Could Yandy Diaz Be a Future Solution at Third Base?
Danny Madden | On 17, Jan 2016
Coming into the season, the name Yandy Diaz was not one that anyone had really heard much about. In the league for just one season, he hadn’t quite made a name for himself just yet. That might not be the case anymore, as Diaz has worked his way up the ladder and is now a legitimate option for the Indians, possibly sooner rather than later.
Diaz was signed by the Indians prior to the 2014 season. He started out that year in High-A Carolina. During his time there he only played in 76 games due an injury in his wrist. In that small sample size though, Diaz had hit .286/.396/.367 with seven doubles, five triples, and two home runs. Even in a small size such as it was in 2014, he still showed off some fantastic on-base abilities, while also hitting for average.
In 2015, he started off the season with the Double-A RubberDucks, where he would spend almost the entire season. After suffering the wrist injury in 2014, it was unknown how Diaz would come back in 2015. With little knowledge of how he could handle the MiLB compared to when he was playing in Cuba, there was certainly mystery behind what Diaz would actually bring to this team. What he ended up bringing was way more than probably anyone could have anticipated.
He ended his time at Double-A Akron hitting .315/.412/.408 in 132 games. He hit 13 doubles, five triples, seven home runs, and stole eight bases.
Let’s put an image of Diaz together quickly. He stands at 6’2”, approximately 225 lbs, and he is built like a machine. For a guy his size, one would expect a lot of power and little to no speed on the base paths. On the contrary, Diaz is opposite of that assumption. He’s quite fast for how large he actually is, and he’s smart on the base paths. He can steal a base when he wants to, or try to leg out a double into a triple. It’s surprising how well he moves on the bases for his size, but it goes to show how intelligent he is.
While Diaz is big and strong, he does not hit for a ton of power. His on base percentage actually was higher than his slugging percentage, if that shows anything at all. It seemed as though Diaz started to figure out how to drive the ball more as the season went on. In the first half, Diaz hit six doubles, three triples, and two home runs. In the second half, he hit seven doubles, two triples, and five home runs. He started to figure out that he didn’t always need to hit the ball for contact and that he could give the ball some lift if he altered his mechanics just slightly at the plate. It started to show, and it could be something to develop going forward.
The most promising tool that Diaz brings though is his on base abilities. Not only does he have a great swing to make contact with the ball, but his plate discipline is off the charts. He never seemed to get into a slump at the plate. He managed to have an OBP over .400 and a batting average over .300 in almost every month. There was one month each where they both dropped below those thresholds. In that month, he hit .295 and his OBP was at .375.
His ability to get on base is where Diaz thrives the most. He ended the season with a total of 78 walks to 70 strike outs. He led the Eastern League in walks, and it was a larger margin over Brock Stassi before Diaz was called up to Triple-A, but then ended the season with only more walk than Stassi.
Where the power is lacking, he makes up in making contact and providing superb defense at third base. He is also a right-handed bat, which could help out the Indians in the future as it seems that they’re always searching for right handed batters.
In 2015, Diaz his .349/.426/.434 against left-handed pitching.
He was called up to Triple-A Columbus near the end of the regular season. As the Clippers were heading to the playoffs, they wanted to utilize Diaz in their lineup. Unfortunately, Diaz struggled in his short time in Columbus. In four games, he hit .158/.158/.263 with two doubles and an RBI.
As of right now, the Indians are planning on starting the season with incumbent third basemen Giovanny Urshela. It’s well known how amazing Urshela’s defense is, but he struggled at the plate during his time in Cleveland. Diaz is not yet ready to make the jump to Cleveland, but there’s always that chance that if Diaz comes out swinging at spring training, and Urshela continues to struggle at the plate, then Diaz may start the season in Cleveland. Being more realistic, Diaz is more likely to be a September call up at the earliest, but probably won’t see any major league time until 2017.
Regardless of when he gets there, he’s the next best option for third base going forward and he’s putting together a pretty strong case of why he should be there. Should Urshela struggle at the major league level, and manager Terry Francona decides that he’d rather keep infielder Jose Ramirez as a utility infielder over a third basemen, then Diaz could get his time sooner rather than later.
It’s time that people really get to know Diaz, because he’s a guy that could be sticking around in Cleveland for many years to come.
Photo: David Monseur/MiLB.com