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Rockies prospect rankings: No. 28 Jairo Diaz could be key cog in big league bullpen

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In Diaz, the Rockies got a potentially valuable reliever in exchange for Josh Rutledge. If all goes well, he'll be a legitimate late-inning relief option in the very near future.

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Editor's note: We've made a change with the PuRPs list this year, deciding to unveil each player individually over the course of a few weeks. To keep track of the list, keep checking our PuRPs list StoryStream.

PuRP No. 28: Jairo Diaz (56 points, 6 ballots) | Summer 2014 Ranking: NR | High Ballot 17, Mode Ballot 17, 21

Diaz, a 23-year-old right-handed relief pitcher, spent the year in the Angels system before his acquisition by the Rockies in exchange for Josh Rutledge. Diaz seemed to have figured something out in 2014, as he started out in High-A, then moved to Double-A midseason and received a big league call-up late in the year. In that abbreviated stint, he threw 5⅔ innings for the AL West-champion Angels, allowing two runs while striking out eight and walking three.

Across the two minor league stops, Diaz hurled 64⅔ frames of 3.48 ERA ball while putting up an impressive 11.8 K/9 rate, combined with a respectable 2.8 BB/9. Diaz had been in the Angels system since signing with them out of Venezuela in 2007 as a 16-year-old catcher. After two seasons in the DSL trying (and failing) to hack it behind the plate, Diaz moved to the other side in 2010 as a fireballing pitcher. Diaz moved up and down the minor league ladder as a reliever before his big break this season.

Here's what Nick Faleris of Baseball Prospectus had to say about Diaz:

Proud owner of an elite, upper-90s fastball and upper-80s slide piece, Diaz and his power arsenal found their way to Colorado in exchange for middle infielder Josh Rutledge earlier this winter. In addition to the borderline double-plus fastball/slider combo, Diaz can drop an occasional split change with late dive, most effective as a chase pitch ahead in the count. Diaz should compete for a spot in the big-league pen this spring, and could begin logging high-leverage innings in short order.

I usually discount relievers like Diaz pretty heavily in my own list, but the late innings upside and proximity to contribution had me place Diaz 21st on my ballot.

Though Diaz did pitch in the big leagues this year, he only got 32⅔ innings at the AA level last year. It wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see him at New Britain or Albuquerque this spring, though he'll have a shot to break camp with the big league club.

Contract Status: 2014 trade, 40-man roster, three options remaining

MLB ETA: 2015