The 2016 season may not have started the way that Indians prospect Yandy Diaz would have wanted, but his perseverance and his solid numbers this season were rewarded on Wednesday when he was named to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
Diaz joins his former teammate in Akron, outfielder Clint Frazier, and Lynchburg Hillcats catcher Francisco Mejia in giving the Indians franchise three players in the prospect exhibition game and three Cleveland players in Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game. The 24-year-old Diaz will be teammates with Mejia on the World roster and replaced Chicago Cubs prospect Jeimer Candelario.
The game will be played as part of Major League Baseball’s All-Star weekend festivities at 7 PM ET on Sunday, July 10, from Petco Park in San Diego, California.
Diaz, a third baseman by trade, was expected to start the 2016 season with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, where he finished the 2015 season. But after the Indians signed third baseman Juan Uribe, the picture at the hot corner changed dramatically and Giovanny Urshela’s job in Cleveland was gone for the time being, forcing him back to Triple-A with the Clippers.
Diaz headed to Akron to get regular playing time at the Double-A level and hit .286 with a .445 on-base percentage in 26 games. He hit a triple, two homers, and drove in 14, but he drew an impressive 24 walks against 16 strikeouts in his 110 plate appearances.
He was promoted to Columbus on May 12 when Urshela landed on the seven-day disabled list.
Diaz’s May started a bit slow in the Clippers lineup, hitting .254 with a .310 OBP in 17 games. He had six doubles, a triple, two homers, seven RBI, and ten runs scored. He remained with the club when Urshela returned two weeks later and his bat took off in June.
In 28 games in the month, he hit .343 with a .424 OBP, hitting four doubles, a triple, and two homers while driving in eleven. Through his first six games of July, he has hit .269.
With Urshela the primary third baseman on the roster, his playing time at third has decreased. He saw some time at the end of May and beginning of June at second base, but has spent much more time in the corner outfield spots, getting a heavy dose of action in left field and a sprinkling of games in right. His bat has played well enough that Columbus cannot leave him on the bench and has tried to find ways to keep him in the lineup, even playing positions that he had not throughout the first two years of his time in the organization.
He has been a force in home games, hitting .358 this season with a .460 OBP and .525 slugging percentage. Those marks drop to .252, .352, and .342, respectively, in his 40 games away from home. He has mashed against left-handed pitching, putting up a .378/.463/.585 slash with a 1.049 OPS. His right-handed bat has hit .264/.376/.352 with a .728 OPS against right-handers.
“It’s great to see that, obviously, his transition from Cuba to here, his transition to playing multiple different positions, has really worked out well,” shared Indians’ director of player development Carter Hawkins in a story on MLB.com. “For all three of those guys, it’s a pretty fulfilling thing to see that happen for them.”
Diaz signed with the Indians as a non-drafted free agent on September 20, 2013, out of Sagua la Grande, Cuba. He missed time at the beginning of the 2014 season with a wrist injury, but joined the High-A level with the Carolina Mudcats on June 5, hitting .286 with a .396 OBP over 76 games. He played all but his final four games of the 2015 season with the Double-A RubberDucks, where he led the Eastern League in OBP (.412) and finished fourth in batting average (.315) and OPS (.819). He was the organization’s batting and hits (153) leader over the course of the season.
Diaz will be one of three minor leaguers (Frazier, Mejia) and three Major Leaguers (Danny Salazar, Francisco Lindor, Corey Kluber) representing the Indians organization in San Diego for the All-Star festivities.
The trio of prospects will have a pair of former Indians faces on the coaching staffs for the Futures Game. Jim Thome is serving as the hitting coach for the U.S. Team. Ever Magallanes, current manager of the Arizona League White Sox who appeared in three MLB games in his career, all with Cleveland in 1991, will work as the first base coach for the World Team under manager Moises Alou.
Photo: Chris Russell/The Columbus Dispatch
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