RENO - The Reno Aces, in conjunction with the Arizona Diamondbacks, have announced their 2016 preliminary roster. The Aces will carry 25 active players and two players on the disabled list when they open the season against the El Paso Chihuahuas on April 7 at 6:35 p.m. PT at Greater Nevada Field.
Coming off a third-place Pacific Northern Division finish and 70-74 record in 2015, the Aces' 2016 squad looks to return to the Pacific Coast League playoffs after a one-year absence. In 2014, the Aces fell one win short of a second PCL Championship in three seasons, having won the PCL and Triple-A Championships in 2012.
With a deep, right-handed-heavy rotation, strong relief corps and youthful lineup, third-year manager Phil Nevin has good reason for optimism entering the season.
"I'm really excited about our club's athleticism," said Nevin, now in his eighth year of managing after a 12-year Major League playing career. "We should have a very fun team to watch."
Five of Arizona's Top-15 prospects, according to MLB.com, appear on Reno's roster, including the top three members of the Aces' rotation - right-handers Archie Bradley (No. 2), Tyler Wagner (No. 10) and Braden Shipley (No. 1). The young, dynamic trio will be followed by 32-year-old righty Matt Buschmann and Kyle Drabek, son of 1990 National League Cy Young Award winner, Doug Drabek.
Outfielder Peter O'Brien (No. 9) and middle infielder Jack Reinheimer (No. 14) round out Reno's higher-end prospects.
Bradley, 23, returns to Reno after brief appearances for the Aces each of the last two seasons. He made Arizona's 2015 Opening Day roster and in eight starts, went 2-3 with a 5.80 ERA. A line drive to the face and shoulder tendinitis interrupted a promising start to the season for Bradley, a start which included defeating Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw at Chase Field before outdueling Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco. Bradley gets the nod in the season opener against El Paso.
Wagner, 25, enters his first season in the D-backs' system after being acquired with infielder Jean Segura from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for two former Aces - Chase Anderson and Aaron Hill - and infield prospect Isan Diaz on January 30, 2016. Last year, Wagner compiled an 11-5 record and a 2.25 ERA in 25 starts (16 quality) for Double-A Biloxi. The Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) High School graduate started strong for Biloxi, ultimately earning him a May 31 call-up to Milwaukee where he debuted against Arizona.
Shipley, 24, was selected by the D-backs in the first round (15th overall) of the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft after he racked up 17 wins, a 2.79 ERA and 203 strikeouts in three seasons for the Nevada Wolf Pack. Over 28 appearances (27 starts) for Double-A Mobile in 2015, Arizona's top farmhand went 9-11 with a 3.50 ERA, including a nifty 2.66 clip during 14 second-half appearances.
Buschmann begins his first season in the D-backs' system after signing as a minor league free agent on December 11, 2015. He appeared for three different International League teams in 2015. Between Durham (Rays), Louisville (Reds) and Norfolk (Orioles), he went 8-10 with a 4.08 ERA over 134.2 innings, spanning 23 starts.
Drabek, 28, signed a minor league deal with the D-backs on November 11, 2015, and has sights set on a return to the Majors. He has six years of Major League experience, but spent most of 2015 as an established starter for Triple-A Charlotte, going 7-11 with a 3.47 ERA in 24 starts.
The bullpen consists of eight pitchers, four of whom worked in relief for the Aces last season. Righties Enrique Burgos, Kaleb Fleck, Evan Marshall and Seth Simmons return, and they are accompanied by right-handers Cody Hall and Dominic Leone, and two left-handers, Adam Loewen and Scott Rice. Fleck is anticipated to be Reno's closer while Burgos, Marshall and Rice will be relegated to set-up duties.
Marshall returns to Reno for a fourth consecutive season, joining outfielder Cole Gillespie (2009-12) as the only players in team history to spend parts or all of four seasons in an Aces uniform. Marshall narrowly missed out on making Arizona's Opening Day roster, but the 25-year-old's comeback story is one for the ages. On August 3, 2015, Marshall suffered a fractured skull and brain trauma after being struck in the head by a line drive. Nearly seven months later, he returned to the mound and held his own at Spring Training, posting a 3.60 ERA over 10.0 innings.
Of the 13 aforementioned pitchers, nine have Major League experience. That experience carries from the mound to the plate, where catchers Tuffy Gosewisch and Brett Hayes have a combined 10 years in the Majors.
Gosewisch, 32, earned Arizona's starting catcher job in 2015, but a torn ACL in May ended his season abruptly. He last appeared for the Aces in 2013 and hit .284 (71-for-250) with 20 doubles and 7 home runs in 72 games. Hayes, a former Wolf Pack star and 3-time first-team All-WAC catcher (2003-05), brings seven seasons of Major League experience in his return to Northern Nevada. He split time between Triple-A Columbus and Cleveland last year, totaling 5 home runs and 23 RBI in 65 games.
Six infielders and four outfielders finish out the remaining 10 roster spots. Michael Freeman is the only returning infielder from Reno's 2015 squad. Freeman hit .317 (126-for-398) last season, fourth-best among PCL qualifiers. Newcomers on the infield include Sean Jamieson, Kyle Jensen, Kevin Medrano, Reinheimer and Carlos Rivero. Filling the power void left behind with offseason departures by Jamie Romak and Nick Evans, Jensen brings six consecutive seasons of 18-plus home runs to the table. Reinheimer, acquired in a mid-summer deal from Seattle last June, gets his first taste of Triple-A baseball after splitting time between Double-A Jackson and Mobile in 2015.
Two of Reno's four outfielders are returning, including O'Brien and Zach Borenstein. O'Brien clubbed 26 home runs and drove in a franchise single-season record 107 RBI last season. Those numbers helped him garner PCL mid- and postseason All-Star selections. Jason Bourgeois, 34, and Stewart Ijames, 27, complete the roster. Bourgeois is Minor League Baseball's active hits leader, having totaled 1,573 hits over 1,443 games played.
Catcher Mark Thomas and right-handed pitcher Paul Smyth will both open the season on the disabled list.
Nevin's staff includes one returner, hitting coach Greg Gross, and two newcomers, pitching coach Gil Heredia and third-base coach Tack Wilson.
Ticket packages are on sale now at www.renoaces.com or by calling (775) 334-4700. For up-to-date news and notes throughout the offseason, follow the club on Twitter (@Aces) and like the team on Facebook.