If you are a fan of the Seattle Mariners, you are probably familiar with the name Edwin Diaz. If you do not follow the club, the name probably does not ring much of a bell for you. But listen up MLB fans, especially those of you like me and into fantasy baseball. Edwin Diaz is going to be 2017’s breakthrough closer. Mark it down right now, as I am putting my chips on the man they call “Sugar” before we even flip the calendar from 2016 to 2017.
Diaz may his presence known towards the end of last season and took over the closer’s role from Steve Cishek on August 1st. While holding the title of closer, Diaz would save 18 of 21 attempts. The soon to be 23 years old pitched to a solid 2.79 ERA and 1.16 WHIP on the season. But those are not the stats that make Diaz truly stand out as we enter the 2017 season. When looking for guys who can hold down a closer’s job with big time success, it is always good to look for guys who can throw gas, and do so while piling up the strikeouts. It just so happens Diaz does both of those things.
On average, Diaz’s fastball velocity hit 97.3 miles per hour last season. That just so happens to be where dominant closer Craig Kimbrel’s fastball velocity also sits. With that top of the line heater, it comes as no surprise that Diaz knows how to rack up the K’s. Over the course of 51 and two-thirds innings, Diaz piled up 81 strikeouts. That is good for an absurd 15.33 strikeouts per nine. By comparison, Aroldis Chapman had a 13.97 strikeout per nine rates, and Kenley Jansen had a rate of 13.63.
Along the way to accruing those impressive numbers, Diaz managed to break a few records and reach a milestone along the way. The first of those records came on July 6th, which was just over a month after debuting in the big leagues when he recorded his eleven straight putouts by way of the strikeout, which started back on June 28. That was a franchise record. Then he would go on to break a milestone that had stood for 123 years. It took Diaz only 25 and a third innings to reach a total of 50 strikeout, which is an extremely impressive feat.
So it is clear, Diaz will bring the heat and strikeout batters left and right. That brings us to the next big question one must ask when looking into if a closer is for real: How many guys does he walk? Well for Diaz, over the course of his 51 and two-thirds innings a season ago, he allowed 15 free passes. That translates to a rate of 2.61 walks per nine. There is certainly nothing wrong with that number, especially when you compare it to the likes of some of the league’s best closers, such as Chapman (2.79) and Zach Britton (2.42). Earlier in the season while down in AA, he had a better rate of 1.57 walks per nine in just over 40 innings, meaning Diaz has the room to improve as well.
So what’s not to love about Diaz as we enter 2017? He is a young flamethrower who does not walk the ballpark who has closing experience in the big leagues under his belt already. He now enters Spring Training and the 2017 season as the clear favorite for the job and not much appears to be standing in his way.
So write the name Edwin “Sugar” Diaz down right now. If you are an involved in the fantasy baseball, he is certainly a name to circle on your cheat sheets. If you are simply a fan of MLB, I will venture to guess you will be seeing him on July 11, 2017, down in Miami for the 2017 MLB All-Star Game. And if you are simply a fan of the Seattle Mariners, you will simply be happy to see him every time he comes jogging in from the pen.