The Hangover: Enter Diaz

The Hangover is a place to discuss a storyline or two from the previous day’s game.

Somewhere in the middle of another Opening Day mess, a hero emerged:

It took Miguel Diaz four years to get out of the rookie ball levels of the Milwaukee Brewers farm system, not necessarily a rarity for a young, international arm. Diaz finally reached the lower rung of Single-A ball last season, putting together an all-around fine season for a 21-year-old: 94 2/3 innings, 91 strikeouts, 29 walks, 7 home runs, a 3.71 ERA.

The likely plan, before the Padres got involved, probably involved Diaz reporting back to Low-A Wisconsin or High-A Carolina this spring and then, someday, Double-A Biloxi. If everything went smoothly at each stop—injuries were dodged, performance improved—Diaz would have had a shot at Triple-A, and maybe the majors, at some point in 2018. But everyone would be taking it one day at a time—er, one pitch at a time—in the relative anonymity of the minor leagues, dreams of The Show just ever-present background noise on long bus rides.

A.J. Preller had different ideas, nabbing Diaz in last December’s Rule 5 draft and sticking him on the big-league roster, violating everything we think we know about the normal developmental path of a young baseball player. Diaz, with just 236 professional innings spread over five seasons, none of them above A-ball, was suddenly standing on the mound at a packed Dodger Stadium on Opening Day, a far cry from Frederick, Maryland.

Somehow, he didn’t look out of place.

After a wild first offering, Diaz got Adrian Gonzalez to ground out to end the fifth inning. In the next inning, he fell behind Logan Forsythe 2-0 before battling back to 2-2 and finally getting Forsythe to fly weakly into center field, a sequence that included a couple of hard-diving changeups. In the next at-bat, against Joc Pederson, Diaz used another filthy change to even the count at 2-2, and then disposed of Pederson with the two-seam fastball shown above. According to Brooks Baseball, it was Diaz’s fastest pitch of the game, at 97.4 mph. A pitched ball, with that kind of velocity, is not supposed to move in that manner. Diaz got Yasmani Grandal to ground out to end the frame, allowing everything to take a breath. Whew.

Diaz worked in the 95-97 mph range with his heater, a pitch that featured at times scary movement (see above). He also showed what looked like a solid, frisbee-type slider and the makings of a devastating change. We won’t go too far with the hyperbole yet—Diaz is just a 22-year-old with 1 1/3 innings beyond Single-A; an electric arm but still very much a project.

It was all you could ask out of a debut, though, and it serves as another feather in the cap of Preller’s front office of talent finders.

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