The Braves will likely see some turnover in their bullpen going into next season, but they don’t necessarily have to make a splash move in free agency to acquire a shutdown arm. They could roll the dice on a very intriguing young prospect that you may not have heard of yet — Indigo Diaz:
Indigo Diaz' first eight M-Braves games…
1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0 ER, 10.2 IP, 19 SO, 3 BB
— Chris Harris (@CHarris731) August 12, 2021
As you can see, Diaz is having quite a good start in the Southern League. He earned that opportunity by absolutely dominating in Rome in 2021:
Indigo Diaz (2021 A+): 27.0 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 7 BB, 54 K (1.00 ERA, .117 BA, 0.67 WHIP, 18.0 K/9)
Indigo Diaz (2021 A+/AA): 37.2 IP, 15 H, 3 ER, 12 BB, 74 K (0.72 ERA, .117 BA, 0.72 WHIP, 17.9 K/9)
Garrett Spain over at Talking Chop talked about Diaz in depth and what has made him so successful so far in 2021:
Diaz has every bit of the talent needed to be a late inning reliever at the major league level. He was a steal in the 27th round. His fastball can run up to 98 mph and he has extremely high spin rates that allow him to succeed even when he leaves the pitch over the plate. His command leaves something to be desired, but he’s making some strides in that department and is generally around the plate. He rarely allows solid contact and his fastball misses so many bats he made a mockery of A ball. He has flashed an improved curveball, but it’s inconsistent and can get a bit loopy. He has a real shot to be a late inning reliever if he can improve the consistency of the pitch as the shape of it pairs well with the action on his fastball. When he tightens the spin and throws it harder it really jumps on guys.
MLBPipeline has similar praise for the 22-year-old Diaz:
After spending two years at Iowa Western Community College, Diaz moved on to pitch, largely out of the bullpen, at Michigan State. He showed enough stuff to get taken in the 27th round by the Braves in 2019, signing for the $125,000 slot value given to all picks after the 10th round. After a brief pro debut that summer, the right-hander absolutely dominated High-A ball during his full-season debut in 2021 to earn a July promotion to Double-A.
The 6-foot-5 Diaz has shown he can miss bats with an effective two-pitch mix. He throws his fastball in the 93-97 mph range and it plays well not only because of the velocity, but because it has carry and Diaz gets very good extension coming down the mound. During the 2020 shutdown, he worked to develop his power breaking ball. He calls it a curve, and it does have good depth, but the mid-80s velocity makes it seem more like a slider.
Diaz has done a better job of finding the strike zone as a pro compared to his time with the Spartans. He attacks the zone and goes right after hitters consistently now, pointing to a potential future pitching out of a big league bullpen.
You can’t coach that type of raw stuff, and perhaps the big 6’5 and 250-pound righty will get some innings for the Braves as early as 2022. MLBPipeline barely has Diaz as a top 30 prospect for the Braves, currently sitting at 30th overall at the moment. I expect that to change quickly if he keeps pitching like this.