By Adam Traylor / Reno Aces | February 15, 2018 6:25 PM
On February 13th, Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers arrived in Scottsdale, Arizona for their first workouts of the 2018 campaign with their fellow position players reporting on February 18th. The D-backs are looking to pick up right where they left off in 2017, finishing second in the NL West and made an NLDS appearance against division rival the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Diamondbacks have had a very quiet winter but they did add some pieces to their roster. In November, they traded RHP Curtis Taylor to Tampa Bay for RHP Brad Boxberger who will most likely be coming out of the bullpen in the late innings. In December, the club claimed Henry Owens, a left-handed starting pitcher, off waivers from the Boston Red Sox. Owens displays an outstanding change-up and four-seam fastball. As the calendar turned to the new year, Arizona came to terms with RHP Neftalí Feliz on a minor league contract and assigned him to Reno. Then, on February 6th, outfielder Rey Fuentes was sent outright to Reno. The lack of offseason movement shows that the Diamondbacks are very comfortable with their current roster and believe it is the roster that can help propel the club to another playoff berth.
As spring training games are rapidly approaching, there are several former Aces players from 2018 trying to make the twenty-five-man roster when camp breaks at the end of March. The first is Anthony Banda; a 6 foot 2-inch left-handed starting pitcher. Banda is currently on the Diamondbacks 40-man roster and saw time with the big club during the 2017 season. The highlight for Banda last season was when he outdueled San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. Banda picked up the win while striking out seven Giant batters through six innings, and allowed one run. If Banda makes the D-backs Opening Day roster, he would likely be the fifth starter in the rotation or come out of the bullpen in the middle innings.
Another Ace from 2017 that could see time in Sedona red this summer is Jimmie Sherfy the Aces all-time saves leader. Sherfy was a shutdown closer for the PCL's Pacific Northern Division champions with 20 saves in 23 save opportunities. Sherfy also was one-for-one in save chances with Arizona this past season as well. The Diamondbacks would use Sherfy as a setup man out of the bullpen and would have the occasional save opportunity when needed.
As for Reno, the Aces will have a stacked line-up offensively, starting with the reigning Pacific Coast League MVP Christian Walker. On his run to league MVP, Walker blasted 32 home runs, lead the league in RBI's (114), runs scored (104), and finished with a batting average of .309. When Walker isn't putting up video-game numbers at the plate, he will be holding runners on at first base and roaming the Greater Nevada Field outfield. Walker's counterpart at first base this season will be Kevin Cron. In Double-A Jackson, Cron was named league MVP for the 2017 season as he lead the league with 25 home runs and 91 RBI. With these big bats in the line-up, the Aces are hoping to get people on base early so Walker and Cron can drive them in. The other key player joining the club full-time this season is RHP Taylor Clarke. According to MLB.com Clarke is the 3rd rated prospect in the Diamondbacks organization. Clarke features an electric fastball, a dominating slider, and change-up that he will use to finish off batters. Splitting time last season with Jackson and Reno, Clarke struck out 138 batters, won 12 games and held an ERA of 3.35. These three keys pieces, along with the rest of the star-studded Aces line-up, will have manager Greg Gross focused on another Pacific Northern Division championship.
Among all the excitement of trying to win back-to-back division titles, the Aces will be celebrating their 10th season in Northern Nevada all season long. Fans can expect Saint Mary's Fireworks Fridays presented by KRNV News 4 and Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa Independence Day Celebration. Giveaways like the Aces fleece blanket on April 7th and a 10th season mini-bat presented by Greater Nevada Credit Union on May 5th. Lastly, mark your calendars for May 9th to celebrate Reno's 150th birthday, Christmas in July on July 21st, and Tribute to Johnny Cash Night on August 31st and much more.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.