Aces’ Arms Showcased Talented Upside & Provided Added Punch During D-backs’ Magical 2023 Post-Season Run
November 6, 2023
RENO, Nev. – The 2023 Reno Aces campaign saw a myriad of breakout arms and a slew of contributors that allowed the club to remain in the Pacific Coast League playoff hunt down to the final game of the regular season in addition to providing key contributions during the Arizona
RENO, Nev. – The 2023 Reno Aces campaign saw a myriad of breakout arms and a slew of contributors that allowed the club to remain in the Pacific Coast League playoff hunt down to the final game of the regular season in addition to providing key contributions during the Arizona Diamondbacks’ post-season run that included a World Series run and winning the team’s second National League pennant in franchise history.
The Diamondbacks entered Opening Day with a promising number of young yet unproven starters in their system, including but not limited to Brandon Pfaadt, Tommy Henry, Drey Jameson, Slade Cecconi, Bryce Jarvis, and Blake Walston. All six pitched for the Aces this year and five of the six appeared for the big-league club at some point during the campaign. Walston, the one who remained with Reno through the season, tied Jay Groome for the most starts in the PCL (30) and ranked second in qualified ERA (4.52) to Round Rock’s Robert Dugger.
Walston, 22, was a steady contributor in the Aces rotation during a record-breaking year. The former first round pick had a great run from late April into May where he posted a 1.60 ERA and struck out 25 over six starts and 33 ⅔ innings. Opponents slugged just .222 against Walston in that span as the lefty leaned on a newly installed cutter. Walston didn’t allow a home run in 24 of his 30 starts, an eye-popping accomplishment considering the intense offensive environment in the PCL.
After a breakout 2022 season, Pfaadt continued his meteoric rise which included seven strikeouts in his first start of the season at Greater Nevada Field on April 2nd. Pfaadt returned from his MLB debut in Arizona to strike out 28 with a 3.16 ERA over five starts with Reno in mid-June. Recognizing his talent and with a need on the roster, the Diamondbacks promoted Pfaadt for the long haul in late July. The former top prospect now owns a 3.16 ERA with 143 strikeouts and just 30 walks in 22 career starts for Reno.
Cecconi and Jarvis each enjoyed seasons they’ll assuredly never forget. The two hard throwing right handers earned prime opportunities after flashing plus stuff for the Aces through the early part of the schedule. Cecconi, 24, ranked eighth in the PCL in strikeouts (118) despite spending multiple weeks with the Diamondbacks in the second half. Jarvis, meanwhile, moved to Reno’s bullpen and joined Arizona as a hybrid weapon for D-back manager, Torey Lovullo, during the magical playoff chase which resulted in the club’s first World Series appearance since 2001.
Perhaps the most impactful and encouraging development for the Aces took place in the bullpen. Justin Martínez, the fire breathing 22-year-old righty from Bonao, Dominican Republic, emerged as one of the best relievers in the minors. Martínez paired his 100+ mph four-seam fastball with a devastating array of off-speed weapons, including a terrorizing swing-and-miss splitter.
Martínez struck out 67 in 49 ⅓ mostly high leverage innings for the Aces before an inevitable promotion to Arizona. Reno’s manager Blake Lalli regularly turned to Martínez in huge spots and the righty contributed to the Aces unbelievable 81-0 record when leading after eight innings. Martínez earned his first Major League save on August 17th while retiring San Diego Padres stars Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and Xander Bogaerts.
The Aces were excellent in September due in no small part to a trio of monumental promotions from Amarillo. Andrew Saalfrank, Austin Pope, and Kyle Backhus became trusted members of Reno’s stingy bullpen down the stretch. Saalfrank posted a fabulous 2.35 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 23 appearances with the Aces while Pope, a 15th round pick in 2019, broke out with a 2.45 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 22 frames. The side-slinging southpaw Backhus held opposing left-handed hitters to a .222 average and .322 slugging percentage across both levels, relying on a heavy sinker and sweeping slider to get outs.
Reno’s pitching staff had a memorable season on the mound with plenty of reason for optimism moving forward to 2024 and beyond.
Season Memberships for the upcoming 2024 Reno Aces, Triple-A affiliate of the 2023 National League Champions Arizona Diamondbacks, campaign is on sale via RenoAces.com, texting “MEMBER” to 21003, or calling (775) 334-7000.