Alert - Felix Diaz
DOB: 7/27/80, Age: 22, Height: 6’1’’, Weight:
177, Bats: R, Throws: R. Acquired: White Sox - Traded with Ryan Meaux for
Kenny Lofton on 7/28/02; Signed by Giants out of the Dominican Republic in
1998. 2001 Stats: (Low-A - Hagerstown) 1-4, 3.66 ERA, 52 IP, 49 H, 16 BB,
56 K. 2002 Stats: (AA - Shreveport) 3-5, 2.70 ERA, 60 IP, 54 H, 1 HR, 23
BB, 48 K; (AA - Birmingham) 3-0, 4.30 ERA, 23 IP, 21 H, 3 HR, 7 BB, 19
Felix Diaz was the White Sox’s
prize for dumping Kenny Lofton at the trading deadline this season.
Instead of adding to the organizational depth, I think that Diaz has a
real chance of displacing some of the more heralded starting pitching
prospects that the White Sox have accumulated. Diaz works off of a
mid-90’s fastball that just explodes on hitters, almost like Mariano
Rivera’s (not the cutter). He also throws a quality slider that is
devastating to right-handers, a decent curveball, and an improving
changeup. His command is certainly good enough for the kind of stuff that
he has, with just over 3 walks per nine over the last few seasons. Diaz
certainly seems to have benefited from the leisurely pace with which the
Giants have been moving him through the system. After spending three years
in Rookie league ball and a year in the Sally league, Diaz appears to have
developed the confidence required to succeed as a starting pitcher, and
still is only 22 years old (and only a step or two away from the majors).
The biggest question mark with Diaz is the ability of his slight frame to
hold up to the rigors of a full season of pitching. He is already at his
career high in innings for a season at 83, which is roughly half of what a
franchise would require from him as a mere “five inning per start” hurler
at the major league level. Like many of the “Pedro Martinez-framed”
starters, his health will be as much of a factor in his success going
forward as his pitching ability.
According to last year’s
prospect reviews, Diaz might appear to be merely some insurance for some
of the more highly touted White Sox pitching prospects, but as I stated
above, I believe that he will be one of their top starters in a few years.
Since last season: two of the better prospects, Josh Fogg and Kip Wells,
were shipped off to Pittsburgh for the shell of Todd Ritchie; Jon Garland
has been a somewhat ineffective sinkerballer and Dan Wright has shown
diminished velocity (and lackluster results) in the bigs; Dennis Ulacia
has been awful and Corwin Malone has been wild at AA; while Jon Rauch has
been relatively good at AAA and Kris Honel has been outstanding in low-A.
There are a lot of good arms with quality stuff in the organization, but
no one is locking up (in a present or future sense) any of the jobs that
are not Mark Buehrle’s. I would safely assume that Jon Rauch will have a
future spot, but Diaz could certainly be the number three (my best guess
for the last two spots would be Honel and Garland). One minor downside to
any expectations for Diaz is that his stuff and fragile nature are rather
well suited for the bullpen compared to most of the other White Sox young
pitchers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him brought up in September to
throw a bit out of the pen, but I am still hopeful that enough of the
others will blow up to give Diaz a rotation spot in the long term. If he
remains a starter, Ramon Ortiz is a reasonable comparison. In the bullpen,
I think a Felix Rodriguez role (and comparison) would suit him well.
Either way, Felix Diaz is one of the best “sleeper prospects” in baseball
at this point.