The Arizona Diamondbacks signed two experienced big-league players to their Triple-A affiliate Reno Aces on Wednesday, infielder Kelby Tomlinson and outfielder/infielder Rob Refsnyder.
Tomlinson, 28, was a fan-favorite during his four-year tenure with the San Francisco Giants. His spectacles became a staple in the clubhouse with the rest of the team. Tomlinson played 273 games with the Giants and played all over the infielder and occasionally filled in as a left fielder.
A Korean American, Refsnyder, 27, was a former top-prospect for the New York Yankees. A fifth round pick in the 2012 MLB draft, Refsnyder has played 166 career games during four seasons with the Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays. He has played first, second and third base as well as right field.
Tomlinson and Refsnyder signed minor league contracts and will compete for a spot on Arizona’s 25-man roster in Spring Training.
The Dbacks also added three Reno Aces prospects to their 40-man roster on Wednesday.
Aces’ first and third baseman Kevin Cron, starting pitcher Taylor Clarke and right-handed pitcher Joel Payamps brought the Dbacks’ roster size up to 38. The roster additions protects the players from the Rule 5 Draft in December.
The Rule 5 Draft is a non-amateur draft that allows big-league teams to select players in both Double-A and Triple-A farm systems that haven’t been added to a team’s 40-man roster. In order to be eligible for the draft, a player must have signed at the age of 18 or 19 and spent four to five years with the organization. Arizona has a more aggressive approach this offseason after losing right-hander Brad Keller to the Kansas City Royals in last year’s Rule 5 Draft. The team selected the contracts of five prospects in total.
Cron, 25, led Reno with 22 homers and 97 RBIs in 104 games as a call-up from Double-A Jackson. He was also among the Pacific Coast League leaders in batting average (12th, .309) and slugging percentage (5th, .554).
Pitchers make the mistake of pitching Cron high and inside in the zone, where he uses his hulking 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame to generate most of his power. An anomaly for modern-day dead pull hitting sluggers, Cron has made adjustments to shifts at the plate, settling for an opposite-field grounder down the first base line on multiple occasions.
“I just adjust to what the defense is giving me,” Cron told Tahoe Onstage last season. “I’m going to try to make the right play and get on base. It’s something I’ve been practicing as the season goes along.”
Defensively, Cron’s strong arm makes up for his athleticism at the hot corner. But Arizona may view him as a first baseman behind All-Star Paul Goldschmidt and 2017 PCL MVP Christian Walker. The Diamondbacks and Minnesota Twins have have discussed a trade involving Goldschmidt.
Clarke, 25, is listed as the 11th ranked prospect in the Dbacks’ farm system, according to MLB Pipeline. The right-hander led the Aces in wins (13), ERA (4.03), WHIP (1.27) and strikeouts (125). Clarke comes equipped with a four-pitch mix with a 95 mph four-seam fastball and a knee-bending curveball.
Payamps appeared in six games with the Aces last season, sporting a 7.18 ERA over 26 innings. His impressive outing with Double-A Jackson promoted him to the Biggest Little City during the second half of the year. His fastball touches the mid-90s and looks to settle into a relief role.
Cron, Clarke and Payamps will join nine other Aces inserted into the Dbacks’ 40-man roster, including four Aces’ fan-favorites.
- Shortstop Ildemaro Vargas (Undrafted): Hit .311 at the plate and had a .977 fielding percentage with the Aces last season, including a franchise record 35-game hit streak. Selected to the 2018 PCL All-Star team and All-PCL team.
- First baseman Christian Walker (2012 4th round selection by the Baltimore Orioles): Hit .299 with 18 homers with Reno last season, tied for 3rd in franchise history with 50 career home runs. Appeared in 48 games with Arizona last season.
- Right fielder Socrates Brito (Undrafted): Placed eighth in the PCL with a .318 batting average. Named to the 2018 PCL All-Star team and tied the team’s franchise record going 5-for-5 on April 7.
- Reliever Jimmie Sherfy (2013 10th round selection by Arizona): Appeared in 15 games with the Dbacks last season. Recorded 57 saves over three seasons with the Aces, the most in franchise history.
Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training around Feb. 13, 2019.
Note: Former Aces’ infielder Jack Reinheimer claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers Nov. 20. Reinheimer played 311 career games with Reno over three seasons. Started the 2018 season in Reno before moving to the Mets organization. He played in 21 games with the big-league team.
— Isaiah Burrows