As the Washington Nationals aim to round out their roster heading into 2019, left-handed reliever Jake Diekman would be a positive addition to the team.
The Washington Nationals bullpen has been bolstered early on this offseason with a pair of additions. But it still feels one arm short right now and Jake Diekman could be the final piece to the puzzle.
Back in October, the Nationals traded for Kyle Barraclough and then signed Trevor Rosenthal to act as the team’s setup men next season. This probably means that a high-leverage lefty like Diekman would be the best way to round off the relief corps.
The left-hander is coming off of a rough 2018 season in which he posted a 4.73 ERA with the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks. This means he’ll likely only be seeking a one-year deal this winter and he should be able to bounce back in a big way.
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For starters, before last season, Diekman posted a 3.55 ERA in his six previous major league seasons, which bodes well for a bounce-back. In those six years, he also sports a 3.21 FIP that could even give him room for improvement, especially if he gets out of the hitter-friendly environments he’s pitched in so far in his career.
He’s been able to put up such impressive stats in his career so far because of his mouthwatering raw stuff. He offers a fastball that has averaged 95.0mph and a slider that averages 82.9mph, which has also been his main weapon against left-handed hitters.
This arsenal has allowed to strike out a remarkable 11.0 batters per nine innings in his big league career. While he does also own a walk rate of 4.9 BB/9, he makes it work by keeping the ball in the yard in general with a career 0.6 HR/9.
Now, a lot of people are going to go straight to Diekman’s 2018 lefty splits, which were just downright ugly. Lefties slashed .329/.443/.438 against him and on the face of it, Nats fans may initially fear another Sammy Solis clone who can’t get lefties out consistently. But fear not, this just looks like rotten luck.
For starters, lefties had a lofty BABIP of .407 against him last season, when their BABIP against him in his career is just .326, which means he should rebound in that area. But also, in Diekman’s career, lefties slash only .236/.329/.309 off of him, which is much more in line with the line of a lefty specialist.
In Jon Heyman’s contract predictions, his expert predicted a one-year, $2.5 million deal, while Heyman predicted $3 million. That would fit in with the Nats’ likely limited budget to improve the bullpen if they plan to use the bulk of their remaining money on an upgrade at second base and in the rotation.
Jake Diekman is one of the least heralded relief pitchers on the free agent market this offseason. However, if the Washington Nationals are indeed looking to add another reliever, they would be wise to consider the left-hander.