More On The Mariners: Edwin Diaz, Patrick Kivlehan
Another breakout candidate: Edwin Diaz
A projectable Puerto Rican signed for $300,000 in the third round of the 2012 Draft, Diaz dominated Rookie-level Appalachian League hitters last summer. He led the circuit in both ERA (1.43) and strikeouts (79 in 69 innings).
A cousin of former big league reliever Jose Melendez, the 20-year-old Diaz has one of the livest arms in the system. He has added 25 pounds since signing and now carries 190 on his 6-foot-2 frame, with room to add still more strength. Both his fastball and slider are potential out pitches.
“He has a loose easy arm action with plus life,” Mariners farm director Chris Gwynn said. “We’re teaching him to keep his direction to the plate on line, and when he does that, his ball takes off. He’ll pitch at 91-95 mph and get to 96 at times, and he’s still got some growing to do.”
Diaz will begin the season at low Class A Clinton. He might need three more years in the Minors, but the wait should be worth it for a potential frontline starter.
Another breakout candidate: Patrick Kivlehan
Kivlehan took three years off from baseball, which is usually the kiss of death for a position player. It’s hard to recover from that many lost at-bats, but he has made it look easy.
A defensive back at Rutgers, Kivlehan returned to the diamond for the Scarlet Knights in 2012 after completing his football eligiblity. In his first year back, he garnered Big East Conference player of the year honors, signed for $300,000 as a fourth-rounder and then won the short-season Northwest League MVP award and home run crown.
Kivlehan continued to thrive in his first full pro season, hitting .303/.366/.464 with 16 homers and 15 steals between two Class A stops. The knocks on him are that he’s already 24 and is a shaky defender at third base, but it’s hard not to appreciate his bat and hard-nosed approach.
Though he struggled in the Arizona Fall League, Gwynn said that should help Kivlehan in the long run.
“You don’t see that, a guy not playing and he picks it up three years later and doesn’t miss a beat,” Gwynn said. “He’s definitely on our radar. The Fall League was good for him because he saw better pitching than he had been exposed to and started to see what he had to do. We’re getting him into better position to load his hands to see the ball, and he’s taking to it.”