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What to Expect from Miguel Diaz’s First MLB Start

The already long list of injuries to Padres starting pitchers got longer with the announcement of Jarred Cosart being placed on the 10 day Disabled List with a “strained right elbow”. Considering Cosart’s constant struggles with command and his recent surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, it would not be a surprise to see the right-hander out of action for a significant amount of time.

Having already dipped into the team’s starting depth, the Padres will replace Cosart with Rule 5 pick Miguel Diaz, a 22-year-old Dominican righty who pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers’ A-level minor league team in 2016. Like all Rule 5 draft selections, Diaz must stay on the Padres 25 man roster the entire season or be forfeited back to Milwaukee – and like most Rule 5 pitchers, the Padres have stashed him in the bullpen to mop up low-leverage innings.

Yet, the Padres did not select Diaz to stay in this role forever – they believe he has the stuff to be a big league starter and plan to give him a chance  this Saturday against Kansas City.

On one hand, Miguel Diaz has the stuff. The young pitcher’s highlight of the year (thus far) was his Opening Day strikeout of Joc Pederson on an absolutely filthy 98 MPH 2-seam fastball. Diaz also has a curveball and a changeup which both flash above-average at times. Only, that’s Diaz’s problem – too often, he simply cannot locate the fastball or get consistency with his offspeed and breaking pitches. This has resulted in a miserable 7.50 ERA and a WHIP over 1.50, suggesting he has a long way to go.

Diaz’s longest outing occurred on May 16th against his former organization, where he tossed 3 scoreless innings with 2 hits, 1 walk, and 2 strikeouts. Since then, Diaz has thrown 5.2 innings with a 4.76 ERA, a clear improvement from earlier this year.

While the Padres believe that Diaz can be a quality starting pitcher, a quality start would come as quite a surprise this Saturday. A realistic expectation would be 3-5 innings and anywhere from 2-5 earned runs. If Diaz can command his fastball, locate the changeup, and get break from his curveball, Padres fans might get to witness a clean and effective start from the young right hander. If not, then the odds are Diaz will take an early exit like he has many other times this year.

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