27. Jairo Díaz (159 points, 17 ballots)
Your eyes do not deceive you. Somehow, Jairo Díaz is still eligible for a PuRPs list despite making his major league debut back in 2014 for the Angels and boasting well over a year of MLB service time. Diaz was acquired by Colorado in a trade for Josh Rutledge, after which time he has always seemed just on the cusp of finding a major league role for Colorado.
His “somehow still eligible” status is mostly due to injury. After a 2015 season spent between Albuquerque and Denver, Diaz lost all of 2016 to Tommy John surgery. In 2017, he took a month-long personal leave of absence from the team, then after shuttling to the big leagues and back a few times he went on the DL in mid-August with elbow inflammation. Nonetheless, Díaz remains a high upside relief option just a short distance away should Colorado need one in 2018.
The 26-year-old righty reliever truly is a neat story. Not only did Díaz leap all the way from High-A ball to the big leagues in the course of one year (2014), but he did so all of a sudden after six years in the minor leagues trying to get to that point. Even crazier was that two of those years were spent as a catcher in the DSL! In summary, Díaz didn’t make a stateside debut until his fourth professional season and didn’t arrive in High-A until his sixth. Then, in his seventh season he jumped from High-A at the start all the way to the majors—in a division race no less!
For Albuquerque in 2017, he was limited to only 18 innings, in which he had a 5.00 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 8.5 K/9 rate. Since his acquisition by the Rockies, Díaz has thrown 24 innings at the major league level with a 3.75 ERA, during which time he has struck out 20 and walked 11.
Diaz has bounced back this year, reclaiming his 96-98 mph fastball that can reach triple digits. He gets a lot of swings and misses with his heater, and hitters tend to beat it into the ground when they do make contact. His slider also can be overpowering, topping out in the low 90s with nasty break when it’s on.
Though he has the pure stuff to be a closer, Diaz will have to prove he can throw enough strikes and locate his pitches well enough before he’s trusted in the late innings. He overthrows at times, causing his fastball and slider to flatten out, and he gets hit hard when that happens.
Díaz is tagged with an awesome 75 grade on his triple digits fastball and an above average evaluation of his slider (55), but notably receives a poor 40 grade on his control—something we witnessed in his 2017 major league cameo to be sure.
Díaz will have to harness his control to become the fire-breathing late inning reliever I know he has the potential to be. From what I saw in 2017 though, his command profile wasn’t consistently usable in a contending bullpen. With that said, the golden arm and fun backstory make Díaz a personal favorite prospect of mine. I placed him 26th on my list with a 40 FV—though his ceiling is that of a major-league closer.