Diaz Fighting for Place on Roster and in Organization
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the young players on the 40-man roster that is a part of the Indians’ minor league system.
By Mike Brandyberry
Spring Training is about many things. Getting in shape and ready for the long season is a priority for some solidified players and battling for a roster spot for some fringe players become the personal goals and pursuits of others.
For Indians shortstop Juan Diaz, battling to keep a place in the Tribe organization may be his goal.
The 24-year old shortstop appeared in five games with the Indians in May 2012, going 4-for-15 during his short big league stay. Diaz was filling in for an injured Asdrubal Cabrera. At the time, Indians Manager Manny Acta elected to promote Diaz for the short stint over Jason Donald because Diaz was better defensively. Donald, like Acta, is no longer with the organization.
Only Diaz remains, who other than his week in the big leagues, split his season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. In 96 games at Akron, Diaz hit .259, with 11 home runs and 52 runs batted in. He struck out 95 times in 405 plate appearances. His late-season promotion to Columbus was his best month of the season when he hit .306 in 19 games, with two home runs and 11 runs batted in.
Donald’s departure may appear to open a door to a big league opportunity for Diaz, but the acquisition of Mike Aviles likely ends that opportunity before he really had a chance. Aviles provides a veteran presence and much greater versatility to the Indians’ bench and a shortstop fill-in behind Cabrera. Diaz is likely headed back to Columbus to play shortstop. If Cabrera sustained a long-term injury Diaz may be an option, but likely Aviles would still be the Tribe’s starting shortstop.
What may be an even greater concern to Diaz and his longevity in the Tribe’s organization is the bushel of talented shortstops at the lower levels in the Indians’ minor leagues. Ronny Rodriguez and Tony Wolters will likely open the season at Akron, Francisco Lindor at High-A Carolina and Dorssys Paulino at Low-A Lake County. All four players are in the Tribe’s top-10 prospect rankings. Lindor is a top-25 prospect in all of minor league baseball and believed to be the heir apparent to Cabrera at some point.
So while Diaz is not necessarily battling for a place on the big league roster this spring, he is battling for his long term survival in the organization. The 6-foot-4-inch native of the Dominican Republic has a big league frame. However, he needs to cut down his strikeouts to remain a possibility for any big league team.
Diaz has appeared in the first two exhibition games, playing three innings in each and getting a hit Friday and two doubles on Saturday. Likely Diaz’s offense could be his key to the big leagues. While he probably has this season to play in Columbus, as a member of the 40-man roster, he could be in jeopardy of losing his place if the Tribe elects to promote any non-roster players like Jason Giambi, Ryan Raburn or Ben Francisco.
Thus, this spring might not be as much about progress or preparing for the season, but survival to remain a big league possibility.