Reno vs. Round Rock Series Preview

By Ryan Zuanich / Reno Aces | June 12, 2019 3:28 PM

After the series with the Memphis Redbirds, the Reno Aces currently sit at (28-36, five games back of Sacramento for first place in the Pacific Northern Division). Reno is in Round Rock, Texas tonight to face the Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate, the Express. Round Rock welcomes Reno with a 38-26 overall record and are 1.5 games back of San Antonio (Milwaukee Brewers Triple-A affiliate) in the American Southern division of the Pacific Coast League.

In the last ten games, Reno has a record of 6-4 which is the second-best in the division over the past 10 games. In those ten games, Juniel Querecuto leads the Pacific Coast League with an average of .486 and Wyatt Mathisen is batting .323 (10-for-31) with 11 runs scored and 7 RBI.  

Mathisen, a second-round draft pick out of Calallen High School in Corpus Christi, TX by the Pittsburgh Pirates, has been in the Minor Leagues for several years. Most of that time was spent in the Pirates organization, being assigned to Pittsburgh on two occasions. He signed with the Diamondbacks on November 12 of 2018 and was assigned to Reno on January 31st, 2019. For the Aces, Mathisen has been a utility player playing third base, second base, and right field and typically bats in the fifth spot for Reno. 

Juniel Querecuto, a native of Venezuela, originally signed with the Tampa Bay Rays as a 16-year-old on July 2nd, 2009. He stayed with the organization until 2016 and then signed with the San Francisco Giants later that year. Two years later, in 2018, Querecuto elected to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks and is currently in his second season at Reno. Querecuto got an invite to Spring Training this year but was beat out by former Aces, Ildemaro Vargas, Ketel Marte, and Nick Ahmed. Querecuto, also a utility player, has played every position on the field except catcher, first base, and pitcher, with the majority at shortstop. On Thursday, June 6th, Querecuto hit a walk-off single to beat the Nashville Sounds, ultimately ending the series with a three-game sweep of Nashville.

The Houston Astros currently flash the fifth-ranked farm system in Major League Baseball with top prospects Forrest Whitley (7th overall) and Kyle Tucker (14th) being the crowned players of the system. Last year the Aces swept Round Rock in four games. Reno was led by Kevin Cron (9-for-17, HR, 12 TB) and Taylor Clarke (6.0 IP, W, 0 ER). As a team, Reno outscored Round Rock 17-3.  

Whitley, a 6'7" 207 lb. right-handed pitcher is currently on the seven-day injured list due to shoulder fatigue. However, when healthy he possesses the tools to be ranked as the number two pitcher in all of baseball. In 2018, Whitley faced a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, which held him out until June. Once returning to Corpus Christi, he was pulled early from a start in July with an oblique injury that forced him to be shut down for a month, including the Futures Game. Upon his return, he impressed in the Arizona Fall League, striking out eight of his first nine batters faced in one of his outings, but he threw fewer than 60 innings due to his ailments. Whitley, who previously had concerns from scouts about his poor conditioning, slimmed down in his senior year of high school and continues to be a tall, flexible, athletic pitcher. Whitley has the possibility of being a rare pitching prospect with five plus pitches. He gets plenty of angle on his fastball, which sits at 93-97 MPH and occasionally touches 100, due to his height and over-the-top release point. His fastball also generates a great deal of movement which has influenced scouts to rank it as a plus-plus offering. Along with his fastball, he throws a 90-92 MPH cutter that has enough late movement to splinter bats or misses them completely. His off-speed variety includes a high-spin curveball and slider that include lots of power and depth, however, his best secondary pitch remains his change-up that rests around 83-85 MPH with separation and excellent late drop, which is effective against both lefties and righties whether thrown for strikes or as a chase pitch.

Round Rock's highest rated position player, Kyle Tucker, stands at 6'4" 189 lbs. and was previously a first-round pick out of high school. With a need in left field, the Astros experimented with Tucker at the major league level to no avail (.141 AVG/.203 OBP/.236 SLG). This year, however, Tucker is hitting .269 with 21 home runs, 47 runs batted in and 14 stolen bases in 58 games. He has excelled in all levels of the minors with plus power to all-fields and extraordinary hand-eye coordination. Tucker projects as a middle of the order bat who can be an advantageous hitter with favorable power. Some coaches have ragged on Tucker for his effort levels, pointing to his lack of hustle, which has tempted scouts to rank his once above-average speed to below-average. Despite this, Tucker can still be an effective baserunner, as evident by his 20 stolen bases in 2018, but may be a liability in the outfield. His average arm is capable of being a future right fielder, but he forecasts as a left fielder. Last year against Reno, Tucker hit .279 with six doubles, two home runs, nine runs batted in, and ten walks in 15 games.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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