Every once in a while, a piece comes seemingly out of nowhere and gives a club an unexpected boost going into October. It’s really what baseball is all about, and it rings especially true when it comes to relief pitching, which is easily the most volatile aspect of the game. Even more than the bats, bullpen arms can get hot and look unstoppable for lengthy stretches. In the same breath, they can be unplayable a couple of months later.
It’s the nature of the beast, and it’s why I’m still holding out hope for guys like A.J. Minter, Jacob Webb, and Chris Martin. Even though each of those guys has struggled for most of 2021, we’ve seen them dominate at some point in their respective careers, and sometimes it’s all about who gets hot at the right time. However, the Braves still shouldn’t leave any stones unturned. The bullpen has been their Achilles heel all season, and there’s a 23-year-old on the farm that might just provide an impact much sooner than expected.
Indigo Diaz was the Braves 2019 27th round pick out of Michigan State, where he played just one season and posted an unsightly 5.73 ERA, but don’t let that fool you. Diaz has been absolutely unhittable since becoming a professional. Across two levels (A+-AA) this season, he’s posted a minuscule 0.82 ERA and ridiculous 16.4 K/9 over 44 innings. In his 17 innings since making the move to Mississippi, Diaz has allowed just one run while striking out 26.
It may seem a little premature to be talking about Diaz making the jump to the majors this season. After all, he began this year in High-A and has yet to even appear in Gwinnett, but the Braves have every reason to experiment. Their bullpen needs to improve if they want to make another deep run in October, and they’ve built a nice cushion in the division with 20 games remaining. As of yesterday, the Braves have a better than 90% chance of making the playoffs.
In case you're curious:
The #Braves' playoff odds were 7.7% on July 28th.
They're at 90.1% today. pic.twitter.com/vbmTzYlglO
— Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) September 14, 2021
I’ll be pleasantly surprised if we see Diaz this season, but I wouldn’t totally count it out. It’s not like he’s some 19-year-old kid experiencing some early success. Diaz is 23 and has clearly figured something out since his college days. He has Braves future closer written all over him, and considering the bullpen’s struggles throughout the season, it might be worth giving him an opportunity, especially if the Braves continue to pull away in the division.