Signed by the Milwaukee Brewers as part of their 2011-2012 international free agent class, 23-year-old right-hander Miguel Diaz is yet another Padres’ Rule 5 Draft selection in recent years. Despite the success that right-hander Luis Perdomo has found so far, Diaz may be the most intriguing of the bunch.
After signing with Milwaukee, Diaz made his debut in the Rookie League, throwing 25 and a third innings in total in his first season. During that time, Diaz struggled with walks, as he posted only a 5.1 K-BB percent (with 21 strikeouts to 15 walks) with a 4.62 ERA. However, Diaz was at least a little better than those numbers, as evidenced by his 3.64 FIP and 50 percent ground ball rate. For Diaz, the real killer was an elevated BABIP due to some poor batted ball luck. In 2013, Diaz was much better, as he cut down on his walks, with just 21 in nearly twice as many innings, and posted a much improved 2.40 ERA in his second taste of rookie ball. The 18-year-old saw a slight decline in his strikeout rate, but also a more substantial decrease in walk rate as well with a BABIP nearly .100 points lower than his previous season.
It was pretty clear that Diaz was making some improvements on the mound, but he would spend two more years in rookie ball trying to improve both his command and the control of his pitches. Although Diaz saw some regression in 2014, with an ERA back up over 4.00, he came back in a big way in a shortened 2015 season with 23 walks to just five strikeouts and another ERA in the low twos. Following that bounceback, Diaz finally got his first taste of full-season professional baseball. In 94 and two-thirds innings in Low-A, Diaz struck out a whopping 91 batters to just 29 walks. The walks were still a little higher than the Brewers wanted them to be, but it was clear that Diaz had taken a big step forward.
Even with his strong 2016 performance, the Brewers elected to not include Diaz on their 40-man roster. As per the Rule 5 Draft rules, this made Diaz eligible for the draft, where he was selected with the first pick by the Minnesota Twins and was subsequently traded to the San Diego Padres. Going into the draft, Diaz was definitely a name that was on quite a few teams’ radars after his 2016 success. However, the Padres were the first to make the move and Diaz became a San Diego Padre.
As per the Rule 5 Draft rules, Diaz had to remain on the Padres 40-man roster, and more specifically the 25-man roster, for the remainder of the season in order to remain with the Padres past 2017. Given his status as a 22-year-old who had only pitched 94 innings above rookie ball, Diaz was predictably awful in 2017. When all was said and done, the young right-hander finished the season with a 7.34 ERA and not much better 7.02 FIP in 41 and two-thirds major league innings. Although he did have his share of strikeouts, 33 to be exact, his 25 walks more than offset that solid number. Diaz also suffered from an extra-base problem, with 11 home runs on his 2017 line.
With an upper 90s fastball with that kind of movement, to go along with a slider that has made some positive strides, Diaz definitely has the pitches to miss big league bats, regardless of his command and control issues.
2018 Projection and Long-Term Outlook
With the 2018 season around the corner, right-hander Miguel Diaz seems destined to take a different path than fellow Rule 5 draftee Luis Perdomo. While Perdomo stuck in the big league rotation in the season following his first with his new organization, it appears extremely likely that Diaz will spend most, if not all, of his season back in the minor leagues.
I would expect Diaz to begin the year in Lake Elsinore with the opportunity to move up to Double-A if things go well. It’s clear Diaz still has substantial command issues to work out, and having more time in the minors should help him in that regard. However, I would expect a solid season from him in High-A and/or Double-A. Long term, Diaz still has the potential to be a rotation piece, although given his command issues, that may be harder to see. However, even if he doesn’t work out as a starter, Diaz could be a solid back-end relief option with an upper-90’s fastball and hard slider.