2020 Projection: Why Yandy Diaz Is An Ideal Post Hype Sleeper

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Is there a question about the offensive potential for Yandy Diaz, or are the questions facing him more centered on his ability to stay on the field (whether it’s due to injury or a loss of playing time)?  Obviously those types of concerns are going to cloud the issue, but when he’s on the field there’s little question about what he can do.  Just look at the numbers from 2019:

307 At Bats
.267 Batting Average (82 Hits)
14 Home Runs
38 RBI
53 Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.340 On Base Percentage
.476 Slugging Percentage
.288 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Diaz missed time due to injury, and even when he’s been healthy the one question you can ask is whether or not he will put the ball in the air enough.  Over 646 PA the past three seasons he owns a 53.5% groundball rate, though it has been trending in the right direction for a player with little speed (59.0% to 53.3% to 50.8%).  If he continues on that path there’s going to be little question regarding his upside.

Last season he owned an exit velocity of 91.7 mph (matching his career mark), which placed him among the Top 20 qualified hitters.  He also carried an above average Barrel% (10.4%, compared to the league average of 6.3%) and his 42.4% Hard% adds to the intrigue.  He may never be a 30-35 HR slugger, but if he stays on the field is 20+ (with the potential for 25+) unthinkable?

He’ll play most of the year at 28-years old (he’ll turn 29 in August) and added 20 doubles and 1 triple last season.  With all the numbers pointing in his favor, it’s easy to envision the power finally being put on display.

In terms of his AVG, the numbers also support an improvement in his BABIP and there’s little question that he carries an impressive approach:

  • SwStr% – 9.3%
  • O-Swing% – 25.3%
  • Oppo% – 27.2%

You put that together, along with a spot in the middle of the Rays lineup, and you get the following projection for 2020 (assuming he can stay on the field):

.288 (151-525), 25 HR, 80 RBI, 70 R, 4 SB, .312 BABIP, .365 OBP, .495 SLG

You can argue that there’s even more in the tank and as far as playing time goes, if he’s hitting there’s little reason to think that he won’t be in the lineup on a daily basis.  The biggest question is his health, but if he’s on the field it’s easy to envision him living up to the hype he’s received in recent seasons.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 preseason rankings:

PositionLast Updated
Catchers02/10/20
First Basemen02/13/20
Second Basemen02/18/20
Third Basemen02/21/20
Shortstops02/24/20
Outfielders03/06/20
Starting Pitchers03/09/20
Relief Pitchers03/03/20

7 COMMENTS

  1. RP:

    Great article!

    On another note (and possible article),
    Latest thoughts on Franmil Reyes? He now seems to have a starting OF spot, due Somewhat to 18lb weight loss and he’s hitting the snot out of the ball. Very young. More than acceptable BA for power hitter. Hell, right now I’d project a better career than Judge, Soler and Gallo. Yet… at least from a ratings perspective, he’s not getting much love….

    Perhaps more importantly, his power has nothing to do with the live ball era…..should the balls be changed, you don’t have to worry about him continuing to be a top performer.

    • Reyes is definitely an interesting player to look at. I’ll add him to the list and dive into him in the coming days!

  2. RP: Can I ask you to look at one other pretty fascinating (from an analysis perspective) SP? I have him as a “must keep”-Tanner Roark. Here’s what I know: there is a subtle difference between his success and failure years, as there seems to be no measurable statistics explaining why he had two 200ish IP seasons at below 3 era and every other year, except as follows: Hard Contact % and HR/IP. He basically has stayed in the low 90’s throughout, but for some reason in more recent years hard contact has changed. That screams to me a correctable issue.

    For me the alternatives are: pitch mix change; pitch location change; pitch efficacy change.

    I’ve started digging into this BECAUSE the news out of Toronto was that the Blue Jays specifically targeted him for acquisition and gave him a contract that suggests something more. So, why actively recruit a guy with an elevated HR problem to the AL East? Doesn’t make sense right….. UNLESS, that team thinks they can fix it.

    So without trying to hunt down more stats, here’s my thought: Someone started to tell him to pitch up in the zone on his fastball. The results are more K’s (very tantalizing) and more HR’s. That mandate arguably could have also changed eye level on other pitches,etc, so there may be an impact beyond the fundamental change. Even if that isn’t the reason, I’m willing to give 60% probability to his terrible recent years being because of pitch mix change; pitch location change; pitch efficacy change.

  3. RP: Sorry to bombard you on this, but I just went to Youtube Tanner Roark highlights > Two things:
    -2014 every fastball had great lateral movement and he worked the lower half of the plate’s edges. Conversely, other years he was throwing upper edge of strike zone.
    – 2017 – Strange Strassberg suggested mechinical change, related to striding more towards plate and simplifying movement. I think the allure of upper edge strike-outs and that change eliminating much of his lateral movement is/was his undoing.

    • I’ll definitely do a deep dive into him over the next few weeks. That said we’ve all heard stories of teams thinking they can fix a pitcher, and it never happened.

      I remember when the Mets traded Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano because they were sure they could turn Zambrano into an ace…

      • Understood…..but remember, Roark WAS an ace for two years, albeit a low K/9 SP. There’s a stark difference in those two years, compared to the rest of the years…..

        So, while the Blue Jays may not be able to correct his issues, it does seem correctable, as at least his velocity has been basically the same.

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