Red Sox: A look at “Mr. Irrelevant,” No. 30 ranked prospect Jhonathan Diaz

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: A ball sits inside the mitt of Adam LaRoche
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: A ball sits inside the mitt of Adam LaRoche /

The NFL draft has a “Mr. Irrelevant” who is the last player drafted. Just who is last on the Boston Red Sox top 30 prospect list? Is “Mr. Irrelevant” just that?

In the football draft, he is known as “Mr. Irrelevant” or the very last player selected. Occasionally that player will have a noted impact and a rather productive career.  Rare indeed, but it happens. For baseball and the Boston Red Sox, I decided to look at who their Mr. Irrelevant may be.

I did this via MLB Prospect Watch and just who is last on the players listed on Prospect Watch?  In this instance, that player is a left-hand pitcher named Jhonathan Diaz.

Diaz was signed in 2013 as an international free agent from Venezuela.  Unlike his football counterpart, Diaz received a $500,000 signing bonus and the now 21-year-old will probably be with the Greenville Drive (A) to start 2018.

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In 2017, Diaz was with Greenville – Diaz has appeared in 45 games as a professional – all but one as a starter. With the Drive, Diaz finished 6-6 with a 4.57 ERA in 2017.

For a young pitcher, his control is reasonable with a 2.8 BB/9 in 2017.  What is less attractive is a 10.8 H/9. Diaz is hittable, but in the low minors, the ball has stayed in the park with only seven home runs allowed in 215 innings. That usually is a signal that Diaz is a ground ball pitcher and last season Diaz had a 1.92 GO/AO.

Last season, Diaz had slightly more success against righties who hit .283 with lefties checking in at .303. Neither are promising numbers, but Diaz is still young and did miss an entire season (2015) with a knee injury. Of note is Diaz reportedly throws as hard right-handed, but the Red Sox have established him as a lefty only. No Greg Harris this time around – yet.

"Diaz’s fastball has jumped from 85-89 mph when he signed to 89-93 with room for more projection, and it’s more notable for its sink than its velocity. He logged a 1.8 groundout/flyout ratio in his first three pro seasons, missing 2015 after blowing out his right knee during a fielding drill. He does a good job of maintaining his arm speed when he throws his solid changeup and also shows some feel for spinning an average curveball. – MLB Prospect Watch"

Just what are Diaz’s chances?  Looking at the scouting information Diaz has one negative that in today’s game causes scouts to possibly look elsewhere – in pitching, size matters and Diaz is listed at 6’ and 170 pounds. Maybe he will fill out?  Maybe not?

"Diaz isn’t very physical but is athletic and repeats his effortless delivery. He fills the strike zone but will need to find a way to miss more bats as he faces more advanced hitters. While he doesn’t have a huge ceiling, he has a high floor with a reasonable chance to become a back-of-the-rotation starter. – MLB Prospect Watch"

Diaz has three basic pitches and his fastball tops out at 90 mph. His curve and change in the mid-70s so that may create a bit of deception for his fastball with a 15+ differential. This season Diaz will be in the rotation and the natural pathway for positive performance is Salem (A+) and possibly Portland (AA).

The projection for Diaz is rather – as expected – low. Is there a future as a spot starter?  Is there a future working out of the bullpen? What is known is Diaz keeps the ball around the plate and gets ground balls. That is a foundation to build upon.

Next: Bold predictions for the 2018 season

So, looking at Diaz he is not exactly Mr. Irrelevant, but a lefty who may be classified as a fringe player for the majors. A name that I was curious about and will certainly keep tabs on.