Szczur hits a home run.

Matt Szczur (OF)

Szczur also signed a minor league contract with the Dbacks last season and was assigned to Triple-A Reno. The 30-year-old won the 2016 World Series as a member of the Chicago Cubs. He hit .322 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs in 44 games with Reno. 

Shaun Astor
Marty Harum

Marty Herum (INF)

Herum, 27, has spent his entire career with the Diamondbacks organization since 2013. He made his first appearance with Triple-A Reno last season, hitting .240 with four homers and 22 RBIs in 51 games. 

Joey Krehbiel

Joey Krehbiel (RHP)

Krehbiel, 26, was a 12th round pick by the Los Angeles Angels in the 2011 MLB Draft. He was relied upon out of the bullpen with Reno last season, recording a 7.69 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 51 games. Krehbiel was designated for assignment July 31, cleared waivers and returned to the Aces on Aug. 3. 

Jamie Westbrook (OF)

Westbrook made the most of his short stay in Triple-A Reno. The 24-year-old spent most of the season in Double-A Jackson, hitting .269 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs. He batted .321 with three homers, six doubles and 18 RBIs in 30 games with the Aces. 

Robby Scott (LHP)

Scott signed a minor league deal with Arizona and was assigned to Triple-A Reno last season. The 30-year-old southpaw won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2018. He had a 3-0 record and 6.94 ERA in 41 relief appearances. 

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Carlos Asuaje

Carlos Asuaje (INF)

Asuaje, 28, made his first appearance with the Aces last season. He spent the last two years bouncing between the San Diego Padres and Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas. Asuaje batted .239 with two homers, seven doubles and 29 RBIs in 59 games with Reno. 

Ben Taylor (RHP)

Taylor served as another dependable arm in the Aces’ bullpen. The 27-year-old sported a 3-4 record and 5.63 ERA in 46 relief appearances last season. He has 20 career games in the Major Leagues with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. 

Josh Prince (INF)

Prince, 31, made his Aces debut by mid-July of last season. He spent 102 games with Double-A Jackson. Prince hit .300 with six doubles and 10 RBIs in 26 games with Reno. 

Ricky Nolasco (RHP)

Nolasco signed a minor league free agent deal with the Dbacks and was assigned to Triple-A Reno. The 36-year-old sported an 18.00 ERA in just six total games last season. Nolasco has accumulated 114 wins and 4.56 ERA over his 12-year MLB career. 

Lucas Luetge (LHP)

Luetge, 32, split the 2019 season with Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Reno. He had a 5-2 record and a 3.14 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 33 games with the Aces. The veteran southpaw has 111 career MLB appearances. 

ARIZONA ADDS 3 PLAYERS TO RENO PITCHING STAFF

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed pitchers Matt Grace, Keury Mella and Mauricio Cabrera to minor league contracts on Nov. 18. They were assigned to Triple-A Reno and have received invites to Major League Spring Training. 

Matt Grace (LHP) 

Grace, 30, has totaled a 5-4 record and 4.29 ERA over 176.1 innings over five seasons with the Washington Nationals. He sported a 1-2 record and 6.36 ERA over 46.2 innings with the Nationals last season. The southpaw comes equipped with a two-pitch mix of a low-90s fastball and slider. Grace was selected in the eighth round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of UCLA.  He was college teammates with San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford and retired Reno Aces slugger Cody Decker. 

Keury Mella (RHP)

Mella, 26, was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 and has posted a 48-50 record with a 3.70 ERA in 160 career minor league starts. He was traded to Cincinnati in 2017 along with first baseman Adam Duvall from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Mike Leake. Mella made his big-league debut with the Reds in 2018, posting an 8.68 ERA in four games. He was 8-14 with a 5.05 ERA in 27 starts with Triple-A Louisville. 

Mauricio Cabrera (RHP)

Cabrera, 26, was once Baseball America’s No. 6 ranked prospect within the Atlanta Braves’ farm system. The Las Mantas de Farfan, Dominican Republic native made his big-league debut in 2016, going 5-1 over 38.1 innings of relief. But Cabrera was designated for assignment and picked up by the Chicago White Sox in 2018. He posted a 4-3 record with 67 strikeouts over 48 innings with Double-A Birmingham last season. The young right-hander is known for his heat on the mound. Cabrera has a four-seam fastball that has been clocked at 101 mph. 

DIAMONDBACKS PROSPECTS TO WATCH IN 2020

Several Diamondbacks’ farm prospects are surging through the minor leagues. Here are some players that may be donning a Reno Aces jersey during the 2020 campaign

Daulton Varsho (Catcher)

Varsho, 23, is the son of former big-league outfielder Gary Varsho, who played for the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies over his eight-year career. Daulton shares his dad’s supreme power at the plate. The left-handed slugger hit .301 with 18 homers and an .899 OPS with Double-A Jackson last season. 

A second-round pick in the 2017 draft, Varsho has shot up through the Dbacks’ minor league system. His athleticism at the plate and behind the dish translated to the outfield. He had four starts in center field. Varsho is the No. 100 ranked overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline. 

Seth Beer (1B/OF)

Another left-handed batter with plenty of pop joins the potential prospects to play in Reno. Beer, 23, was one of the four prospects involved in the Dbacks’ trade of Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros last season. 

He slugged his way to the Astros’ Double-A Corpus Christi system last season, hitting .299 with a .950 OPS. He added one homer and 17 RBIs with Double-A Jackson.  Beer is equipped with a ton of power at the plate and his versatility was used in the infield and outfield. He had 74 starts at first base and 33 starts in left field. 

The 28th overall selection in the 2018 MLB Draft, Beer represented the Dbacks’ organization in the Arizona Fall League. He hit .315 with one homer and 12 RBIs. MLB Pipeline rated Beer at its No. 96 overall prospect. 

J.B. Bukauskas (RHP)

Bukauskas, 23, joined Beer as one of the four prospects involved in the Grienke deal. The right-hander finished the 2019 season with a 5.44 ERA and 109 strikeouts over 92.2 innings with Double-A Corpus Christi and Double-A Jackson. 

Houston selected Bukauskas with the 15th overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft. He comes equipped with a four-pitch mix which includes a mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider that breaks on both sides of the plate. 

Questions surround Bukauskas as to whether he’s better suited as a starter or coming out of the bullpen. He had 16 starts and six bullpen appearances with the two Double-A clubs last year. No matter when he toes the rubber, Bukauskas’ repertoire can benefit Reno’s pitching staff. 

Josh Green (RHP) 

Green is coming off a strong 2019 campaign with Double-A Jackson. The 24-year-old sported an 11-5 record and 2.71 ERA over 126.1 innings and 22 starts with High-A Visalia and Double-A Jackson. 

He spent most of the year with High-A Visalia, but continued his strong outing with Double-A Jackson over his last eight starts. Green has a standard four-pitch mix of fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. 

Green was an 18th round selection by Arizona in the 2018 MLB Draft. He may spend a decent portion of the 2020 campaign getting his cleats settled with Double-A Jackson, but he can be an impactful addition to the Aces’ staff later in the year. 

Looking Ahead: The Reno Aces kick-off the 2020 regular season at home with a five-game series against Sacramento followed by a three-game series on the road against the Fresno Grizzlies.

–Isaiah Burrows

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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