The Tigers have added two players to the organization via waiver claims over the past few days. First, on Friday, they picked up left handed pitcher Andrew Vasquez from the Phillies. Then, news came out on Monday that Detroit also claimed second baseman Isan Díaz from San Francisco.
Vasquez came up through the minors with the Twins, overcoming massive odds as a 32nd round draft pick and debuting in Minnesota in 2018. He’s had trouble finding a major league home since then, logging innings for the Twins again in 2019, followed by the Dodgers in 2021, the Blue Jays and Giants in 2022, and finally the Phillies and Tigers in 2023.
This season is the first time Vasquez has had an extended opportunity to play in the major leagues, and he’s been nails. Across 39.2 innings pitched with Philadelphia, he kept a 2.27 ERA. That sparkling performance is fueled largely by the fact that he’s been among the league’s best at suppressing solid contact. Statcast lists him as being among the top 4 percent of pitchers in average exit velocity against and the top 2 percent of pitchers in hard contact against.
Vasquez has always thrown a lot of sliders, and the Phillies game plan for him this year was to roll that dial to the max. Of the 669 pitches he’s thrown this year, 550 of them have been sliders. That’s a whopping 82.2 percent. He gets a boatload of break on the pitch, beating out the league average slider by more than 4 inches of vertical drop and 8 inches of horizontal break.
Andrew Vasquez, Vicious 81mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/kNKmDzvxB4— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 6, 2023
Unfortunately, FIP is less convinced that he’s actually the pitcher he seems.
As an aside, I’d like to note that while FIP is often cited as if it measures what a pitcher’s ERA “should have been” over a given span, that’s a slight misuse of its evaluative ability. Instead, it’s designed to predict future outcomes on an ERA scale. Essentially, FIP is supposed to remove luck and defensive talent from the picture and answer the question of how well a pitcher will perform going forward.
Therefore, when seeing that Vasquez has a 4.31 FIP in 2023, remember that the metric generally has a distaste for pitchers who pitch to contact, which is exactly where Vasquez has excelled. Apparently the Phillies were inclined to agree, and cleared him from the 40-man roster to make room for Michael Lorenzen.
This isn’t the first time Scott Harris has shown an interest in the lefty relief arm. Remember, San Francisco was a partially Harris-led team in 2022. Vasquez was immediately placed on the MLB roster in Detroit and, barring injury, he’ll almost certainly get an extended audition to stay with the team long term.
The other newcomer to Detroit is middle infielder Isan Díaz. A second round draft pick for Arizona who broke out in Milwaukee and made it to the majors in Miami, he hasn’t lived up to the potential that prospect evaluators once saw in him.
Díaz has been given two extended chances in the majors, and on both occasions, he was dreadfully lacking at the plate. He is a career .179/.269/.277 hitter in a season’s worth of games, and doesn’t have the kind of instincts in the field to make up the difference, leaving him with a career -2.8 fWAR. At 27 years old, he’s a pretty solidified bust.
After claiming Díaz, the Tigers immediately optioned him to Toledo. It’s likely that’s where he’ll spend the rest of the season. There’s not much else to see here. He’s a break glass option in case of a catastrophe. This is his final option year, so in order to keep him around next season, he’ll have to either make the team or clear waivers and accept an outright assignment to Triple-A. It’s far more likely that he’ll be suiting up for a different organization by the time 2024 rolls around.
In order to accommodate these new players, infielder Nick Solak and pitcher Zach Logue were designated for assignment and pitcher Trey Wingenter was optioned to Triple-A. Solak cleared waivers and was outrighted to Toledo. There’s no news yet on whether Logue will remain with the Tigers, but it seems unlikely that anyone will claim him, considering how much he’s struggled this year.