Yandy Diaz‘s name was in the news on Tuesday and for all of the right reasons as the Columbus Clippers utility man was named the International League’s Rookie of the Year.
About the only thing that could make his 2016 season more complete would be the notice to pack his bags for Cleveland for some meaningful September baseball.
The season may not have started the way that Diaz had wanted, but he certainly made the best of it while rapping loudly on the door to the Major Leagues. His name has been bantered about for the last few weeks as a potential candidate for a September call-up and others felt that his ability to hit for high average and get on base frequently while being able to handle several positions on the diamond made him an option to consider prior to the cut off point for players to be added to the Major League club while still having postseason eligibility.
The recently-turned 25-year-old started his season at Double-A Akron after the parent Indians signed Juan Uribe to man third base at the Major League level. The moved forced Giovanny Urshela back into the minors and Diaz returned to Akron to get more consistent playing time.
After hitting .286 with a .445 on-base percentage in 26 games for the RubberDucks, he got the call to return to Columbus after Urshela went down with an injury. Urshela, to his credit, was also playing well at the time, hitting .283 with six doubles, two homers, and 17 RBI through his first 31 games.
When the Clippers’ Opening Day third baseman was set to return to the lineup two weeks later, Diaz stuck around as Urshela worked his way back into regular duty. Diaz began to log innings at several other positions on the field, including second base, left field, and right field as the club looked to find any way to get his bat in the lineup on a daily basis.
His bat started to heat up in the middle of June, when he put together nine- and seven-game hitting streaks running through the end of the month. In his final 17 games of the month, he hit .385 with a .459 OBP. For the month as a whole, he hit .343 with a .424 OBP.
Diaz was one of three Indians prospects to represent the organization in San Diego during the Major League All-Star break, where he participated in the All-Star Futures Game during the second weekend of July.
He started an even more impressive hitting streak, this one reaching 28 games, beginning on July 6 and lasting through August 10. It would have been far more a discussion point than it was had Diaz’s efforts not coincided with the 50-game hitting streak of Lake County and Lynchburg catching prospect Francisco Mejia. Diaz’s streak was the longest since the International League’s record-setting streak in 2007.
Diaz took home the International League’s Player of the Week Award on July 24 for a chunk of his efforts during his hitting streak. He finished the month with a .387/.468/.505 slash line.
Through 25 August games, he is hitting .281 with a .349 OBP and .385 slugging percentage. Since the IL’s All-Star break, he has hit .335.
Entering the final day of August, Diaz is the IL leader with a .322 batting average and .396 OBP. In 93 games with the Clippers, he has 20 doubles, three triples, seven homers, and 44 RBI while scoring 51 runs.
He has appeared in 119 games in total between Double-A and Triple-A, hitting .315 with a .406 OBP with 20 doubles, four triples, nine homers, 58 RBI, and 64 runs scored.
Diaz was the only Clippers representative among the award winners announced by the International League on Tuesday. Ben Gamel (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Jake Thompson (Lehigh Valley) was selected as the Most Valuable Pitcher. Al Pedrique (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) earned the honor of Manager of the Year.
The league also announced its postseason All-Star roster, comprised of ten position players, a starting pitcher, and a reliever.
No Clippers made the postseason All-Star squad. Former Cleveland Indians reliever Edward Mujica was selected after saving 24 games this season while pitching for both Lehigh Valley and Rochester over the course of the year.