MLBPipeline released their prospect team of the year, and there are some familiar faces on it. Well, one familiar face for Braves fans. We’ve talked about him before, but it’s fireball relief pitcher Indigo Diaz:
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 28, 2021
Here’s what they had to say about Diaz:
A+/AA: 6-2, 1.20 ERA, 45 IP, 83 K, 16 BB, .135 AVG, 0.82 WHIP
A 27th-round pick out of Michigan State in 2019, Diaz would have gone unselected in the five-round 2020 or 20-round 2021 Drafts. But the 22-year-old right-hander thrived in his first taste of full-season ball this summer, split between High-A Rome and Double-A Mississippi. He didn’t allow an earned run in 27 of his 32 regular-season appearances at those two stops. His 47.4 percent K rate was tops among all Minor Leaguers with at least 40 innings pitched, as was his 1.42 FIP. His 1.20 ERA placed seventh among the group. Diaz’s mix of a mid-90s fastball and promising breaking ball give him hope toward recreating these gaudy numbers at the higher levels.
Diaz is currently Atlanta’s 21st ranked prospect by MLBPipeline, but I expect that to change. I wrote about Diaz back in early August, and although his 0.00 ERA at the time wasn’t sustainable, he finished the season strong.
Indigo Diaz allowed 1 HR all season — his final relief appearance of 21. That outing also featured 2 ER by Diaz, his ONLY appearance all season in which he surrendered more than 1 ER.
Of the 175 batters Diaz faced in 21, a whopping 83 went down on strikes.
— Clint Manry (@clint_manry) September 28, 2021
From my earlier report on Diaz:
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)
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 6’5 and 250-pound righty will get some innings for the Braves as early as 2022. Finishing the season with a 1.20 ERA is very exciting, and I expect Diaz to be in Gwinnett sooner rather than later.