A Minors Obsession

Is it time to consider calling up Jumbo Diaz?

The Cincinnati Reds have been well below-average in one run games this season. As a Reds fan who watches, listens or follows them at all, you already know this as it has been pointed out by everyone, including me just now. Part of the problem has been the bullpen struggles. While there have been bright spots such as Jonathan Broxton and Sam LeCure the team has also dealt with the struggles of J.J. Hoover who is currently boasting an ERA over 10.00 and has 10 walks in 11.2 innings pitched. While Hoover had a rough stretch last season to begin the year, it was corrected after just two weeks. Right now the team is into the sixth week of the season and Hoover is still struggling to throw strikes and keep the ball in the yard. That is not a good combination. While his manager seems to have his back, if Hoover doesn’t right the ship and quickly, he simply can’t stay with the big league club trying to figure it out.

When looking for a replacement the first place to start is by looking on the 40-man roster. Curtis Partch and Chad Rogers are the only guys who aren’t starting right now on the 40-man roster among the minor leaguers. Partch has been up and down a few times already this season, and while there is a chance he can turn into a solid or better reliever if he can find consistency with his breaking ball, the Reds are not convinced he is the guy right now since he was optioned to the minors instead of Hoover. Rogers, a solid prospect coming into the season has really struggled making the transition back to the bullpen where his ERA currently sits over 6.00 and he has 15 walks in 20.2 innings pitcher for the Triple-A Louisville Bats.

The team could pluck a starter up and toss them into the bullpen, but those options don’t look so strong either with one guy on the disabled list and lots of inconsistency from the rest of the 40-man roster minor league starters.

Another option would be to make a roster move and to call up someone who isn’t currently on the 40-man roster. One guy jumps out both from a numbers and stuff standpoint. Jumbo Diaz is serving as the closer for the Bats with a 1.15 ERA in 15.2 innings with four walks and 16 strikeouts. That is coming off of a season with Louisville where he had a 1.66 ERA in 54.1 innings with 21 walks and 60 strikeouts. Diaz has cut back on the walks, which had been the big question following him for the better part of his career.

While Jumbo Diaz is 30-years-old and yet to throw a pitch in the big leagues, you can’t continue to simply ignore a 1.54 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in Triple-A when your bullpen has had some serious struggles like the Reds.

What does the man they call Jumbo throw? Well, he relies heavily on a 93-96 MPH fastball that can touch 99 MPH at times. Diaz has located the pitch well throughout the season and adds cutting action to it at times while sinking it at others. He mixes in a slider in the 87-92 MPH range. This pitch is average at best and can be inconsistent, but he does throw it for strikes. And for good measure Diaz has been above-average at generating ground balls over the last two seasons with Louisville.

It is understandable why a guy with one really good pitch and only a solid-at-best secondary offering hasn’t gotten a chance yet. And Jumbo Diaz may be similar to Curtis Partch, a guy with a lot of velocity on the fastball, but an inconsistent breaking ball. On the other hand, Diaz has far outperformed Partch in Louisville over the last two seasons. Diaz has earned his shot by dominating Triple-A for 70.0 innings for the Reds. The only thing that seems to be keeping him down is lacking a spot on the 40-man roster. At some point though it is going to be time to figure out a way to get him a chance with the big league bullpen and see what he can do.

62 thoughts on “Is it time to consider calling up Jumbo Diaz?

  1. My thouoghts exactly. Thank-you Doug.

    Right now, the Reds (WJ? Bryan?) decision to NOT add Jumbo to the 40-man roster and call him up seems ludicrous, but what to I know? I’m just an old baseball fan wanting to see another WS for the Reds. WJ just seems to get enamored with experienced, expensive relievers in a classic buy high strategy while jettisoning the insignificant minor league relievers in trades.

    • As you know, I love me some Jocketty and believe he has done a better job than many give him credit for as the Reds GM. However, you have nailed his achilles heel with the high priced bull pen arms. This problem was only made worse by the way that Dusty insisted on handling the pen. I’m hopeful that Bryan Price will have an influence on Walt in this area. And, let’s not forget the importance of snagging Simon off the waiver wire a couple of years ago.

  2. Doug – this is outstanding. I wouldn’t have been a bit shocked had Hoover been sent down when Chapman was recalled. It seems to me that his confidence is shot and that some time with Ted Power and facing AAA hitters would be a very good thing for him. I blame last year’s woes on horrible bullpen managment by Dusty, but this year it all falls on Hoover himself and his inability to locate pitches.

    While I don’t envy making the decision to dump someone from the 40 man, it seems that Jumbo has earned his chance.

      • The easy move is to shift either Latos or Trevor Bell to the 60 day DL. That opens up a spot. No reason why Diaz can’t be given a shot.

        • I certainly wouldn’t mind moving Bell to the 60-day DL and I would normally be OK with Latos moving to the 60-day DL since his return will soon start bumping up against the 60-day timeframe. I do think the Reds might get Latos back for 1 or 2 starts before the 60-day limit and they really need him back in the rotation as soon as he is ready…but not before he is ready.

        • Not sure I understand the 60 day DL as this appears to be a non- issue, does the 60 day not include Spring Training at all?, but regardless is it even conceiveable Latos is ready by May29th? Would that not be 60 days, or is 60 games? I would think Latos would need several starts in the minors… I just assumed its going to be at least another month and do not expect anything until the All-start break
          and Trevor Bell, would they seriously replace Hoover or Ondrusek with him, he seems to either be set for the minors or DFA’d- put him on the 60 day as well

        • The 60 day DL does NOT include anything before the start of the season. The 15-day DL caan be retroed back to 10 days before the opening of the season. Either option is measured in days, not games. It’s getting very close (if not already passed) to 60 days before Latos can be extended and ready to pitch a major league game. Latos recently completed his long-toss regime and pitched a bullpen session on the 11th.

    • I would think that Bell is the obvious choice at this stage. I’m not sure of the rules of DFA a guy on the DL, so if not, move him to the 60-day until he’s ready to return.

    • While I don’t know how long Trevor Bell is going to be out, moving him to the 60-day DL is the easiest option. It delays the real decision that will need to be made down the road.

  3. Results for Diaz really came together in 2013 for Louisville. The right-hander was 3-4 with a 1.66 ERA and 13 saves in 44 appearances. After the season, the Reds re-signed him as a free agent to another Minor League contract, but also invited him to big league camp as a non-roster player.

    “We had a good talk with him when we signed him back,” Reds player development director Jeff Graupe said. “We said, ‘We’re serious about you. We think you have tremendous talent and capabilities. But this is a two-way street. If we present this opportunity, we strongly encourage you to make the most of it.’”

    Well, it seem like Jumbo did his part, dropping a ton of weight and continuing to pitch well.

    It is a question of who they would take off the 40 man though, isn’t it? The best option seems to be Partch, but that really depends on what the Reds see in him. Diaz is already 30 while Partch is 27.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind if the Reds lost Partch if another team claimed him. It’s relatively easy to restock bullpens each offseason, and I’m not sold on Partch in the long term anyway. It’s a slight gamble either way, but one I think has the potential to pay jumbo dividends for the Reds.

  4. Mesoraco should be reactivated this weekend (knock on the Old Cossack’s wooden noggin). When Mesoraco is activated, keep Barnhart on the 25-man roster temporarily and DFA Bernadina. Option Hoover to AAA until he gets his control issues resolved. Use the opening on the 40-man roster to add Diaz then promote Diaz to the 25-man roster to fill the vacancy in the bullpen. Once Bruce is activated, option Barnhart back to AAA.

    Keeping 3 catchers, enables Bryan to ease Mesoraco back into the catching rotation and frees up Mesoraco and Pena for pinch hitting opportunities when they are not starting. I’m sure Bailey wouldn’t mind pitching to Barnhart for a few more games. If Lutz regains his hitting stroke quickly (he started yesterday after just 3 PA during the past 2 weeks), promote him to the 25-man roster to start in RF until Bruce is activated and option Barnhart AAA.

    From the Old Cossack’s perspective, Jumbo > Bernadina. Once Hoover solves his control issues, then you keep the best 7 relievers in the bullpen, I don’t care who they are. From the Old Cossack’s perspective, Hoover > Ondrusek, but Marshall or Christiani could also factor into the decision. A 2nd trip to the show and a little more major league experience for the Big Lutz could pay dividends come 2015 when the Reds are looking for the best option to play LF. The big guy might just be ready this time, but if he is promoted to the 25-man roster, he needs to play every day until Bruce returns and Lutz is then optioned to AAA to play every day.

    • I agree 100% with keeping Barnhart, it’s funny I just posted the same sentiment on redsminorleagues.com Although, I would send down Soto. He’s not even really getting much spot starting, and he’s woeful as a pinch hitter. Barnhart allows both Mes and Pena to be pinch hitters when they’re not starting. Barnhart has really seemed to help Bailey get things straightened out (although could be coincidence), and he’s a much better defensive catcher than the others. He’s likely a better pinch hit option if it came down to it than Soto is as well (and he’s a switch hitter).

      • In order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, a player must be DFA’d, not just optioned. If Soto is DFA’d he will almost certainly be claimed and lost to the Reds. My point was to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Jumbo. I don’t want to give up on Soto yet and Bernadina has already demonstrated that he will clear waivers. I believe Barnhart really needs consistent playing time right now as a highly regarded catching prospect, but a short time in a reserve role on the major league roster shouldn’t hurt his development. I think Barnhart is the Reds backup catcher in 2016.

        • I wouldn’t give up on Soto yet either. But moving Bell or Latos to the 60-day would open up a spot for Diaz. I would keep Bernadina until Bruce is back. At that point, when Bruce is back you can DFA Bernadina or Bell or whatever is more helpful.

    • I’m perfectly fine with playing the hot hand, but why would the Reds treat Lutz like an elite prospect and play him every day? The guy is basically Chris Heisey without the minor league track record. He screams 4th OF.

      It’s also important to note that, if the Reds played Lutz everyday in RF, B-Ham should lose ABs to Schumaker and Heisey.

      Hmm…starting to like this idea more.

    • Not many, but how many teams have a catching trio like Mesoraco/Pena/Barnhart and the catching trio would be very temporary, until either Bruce or Lutz joins the team. The Reds have already declared that Bernadina is the odd man out on the 40-man roster, so why not make it happen now and find out who the best 7 relievers are on this team?

      • While I agree with keeping Barnhart, I’d keep Bernadina as well for now. At least until Bruce comes back or Lutz demonstrates that he is recovered and back to tearing the cover off the ball. At this point a move with Bernadina seems unnecessary.

        For me it makes for better roster balance. Ludwick/Heisey are RH and Schumaker/Bernadina are LH, Hamilton is a switch hitter. Heisey, Bernadina, and Schumaker can cover all three OF spots, allowing for flexibility.

        Schumaker also backs up 2B, while Santiago primarily backs up SS and 3B. Pena backs up 1st and is emergency back up to 3B.

        • Hmm, made a mistake. I thought Soto was sent down the other day.

          I really don’t understand having Soto & Barnhart on the same roster when Mesoraco comes back.

      • I think it’s a little absurd for the Reds to carry 3 catchers,

        If Mesoraco is healthy enough to come off the DL, then he should be starting at least 3 of every 5 games. If he can’t play that many games, he shouldn’t be reactivated off the DL.

        Given Barnhart’s bat, I don’t see what role Tucker Barnhart plays in that scenario. Would they really cut down Pena’s playing time? They might as well call up Corky Miller to play emergency catcher.

    • We used to routinely under the Dusty regime. Normally I wouldn’t like it, but when we get the production from that spot like we are getting, stick with it. I also agree with Cossack that at least temporarily, it makes sense to ensure that Devin is OK.

    • In the NL at the moment, 3 teams are carrying 3 catchers. The Braves (Gattis, Laird, Doumit), the Nationals (Ramos, Lobaton, Leon), and the Reds’ opponent The Padres (Grandal, Hundley, Rivera). With 12-man pitching staffs, it doesn’t happen that often anymore but it does still happen.

      I think Barnhart is better served playing every day however than being a 3rd catcher. It’s one of only a handful of things I disagree with the old Cossack on.

      • Having a prospect playing every day is certainly a valid consideration and a concept I hold in high regard. In this particular situation I just don’t think 2 weeks with just occasional playing time would be detrimental since I think Barnhart’s ultimate role at the major league level will be as a backup catcher, probably catching Bailey every 5th game. Barnhart will also be targeted for AAA next season with Pena on a 2 year contract.

        • Valid points, both. I think that Barnhart may end up a starting catcher somewhere but I doubt it will be with the Reds.

        • Yep, I I was a GM and needed a catcher in the near future, I would have my scouts keeping a close eye on young Barnhart. Barnhart could become a valuable trade chip for WJ in the next year or so.

        • The guy is already one of the better defensive backstops in MLB. There really are only a handful of MLB catchers that I’d put him behind from a defensive standpoint. The bat is coming along but not there yet. I don’t think he’ll ever need to be an above average hitter as his defense is so good. He’ll have to hit some though if he wants to start somewhere. I think he’ll be at AAA with the Reds or another team next year… I really, really like the guy. The more I see him, the more I like him. Of course I like catchers, especially good defensive catchers.

        • Hey LW, What if Devin ends up in Left Field to make sure he gets 600 abs?

          Barnhart is an important piece forward

      • It’s actually 4,500,000 reasons since 4,500,000 is already sunk cost. The decision regarding Ludwick’s option is if the Reds consider him worth an additional $4.5MM for 2015. For $4.5MM, Ludwick might possibly be more of a platoon option in LF or if he doesn’t demonstrate a return of his power this season (currently a .380 SLG and .110 ISO), then the Reds may simply exercise the $4.5MM buyout.

        • Yeah, but they aren’t eating $4.5M to save $4.5M, so they will be paying him $9M for 2015 unless he literally just falls apart to the point where no team would even think of signing him. I don’t see that happening.

        • we agree. Ludwick doesn’t need to provide much production to justify the additional $4.5MM. He would really have to bottom out the 2nd half of this season to make the buyout even a consideration, but I’m not convinced that Ludwick is a lock-cinch as the starting, everyday LF in 2015. I could see him as the 2015 version of Jonny Gomes as a parttime player.

  5. Bob Gibson talked about , “protecting HIS side of the plate”. I really don’t see where JJ’s stuff has changed all that much but I do think hitters are just teeing off on the guy. IMO, if he doesn’t start to protect HIS side of the plate: changing mechanics won’t do much good. The effect of all this a tendency to walk the park because he fears the Home Run, and he should.

    My perfect pitcher Strasburg’s arm, Sam Lecure’s head, and Mike Leake’s athleticism. Just always wanted to say that but never had a place to put it. So there it is.

      • Excellent!!

        I was actually thinking instead of JJ watching tape of himself, watch Nolan face the poor batter after Ryan has surrendered 2 HRs in an inning.

        Perfect analogy 11.

        • So you think it’s more a matter of “pitching inside” and perhaps going ahead and plunking a batter or two? I have watched a lot of JJ Hoover and his mechanics are simply a mess. I’m sort of surprised he hasn’t hit more guys on accident because he has very little command right now. He can’t replicate his delivery and he has no idea where the ball is going.

        • No, not hitting a batter or two but that can certainly happen when you go inside off the plate. Hitters just look way too comfortable, to me, going up against him.

          Appreciate your thoughts but we will just have to agree to disagree on this one.

        • Fair enough. We can agree to disagree… That said, even though I don’t agree that his issue is as simple as not coming inside enough, it is worth trying.

        • If you have time, go to MLB.TV and watch the replay of the 6th inning Saturday night and see if you don’t agree what I’m getting at. One pitch off the plate inside – slow curve to the pitcher (Lyles). Just looks to me like guys are coming out of their shoes against JJ.

          To me, it looked like he threw several good pitches and had control but guys were just swinging like it was batting practice. This may be why they are not sending him down. The stuff looks like it is there but…oh well.

  6. Diaz has certainly earned the chance at the bigs with his season-plus performance at AAA. Moving Bell to the 60-day DL seems like the move to make. His was a shoulder problem, correct? If so, those issues shouldn’t be rushed in any event.

    • The only thing about putting a guy on the 60-day is that you need to make sure he’s really going to need close to that amount of time to recover. The league knows that is one way to free up a spot on the 40-man and they tend to scrutinize those moves more than the 15-day moves.

    • Trevor Bell went to the DL with right elbow inflammation. He was diagnosed with a UCL sprain. Given the epidemic of TJ surgery, I think he is now at high risk for a future tear of the UCL, and he should have been placed on the 60 day DL right away. Even now I think it would be a good move, and it would give him lots of time to heal and rehab. MLBN did a whole special on TJ surgery a few days ago, and they were saying that lots of easy throwing on flat ground was a good preventative.

      • I’m not sure if it was part of the same special, but I read an article today that stated that their have been 24 TJ surgeries at the MLB level this year, and Fernandez from the Marlins (OUCH!) may be 25. Interesting fact I gleaned: Of the hispanics on MLB rosters, which is @ 1/4 of the rosters, only one is a current TJ patient. Fernandez might make two, but he actually began his high school career in Florida. There are theories regarding the TJ epidemic and how our training methods and the focus on throwing harder younger may be part of the root cause. I know it’s almost an advocated procedure by some coaches as early as Junior High.

  7. I agree, Hoover’s mechanics look pretty bad this year, but he also sort of just stinks. I’m ready for Jumbo Diaz.

    Hoover has a career 28.5% ground ball rate, and 4.07 BB/9. The ground ball rate ranks him 121st out of 122 relievers wit at least 100IP since 2012. He is an EXTREME flyball pitcher, who has always walked too many people. Does that sound like a good fit for GABP?

  8. Lineup for tonight posted…Same top of the order as it has been the last few days. I was a big fan of Price shaking things up with this lineup for a day or two, but now it’s starting to worry me. Pena, as good as he’s been for us this year, is not a good OBP guy on his career. And I’m fine moving Joey around in the order every once in a while, especially when he’s in a slump. But now he seems to be permanently out of the top 3 which is criminal. We have 3 of our 4 worst OBP hitters 1-3 in the order (Pena is .294 for his career). And the only thing I can see changing that would be Bruce coming back, which is a long way off. I suppose Mes could change the equation, but he shouldn’t be batting 2nd either.

    • Agree 100%. Loved the move of Joey to the 2 spot. Really hate him batting clean up. Why would we want to give away ABs for the best hitter on the team?

  9. Nice article Doug and nice discussion.
    I wouldn’t mind seeing the Reds call up both Diaz and Partch. Then send Hoover and Christiani back to Louisville to work on their craft. Aside from helping improve the bullpen’s woes which would be issue #1, the other thing about Diaz is if he even comes close to pitching like he has in Louisville, he could help make Broxton available to a team looking for a closer. Which would help the Reds get out from under his contract. If the Reds could out from under one or both of Broxton’s and/or Marshall’s contracts, it could free up money for Jocketty to go get a hitter for the offense. Somebody who’s contract is up after 2014. Somebody like Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer if they have too many OF’s. And maybe picking up a reliever to help LeCure in the 8th innings that is much cheaper but just as good as Broxton and/or Marshall. Promoting Diaz to see what he can do would be worth it on several fronts.

  10. I wonder if ml baseball will ever increase the 25 man roster. With the onslaught of pitching injuries does anyone think that increasing the number of players available to start would help in this area? I dont know if i like the idea or hate it just curious what people think about it.

  11. I don’t think an increase in the 25-man roster really addresses the issue unless the 40-man roster also increases. Even with an increase in the roster, there are only a limited number of qualified starting ptchers available to divide among the 30 major league teams. Any team that must dip into their reserves for more than 1 or 2 starting pitchers is going to run into a problem with the quality available. The roster increase will really only allow the large market teams to stockpile additional staff at the expense of smaller market teams, creating additional economic disparity.

      • The 60-day DL can be retroed back to the last game played or the beginning of the season, whichever is later. For some reason, WJ doesn’t utilize the 60-day DL unless absolutely necessary, usually for an injury covering 3 months or longer. Sometimes his lack of utilization is frustrating, but he is paid to make those decisions.

        • My guess as to why Walt doesn’t utilize the 60 Day is budget, not roster. Remember the guy on the 60 day DL get’s a big league payday while on the DL, all these DL’s add up for guys you would normally option up or down, suddenly your paying 3 or 4 at the same time guys the minimum for one spot, it adds up.

  12. Doug, can you intorduce everyone to Louisville SP Josh Smith in your column next week. People might look at Louisville’s stats and see a SP with a 5-0 record and 2.50 ERA and wonder who the heck is this guy. I have followed his quiet ascention up the Reds minor league ladder the last 3 years. He is a solid SP. He has spent a year at each level and is promoted. Steady progression. He hasn’t gotten stuck at a certain level like many a minor leaguer have happened to them. He isn’t on the 40-man roster, yet.
    Thanks.

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