ESPN highlights D-backs’ MiLB standouts as the season closes

Sep 21, 2021, 2:30 PM
(Twitter photo/Amarillo Sod Poodles)...
(Twitter photo/Amarillo Sod Poodles)
(Twitter photo/Amarillo Sod Poodles)

The Minor League Baseball season is coming to a close.

The Reno Aces, Triple-A affiliate of the Diamondbacks, don’t wrap up the year until Oct. 3, but Arizona’s other farm clubs finished this past weekend.

On Tuesday, ESPN baseball analyst Kiley McDaniel comprised a list of every team’s biggest riser in the minors this year. For Arizona, he started by saying the organization had a number of notable options.

However, he chose to single out right-handed pitcher Ryne Nelson.

Nelson, 23, was the D-backs’ second-round pick in 2019 from Oregon. He started the season in High-A, but got promoted to Double-A Amarillo.

He was dominant to start the season in Hillsboro, compiling a 2.52 ERA in eight starts with an 0.89 WHIP. His ERA rose to 3.51 in Double-A, still solid, and he kept up an impressive strikeout rate with 12.2 per nine innings.

McDaniel evaluated that Nelson has a plus fastball and he improved his slider command this season. MLB Pipeline has Nelson fifth on the D-backs top-30 prospects list with an estimated debut year of 2022.

The ESPN analyst also mentioned outfielder Alek Thomas, who is still playing in Triple-A but spent most of the season in Double-A.

Thomas, 21, was a second-round pick in 2018, and was 64th on McDaniel’s top-100 prospects list before the season.

On MLB Pipeline’s top-100, he sits at No. 41, third-highest in the D-backs farm behind outfielder Corbin Carroll and shortstop Jordan Lawlar. His ETA is also next season.

Thomas hit 10 home runs and held an OPS of .881 in 72 games for Amarillo. He’s done even better since getting promoted with a 1.081 OPS and seven long balls in 27 Triple-A games.

McDaniel wrote about six D-backs in total who stood out.

A couple of 20-year-olds with preseason buzz performed well enough in low-A to get the bump to high-A in LHP Blake Walston and 3B A.J. Vukovich. The headlining trio of risers here are all in the rotation at Double-A Amarillo: Nelson (plus fastball/slider, improved command), RHP Drey Jameson (hitting 100 mph, plus hook), and RHP Brandon Pfaadt (2020 fifth-rounder out of Division II Bellarmine has crushed expectations), while LHP Tommy Henry and RHP Bryce Jarvis in that rotation will also be solid big league starters.

The Aces’ regular season ends on Tuesday night, but they will play 10 additional games for Triple-A’s “Final Stretch,” a postseason of sorts. Each team will play 10 games and whichever has the best record in that span wins the tournament.

Reno is 68-49 this season entering Tuesday’s finale.

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