WICHITA, Kans. (March 7, 2018) – The Wichita Wingnuts announced a pair of transactions on Wednesday, acquiring infielder Ryne Willard and a player to be named later from the Texas AirHogs in exchange for future considerations, and signing left-handed pitcher Carlos Diaz.
Willard joins the Wingnuts after playing in 76 games with the AirHogs in 2017, flashing his defensive versatility by spending time at six different positions. The 24-year old primarily handled third base for Texas, while also splitting time at second base, shortstop, and all three outfield spots. With the bat, Willard hit .210 with one home run and 29 RBI, adding 13 doubles and three stolen bases.
Over the final two weeks of the regular season, Willard raised his average more than 20 points, recording seven multi-hit efforts in the AirHogs last 12 games. In Texas’s season-ending series against the Salina Stockade and Cleburne Railroaders, he piled up 10 hits in only 28 at-bats, including five extra-base knocks.
Willard’s professional career began with the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League in 2016, notching five hits in 12 games. The native of Smithsburg, Maryland arrived in the professional ranks after three collegiate stops, beginning as a freshman at Towson University in 2012. Willard transferred to Tallahassee Community College for his sophomore season, where he hit .275 with ten doubles and seven home runs to earn All-Panhandle Conference honors.
Willard wrapped up his collegiate career with two seasons at North Carolina State under legendary head coach Elliott Avent. The right-handed hitter shined as both a second baseman and shortstop for the Wolfpack, hitting .287 as a junior with ten doubles and four home runs. Willard was limited to 23 games as a senior in 2016, hitting .268 in 41 at-bats.
“Willard is a rookie utility player who can play anywhere in the infield or outfield, and we’re expecting him to get a lot of playing time,” Wingnuts Special Advisor Josh Robertson said. “He offers a great deal of flexibility for our team with the ability to play several different positions.”
Carlos Diaz arrives in Wichita with five seasons of professional experience in the Chicago White Sox organization. The 24-year old pitched primarily for the White Sox Dominican Summer League affiliate during his first pro stint, posting stellar numbers as both a starter and a reliever from 2012-2015. His best season came in 2014, when he was 5-1 with a sparkling 1.29 ERA, striking out 54 in 48.2 innings while allowing only 32 hits.
Diaz last pitched in 2016, appearing in 15 games for the Arizona League White Sox. The Venezuelan southpaw has made 80 professional appearances over the course of his five seasons, including 11 starts. All told, Diaz owns a career record of 10-12 and a 2.71 ERA in 192.1 professional innings.
“Diaz is a strong left-handed pitcher who we’ve gotten exciting reports on, and we’re expecting big things from,” Robertson said. “He has the ability to start or relieve, and we couldn’t be happier to add him to our pitching staff.”
The addition of Willard and Diaz brings the number of Wingnuts players under contract for the 2018 season up to 14. American Association clubs may carry up to 28 players during spring training, which opens on May 6.
Stay up to date on all player signings and transactions by checking on the Wingnuts roster here.
The 11th season of Wingnuts baseball and the club’s pursuit of an eighth consecutive division title kicks off with a three-game home series against the Kansas City T-Bones, beginning on Friday, May 18. For information on season tickets, group outings, and party packages, call the Wingnuts main office at (316) 264-NUTS, or visit the Wingnuts official website at www.wichitawingnuts.com.
Photo Credit: Dan LeMoal, The Northern Battery