It’s becoming increasingly more likely that the San Diego Padres will be a 70-plus win team by season’s end. That’s a far cry from the preseason predictions that tagged the team as a mere 60 game winner and the worst in the league. Now the team is poised to potentially end up closer to the bottom-middle of the pack.
Some fans would argue that this is not an ideal situation. They would say that the “tank” should have been stronger this season. There is certainly merit to that perspective. The greater the tank, the higher the pick in the following draft. In this rebuilding stage that the Padres are in, high draft picks are fundamental to future success.
Everyone can agree that it’s nice to see a Padres team with some fight in it. We Padres fans have our dignity after all. This scrappy young squad has shown that they won’t go down easily. They have been able to handle themselves admirably against many of their opponents, even some of the most formidable, like the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. This has been a relatively exciting season for the fans and an emboldening one for a team that is all about making progress towards the future. This team is learning to do battle as a unit, and that’s really important since the core of these players will likely be playing in San Diego together for years to come.
The tank’s not over though, folks.
This season was never explicitly about tanking. No team ever admits that, but there’s one indicator that signals it implicitly. It looks like the Padres will be the first team since the 2003 Detroit Tigers to carry three Rule-5 players from start to finish. A team that is intending to compete in any fashion would not do this. The Tigers won 43 games in 2003. So there you have it.
It’s pretty clear that it was the Padres’ intention all along to carry the three Rule-5 guys, Miguel Diaz, Allen Cordoba, and Luis Torrens, for the season. Now that we’re almost in September and they are all still hanging in there, I would say that it’s a safe assumption. Their contributions have been marginal, yet they hold valuable roster space. This is the move of a team that hasn’t given up hope on the tank. They are developing three prospects, while pushing towards acquiring more top prospects through the draft.
The truth is Diaz, Cordoba, and Torrens all do hold significant value as prospects and could each easily make an impact in the future. For the remainder of this piece I would like to take a look at what they have individually accomplished at the major league level this season.
Diaz was picked first overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2016 Rule-5 draft and then traded to the Padres. The 22-year-old was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He pitched in the Low-A Midwest League in 2016 in the Brewers organization, posting a 91/29 K/BB and a 3.71 ERA in 95 innings.
As a Padre, Diaz hit the ground running. He initially impressed spectators with a mid-90’s fastball with late action that was widely deemed very “nasty.” He was able to strike Joc Pederson out with this pitch in the middle of a clean inning on opening day against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Video of his fastball spread around Twitter like wildfire following the outing.
As the season has progressed, Diaz has experienced his fair share of ups and down. In 24 appearances, most coming in relief, he has posted a 6.82 ERA with a 25/18 K/BB ratio, with a FIP of 6.32 and a xFIP of 5.61. After spending the beginning of the season in the bullpen, he joined the rotation in early June after Jared Cossart hit the disabled list with an elbow strain. Through three start in June, Diaz was unable to go longer than 3.1 innings in any one of them. He made it through 2.1 scoreless innings on June 21, before exiting the game with forearm tightness. On June 23, he went on the D.L. with a forearm strain.
On August 16, Diaz made his rehab debut in the Arizona Rookie League. This is good news because per Rule-5 regulations, a player must be active for at least 90 days for the team to retain him. Some feared that if Diaz was unable to make it back from injury this season, the Padres would lose him. In this outing, he struck out two and walked five. His next move was up to High-A, Lake Elsinore, where he made his next rehab start on August 20. He gave up two earned runs on four hits and one walk in 3.1 innings.He may be able to rejoin the Padres in short order. It’s not clear whether he will resume his role in the rotation or if he will be sent back to the bullpen, but one way or another, it looks like he will finish the season with the Padres and likely become a full-fledged member of the organization moving forward.
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