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Rockies reliever Jairo Díaz still has not found his groove

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Díaz pitched just 5 major-league innings in his first season after Tommy John surgery

Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.

No 32, Jairo Díaz (-0.1 rWAR)

Jairo Díaz is a person who can’t be reduced to a lesson. And yet, he holds a lesson in his fragile right arm. The Rockies acquired Díaz prior to the 2015 season from the Angels, and all it cost them was superfluous infielder Josh Rutledge. At first blush, it seemed like the Rockies got a steal. Díaz was a 23-year-old fireball throwing right-hander, and it seemed like he would be able to find a role in the bullpen in short order. The remaining question was whether he’d be a middle or late inning reliever. It hasn’t turned out that way, and Díaz’s 2017 was another speck on what’s turning out to be a huge question mark.

The question mark is less about Díaz’s abilities than it is about whether or not he’ll be in a position to realize those abilities. Díaz didn’t play a major role in the bullpen during his first season with the Rockies, as he only pitched 19 innings. But he was effective. Not only that, but Díaz left the team with hope that 2016 would see an increased role in both playing time and leverage. During Spring Training of that year, however, Díaz suffered an injury that led to Tommy John surgery. All of 2016 was lost, which meant that 2017 was going to be as much about recovery as it was about his strikeout rate.

Díaz began the year in Triple-A Albuquerque, but he took a personal leave of absence that kept him out of games until June. The Rockies called Díaz up in late June, and he made one appearance. He allowed four hits and three runs in one inning of work, and the Rockies sent him back to Triple-A the next day. The Rockies brought him back up a couple weeks later. Díaz made three more appearances that were better but still unimpressive. In all, he allowed 12 hits and six runs in five innings of work.

On the bright side, Díaz’s velocity was still there. He averaged about 98 mph during minimal regular season work (92 recorded pitches, according to Brooks Baseball). But that’s really just a minor comfort. The lesson found in Díaz is that fireballing is no straight line to success, and that pitcher injuries will add a whole lot more uncertainty to it all.

2018 Outlook

This story’s the same for the fourth consecutive season. Díaz will attempt to play a role in the Rockies’ bullpen on the strength of his fastball. We shouldn’t be surprised if he finally finds his niche, but it’s not really a safe bet.