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D-backs Farm Rumblings: The improvement in the system is palpable

It was another good week down on the farm in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization.

Not only did the nine affiliates combine to go 28-21 on the week, the overall reconstruction of the minor league system continues to get attention. MLB.com writer Jonathan Mayo ranked Arizona as the second-most improved minor league system, behind only the Miami Marlins, in a recent article.

Mayo writes:

There’s not as much elite-level talent at this point, but this is as deep a system as there is, with more players with overall 50 grades (on the 20-to-80 scouting scale) than any other organizational top 30 list.

Reno Aces (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)

For the week: 5-1
For the season: 56-62 (2nd place in Pacific Northern Division; 7.5 games behind Sacramento)

The Aces used two six-run innings on their way to a 15-6 romp over the Omaha Storm Chasers Monday night. In the third, Andy Young had a three-run homer followed by a solo shot from Juniel Querecuto and a two-run triple by Joshua Rojas to put Reno up 8-4. The Aces got six more on the board in the seventh, thanks to run-scoring hits from Ildemaro Vargas, Kevin Cron, Blake Swihart and Querecuto.

Young homered two more times Wednesday night in leading the Aces to an 8-3 road win at New Orleans and had a solo shot the next night in a 6-2 loss. He led all D-backs minor leaguers with five home runs last week. The 25-year-old acquired from St. Louis in the Paul Goldschmidt trade has boosted his power since arriving in Reno, with 16 homers in just 47 games. His 24 combined home runs at two levels in 2019 is a new career high.

Taylor Clarke combined with four relievers on an impressive one-hitter in a 6-1 road win over Oklahoma City Saturday night. Clarke started and went three innings, allowing just a single in the third inning. Braden Shipley, Joey Krehbiel, Ricky Nolasco and Ben Taylor finished up the last six innings to top off the win.

Rojas continues to smoke the baseball. Since coming over from the Houston organization in the Zack Greinke trade, the 25-year-old has had two four-hit games and only one game (Saturday against Oklahoma City) that he hasn’t had a hit. MiLB.com published an article about how everything went down and landed Rojas playing for the organization in his home state.

Shipley pitched three scoreless innings in Reno’s 6-1 win over Oklahoma City Saturday night and picked up the win in the process. It also made him the franchise’s all-time leader in that category.

Speaking of milestones, Kevin Cron got in on the act in the same game.

Cron, by the way, has been an absolute nightmare for Pacific Coast League pitchers to deal with. The slugger homered again on Sunday, his 33rd of the year, in a 10-2 win over Oklahoma City. Those 33 homers have come in 67 games — a ridiculous average of 0.49 home runs per game. That same rate would have him on pace to hit 79 homers over the course of a Major League season. That’s not even figuring in Cron’s five home runs with the D-backs and another he hit in the Arizona League on a rehab assignment late last month.


Jackson Generals (Double-A Southern League)

For the week: 4-2
For the season: 29-18 (2nd place in North Division; 1.5 games behind Montgomery)

Drew Ellis knocked in Daulton Varsho with an RBI single, giving Jackson a 3-2 walk-off win over Mobile Monday night. The Generals trailed 2-0, but tied things up in the seventh on a two-run homer by Jeffrey Baez which set the stage for Ellis’ ninth-inning heroics.

Right-hander Emilio Vargas teamed with four relievers in a dominant four-hit 8-0 shutout of Chattanooga Friday night. Vargas allowed three hits and a walk over five innings then handed things off to Kenny Atkinson, Miguel Aguilar, Damien Magnifico and West Tunnell to finish off the Lookouts. The quintet combined to strike out 14 hitters while walking only one.

It was the continuation of a great stretch of baseball by Vargas.

Speaking of Varsho, here’s a little more on the D-backs’ catching prospect.

To close out the week, Varsho had three of Jackson’s 17 hits in a 6-4 win over Chattanooga Sunday, including his 15th home run of the year.


Visalia Rawhide (High-A California League)

For the week: 4-2
For the season: 30-20 (1st place in North Division; 5.0 games behind ahead of Modesto)

A six-run fourth inning turned a 1-0 deficit into a 6-1 lead for Visalia Wednesday night against Stockton. The ‘Hide would go on to win the game, 8-4. Geraldo Perdomo, Anfernee Grier, Tim Susnara and Jancarlos Cintron all had run-scoring hits in the inning.

Visalia had to work a little longer the next night, but the result was the same. Luis Alejandro Basabe singled in Jorge Perez and Eduardo Diaz giving the Rawhide a 3-2, 10-inning walk-off win over the Ports. Stockton had taken the lead in the top of the 10th, but couldn’t hold it. Diaz led the offensive attack with three hits — it was the 22-year-old outfielder’s 11th three-hit game of the season, and third since he joined Visalia on July 8.

Ryan Weiss, a 22-year-old right-hander who just got promoted to Visalia, won the D-backs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month Award. One look at his July numbers will tell you why.


Kane County Cougars (Single-A Midwest League)

For the week: 4-3
For the season: 33-16 (1st place in Western Division; 4.0 games ahead of Cedar Rapids and Clinton)

Luis Frias and Chester Pimentel combined on a smooth three-hit shutout as the Cougars beat Quad Cities 3-0 Monday night. Frias, a 21-year-old right-hander, pitched six innings in his Kane County debut, allowing just three singles and one walk while striking out six. Pimentel pitched three innings of hitless relief (although he did walk two) to pick up his eighth save of the year. Zack Shannon gave the Cougars all the offense they’d need with a two-run home run in the fourth inning, but Kane County tacked on an insurance run in the fifth when Keshawn Lynch stole home.

Cuban lefty Michel Gelabert celebrated his return to Kane County in style Wednesday, pitching six shutout innings while striking out five in a 3-1 win over Cedar Rapids. Kristian Robinson, the D-backs’ second-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline, drove in two runs with a double in the sixth inning. The RBIs were the first for Robinson since his promotion to Kane County on Aug. 3.

Robinson would experience another first the next night — his first Midwest League home run. The 18-year-old hit a solo shot in the sixth inning, and Shannon added a three-run clout in the seventh to do the bulk of the offensive damage in an 8-0 win over Cedar Rapids. Meanwhile, Levi Kelly and Ryan Fritze were cruising on the mound. Kelly, a 20-year-old right hander, went six innings and scattered just three hits and walked three to pick up another win — his fifth without a loss this season. Kelly has 113 strikeouts in just 87.1 innings in 2019 to go along with a 1.96 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. Fritze finished things off for his first Midwest League save.


Hillsboro Hops (Short-season-A Northwest League)

For the week: 1-3
For the season: 10-6 (1st place in South Division; 1.0 game ahead of Eugene and Salem-Keizer)

The Hops had plenty of representation in the annual All-Star Game against the Pioneer League Tuesday night in Boise, Idaho. Jesus Marriaga started in left field for the Northwest League All-Stars while Dayni Olivero and Marcos Tineo saw time on the mound in the game, which was won by the Pioneer League, 11-7. Olivero pitched the fifth inning and allowed two hits, but struck out three. Tineo got touched up for four runs (three earned) in the sixth, and actually took the loss in the contest.

Corbin Carroll, the D-backs’ top draft pick in June, saw his stay in the Arizona League come to an end as he got the call up to Hillsboro this week.

I’d say things are going pretty well for Carroll early on with his new club.


Missoula Osprey (Rookie Pioneer League)

For the week: 2-2
For the season: 8-5 (Tied with Billings for 1st place in North Division; 2.5 games ahead of Great Falls)

Five members of the Osprey — Liover Peguero, Tristen Carranza, Lui Fuenmayor, Patrick McGuff and Josh McMinn — all saw time for the Pioneer League All-Stars in their 11-7 win over the Northwest League on Tuesday. Peguero started at shortstop and went 1-for-2 with a walk. Carranza, the right fielder, also went 1-for-2 with a run scored. Fuenmayor got the final two outs of the fourth inning, McGuff allowed four runs in 0.2 innings and McMinn retired two batters in the sixth inning.

Alex Valdez, Jared Liebelt and Jhonny Valdez combined on a three-hit, seven-inning shutout in a 1-0 win over Orem Friday night. Alex Valdez pitched the first five innings and allowed just one hit while fanning four. Liebelt was in command in the sixth, registering three strikeouts and Jhonny Valdez navigated through the seventh to pick up his second save.


D-backs (Rookie Arizona League)

For the week: 2-3
For the season: 8-7 (4th place in East Division; 4.0 games behind Giants Orange)

Brennan Malone, an 18-year-old right-hander picked in the first round out of IMG Academy in June, got his first professional win as the D-backs took down the Mariners 4-1 Wednesday night. Malone pitched two innings of relief and didn’t allow a baserunner while striking out one. Malone has yet to allow a hit, although he’s made only three appearances in the Arizona League spanning four innings.


D-backs1 (Dominican Summer League)

For the week: 2-4
For the season: 24-35 (6th place in Baseball City Division; 16.5 games behind Reds)

Cristian Estrella, a 17-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic, broke out of a slump in a big way Friday with four hits and two RBIs in a 13-9 win over the White Sox. Estrella had singles in the second, fourth and fifth innings, then doubled home two runs in the sixth to give the D-backs a 10-2 lead.


D-backs2 (Dominican Summer League)

For the week: 4-2
For the season: 37-23 (1st place in San Pedro Division; 2.0 games ahead of Cubs2)

Outfielder Danyer Sanabria had a solid week for the D-backs2. The 17-year-old from Venezuela batted .381 (8-for-21) with three home runs and five RBI. His seven home runs on the season are tied for the fourth-most in the Dominican Summer League.

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