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.