Last season was supposed to be the full breakout for Yandy Diaz, after he was acquired by the Rays prior to the season, but a fractured foot helped to derail his season. Limited to 79 games, he showed signs of what was expected over a full season posting the following numbers:
307 At Bats
.267 Batting Average (82 Hits)
14 Home Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.340 On Base Percentage
.476 Slugging Percentage
.288 Batting Average on Balls in Play
While the average was only decent, he showed all of the underlying numbers that we want to see from a hitter and things should only get better:
- Strong Approach – 9.3% SwStr%, 25.3% O-Swing%
- Hit the Ball Hard – 42.4% Hard%
- Used the Entire Field – 27.2% Oppo%
Those three things should combine for better than his .288 BABIP, even without much speed. It’s easy to envision a .280+ average materializing quickly, though that’s just the beginning of the positives.
Diaz has generally faced questions about his power potential, though there was the thought that he could start tapping into it last year. His 14 HR, while adding 20 doubles and 1 triple, definitely gives the impression that there’s more power in his bat. While he had had limited at bats in the Majors the prior two seasons, his added fly ball rate also adds to the upside appeal:
- 2017 – 18.9%
- 2018 – 23.3%
- 2019 – 32.0%
It’s not a number that’s going to cripple his upside in terms of his BABIP, but it would allow him to tap into his power more consistently. Even if you don’t want to believe in his 17.5% HR/FB, which is hardly an unbelievable mark, the additional fly balls will put him in position to hit in the 25-28 HR range over a full season (if not a little bit more).
Throw in that he’ll hit in the middle of Tampa Bay’s order, giving him the potential to produce both in terms of RBI and R (considering his strong approach and potential power growth) and what’s not to like? There’s a good chance he did enough last season when healthy to have him remain on radars, but it’s not impossible that he’s overlooked at least a little bit.
Whether you want to dub him a “post-hype sleeper” or a “breakout”, regardless he’s a player well worth targeting in all formats.
Source – Fangraphs