Diaz Dazzles At Excellence Tournament

Day One: Correa, Big Arms Stand Out

Day Two: Valentin Knows What To Expect At Next Level

CAGUAS, P.R. — In the history of the draft, only two pitchers from Puerto Rico have been drafted in the top two rounds—Jorge Lopez, who went in the second round to the Brewers last year and Luis Atilano, a Braves supplemental first-round pick from 2003. This year, there may be two more on that list. J.O. Berrios we covered last week and he could be joined by righthander Edwin Diaz from Naguabo (P.R.) High. While Berrios figures to be drafted first, both pitchers are exciting to scouts.

The 6-foot-3, 163-pound righthander could blow off the mound in a strong wind. Diaz's long, lanky frame has it's pros and cons. His long arms allow him to whip the ball with surprising velocity. He sits in the 92-95 mph range and touched 97 twice in his first outing at the Excellence Tournament. But, like many tall, gangly pitchers, the Miami Dade recruit sometimes has trouble controlling his limbs, which leads to spotty control and an inconsistent curveball. That, along with the fact that he doesn't use his changeup much, leads many scouts to believe he fits best as a power reliever in pro ball.

"I've been working with my pitching coach, John Burgos, and I'm getting better everyday," Diaz said. "He helps me with my mechanics. . . Sometimes when I'm going too fast, I lose my command. So I have to slow things down since I'm so tall and skinny. Sometimes I go a little easier to get more command of my pitches and switching to a full windup has helped me slow everything down."

Diaz comes from a humble, hard-working family. His father is a construction worker and his mother takes care of the children—Diaz has an older brother and a younger sister. Diaz is relatively new to pitching, having just started when he was 15.

But his exposure on the showcase circuit this summer wasn't his first time in the spotlight. Last year at the Excellence Tournament, Diaz threw a no-hitter against Connie Mack. Diaz also has someone to turn to for advice when it comes to perfecting the craft and knowing what to expect at the next level. His cousin, Jose Melendez, pitched in the big leagues for parts of five seasons (1990-1994) for Seattle, San Diego and Boston.

"I always saw my cousin pitch and my idol is Mariano Rivera, so that's why I like pitching," Diaz said through an interpreter. "My cousin is a very humble and responsible person. He never had bad habits and was always there for the game, so he's been a good example for me."

Commitment To Excellence

• Outfielder Robert Martinez from Quinones Medina High in Yabucoa, P.R., showed what he can do with the bat by hitting a grand slam in his team's third game in the tournament.

"I wanted to hit a line drive and drive in the run, because that's the most important thing," Martinez said through an interpreter. "But the grand slam came. I just hit a line drive and it went out. I felt like I made very good contact with the ball and I knew that I got all of it."

Martinez, who bats and throws righthanded, stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 185 pounds.

"It was something unexpected and something not a lot of people have done in this tournament," Martinez said. "I feel like it was an accomplishment for all my hard work. The crowd was full of scouts and I think I left my mark on the scouts by hitting that grand slam."

• The Big League team that featured Carlos Correa, J.O. Berrios, Diaz, Jesmuel Valentin, among others won the tournament, beating COLICEBA in the final game, 3-1. Correa was named MVP after batting .385 with 2 home runs and 5 RBIs. Berrios was named best pitcher of the tournament by winning the two games he pitched, while not allowing any runs and racking up 12 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings.