Cincinnati Reds in Review: RP Jumbo Diaz


At age 30, Jumbo Diaz’s ascension to the Cincinnati Reds was a long time coming.

His first professional season took place back in 2002 as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, back when he truly was “jumbo.” Now, he is more of just “big”, being officially listed at six feet, four inches tall, and weighing in around 315 pounds.

Jumbo Diaz – Relief Pitcher

There’s just something about Jumbo. Maybe it’s the nickname, or the 98-mph fastball, or his jolly nature; but whatever it is, after appearing in just 36 games for the Redlegs in 2014, he has endeared himself to a fan base that has embraced him with open arms.

It seemed that Diaz would be an cinch-tight lock for the 25-man roster out of Spring Training; yet that never came to fruition. In 8.1 innings of work, he would allow just two runs while punching out 11.

In the midst of their darkest hour, the Reds largest use of kryptonite appeared.

Diaz would have to wait all the way until June 20 to make his Major League debut—a moment 12+ years in the making. After allowing runs in two of his first three appearances, he would go on a stretch of allowing just one run over his next 15 outings.

As the season faded in September, Diaz had a bit of difficulty with walks, which led to posting a frightening WHIP (1.86) in the season’s final month. While the numbers took an uptick in the wrong direction, his role had increased. With Jonathan Broxton being shipped off to the Milwaukee Brewers, Jumbo filled the role of burly set-up man to Aroldis Chapman. Suddenly, the Reds had one of the hardest-throwing back-ends of the bullpen in all of baseball.

Diaz’s Stat Line:

0-1, 3.38 ERA, 36 G, 34.2 IP, 37 K, 1.24 WHIP, .230 OAV

(Diaz would also post a 1.35 ERA at Triple-A Louisville in 33.1 innings of work.)

Top Jumbo Diaz Moment:

Many of us may never be able to fully comprehend just what Diaz was feeling on the night of June 20 when he trotted out to the mound, just like the countless times he has done it in his life before. But this time, it was for real. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, pitching on a Major League mound is more of a dream than a realistic destination. After nearly eating himself out of baseball entirely, on June 20 against the Toronto Blue Jays, Diaz found himself under the lights at Great American Ball Park making his Major League debut.

Low-Point of the Season for Jumbo Diaz:

If it’s possible for the best night of his life to also be his lowest point of the season, Diaz experienced it in his debut. Most fantasize about a clean, 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout of the final batter to the roar of the crowd as their way of introducing themselves to the world of Major League Baseball.

It wasn’t just one home run Jumbo would allow, but two. Both Brett Lawrie, and former Red, Juan Francisco would clobber balls over the fence, effectively spoiling the big man’s debut. It would be his only appearance on the season in which he would allow more than two runs.

Although, it’s unlikely Diaz could have been too disappointed. In what has been one of the more compelling baseball odysseys in recent memory, Jumbo (nickname and all) had finally broken through the glass ceiling.

Final Grade: B

There are very few guarantees concerning the Cincinnati Reds bullpen come 2015, but two men have all but secured themselves a spot at the backend. It takes very little guesswork to factor Aroldis Chapman into the mix, but Jumbo was so impressive in his time with the Redlegs that seeing him in the eighth inning was not just a 2014 fad.

Jumbo is here to stay.