The still-to-be-determined start of the 2020 MLB season has added an interesting wrinkle to fantasy baseball draft prep. We at SI Fantasy want to provide you with the best possible information heading into your drafts in these unprecedented times.
Our “Draft or Pass” video series takes a closer look at a fantasy player that will be debated often leading up to fantasy drafts, in many cases, because of the delayed start to the season. Are our hosts targeting this player specifically? Are they avoiding him entirely?
Today’s feature focuses on New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz.
Draft or Pass at current ADP: 114 (RP11)
It’s difficult for me to hear the name Edwin Diaz and not think of two things.
The first? This iconic scene from the Martin Lawrence film, “Blue Streak”:
The second? An epic tumble from the top of the fantasy mountaintop after being traded from the Mariners to the Mets along with Robinson Cano a season ago.
Diaz was a coveted arm on a Seattle team going nowhere and wasn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2021. While still an effective closer from 2016-2017, Diaz turned it up a notch in 2018, saving a league-high 57 games in 73.1 IP, striking out 124 batters with a 1.96 ERA and a jaw-dropping 0.791 WHIP.
With high expectations and the bright lights of Citi Field cast upon him, Diaz’s New York debut did not receive rave reviews: a 2-7 record, 5.59 ERA, and the highest WHIP (1.379) and BB/9 rate of his career (3.4).
Yet even in the midst of a collapse, there were still a few silver linings to be found. First, Diaz’s K/9 rate actually went up, meaning the stuff was still dominant, but just not going where he wanted it. Second, his average velocity stayed nearly identical to 2018 when he was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball: 97.8 mph (compared to 97.9) on his fastball with a power wipeout slider at 89.8 (89.7).
So if the stuff and velocity remained? Was it just a confidence issue for Diaz? And if that’s the case, can fantasy owners trust that a shortened season and more time removed from last year’s disaster can fix him back up?
SI Fantasy insider and high-stakes legend Shawn Childs dove into the Mets as part of his 2020 Team Outlooks series, and suggested that Diaz could return to his 2018 form in 2020, considering how he started the season.
He came into last year with exceptional success in 2018 (1.96 ERA, 124 Ks, and 57 SVs over 73.1 innings), pushing his career stats to even lower levels (2.64 ERA, 301 Ks, and 109 SVs over 191 innings). Diaz was a top-tier closer during drafts last year. There was no sign of trouble over his first 24 games (1.64 ERA, 35 Ks, and 13 SVs over 22 innings).
After his second blown save on May 29th (four runs, six baserunners, and two home runs over one-third of an inning), he had three more disaster games (12 runs and 14 baserunners over 2.2 innings) in his next 11 appearances. From July 28th to the end of the season, Diaz had the most issues with home runs (eight over 18.2 innings), which led to a 7.23 ERA. His strikeout rate (15.4) was a career-high while having regression in his walk rate (3.4 – 2-1 in 2018).
Despite Diaz falling off a proverbial cliff as an elite closer last year, he still finished 27th amongst all relievers in total points with 378. Assuming the elbow is healthy, Diaz is a solid value at his ADP, and fantasy owners should look for a bounce-back season, returning to form as one of the more dominant closers in the game.
READ MORE: 2020 New York Mets Fantasy Team Preview