Jose Diaz is one of our 2012 sleeper candidates in the Pittsburgh Pirates system

Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League 2012 Sleeper Candidate I

We continue our look toward Bradenton by breaking up the previews with a sleeper pick. 

The Pittsburgh Pirates offseason was spent picking up some interesting arms.  One of the ones that really opened our eyes was Jose Diaz.  He simply doesn’t fit the Pirates mode which makes us stare at him even longer.  When the Bucs picked him up late last year we asked who the hell is this guy?  Jose Diaz?  This Jose Diaz?

I have a feeling Diaz is even BIGGER and badder than this picture from 2009.

He has pitched well in the lower minors, especially over the past two years. In 2010 after signing with Baltimore, Diaz had a 1.13 WHIP in 26.2 IP with three walks per nine and 11.1 strikeouts per nine at high A.  In AA he had a 1.20 WHIP in 25 IP with four walks and nine strikeouts per nine innings.

The guy is fun to watch, hits the mid 90s on scouts radar guns–occasionally touching the upper 90s.  The thing that is cool to see is that for as large as he is, Diaz moves well around the mound.

He began 2011 in AA and was impressive outside of his 3.7 walks per nine innings.  He racked up 22 saves and struckout nearly 11 batters per nine innings with a 1.41 ERA in 32 IP.  When he went to AAA he struggled with walks over his 12.2 IP and his ERA popped to 5.68 and  his WHIP jumped to 2.29.

In winter ball this year he has bounced back and has given the Pirates reason to believe they made a smart pick.

Diaz is a (big) surprise for us. In his first 14.1 innings pitched this winter, Diaz allowed allowed no runs, no homers and just one hit. Yeh, one hit.  He held the bad guys to a .023 batting average while the Toro reliever was touching the upper 90’s regularly in the Dominican Winter Leagues.

Diaz has finished up the regular season in the Dominican with 22.2 innings pitched.  He allowed seven hits, five runs, and no homers.  He struckout 21 and walked nine while holding the opposition to a .097 batting average.

Diaz seems to be fully recovered from the four surgeries he has endured during his career including Tommy John in 2007.

Best case:  Diaz impresses some people while working in Florida and starts the season as the closer for the Altoona Curve.  We know that the DelGrosso family will love having this guy in Tuna town.

The big move for Diaz will be jumping to AAA Indianapolis and continuing his mastery of opposing hitters.  He hasn’t ever been able to take that big step.  Thus we both know that it makes the odds extremely high for Diaz to move up the system, he will be 28 years old in February.   But if you want to cheer for one player who doesn’t fit the Pirates typical mode, it’s Big Bad Jose Diaz.

Don’t believe me?  Go watch the Diaz show this year.

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Here is an article on Diaz who was at one time considered one of the largest closers in baseball: special ordered uniform and all:

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