by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Last season the Cleveland Indians watched Jose Ramirez rise from utility player to an emerging star. Could they see a similar transition emerge, but from an even more surprising source? Many people overlook Yandy Diaz, but it’s possible that the 25-year old forces you to take notice in 2017.
It’s clear that he’s primed to make his debut at some point in 2017, after splitting time between Double-A (110 PA) and Triple-A (416 PA) a year ago. He didn’t offer one standout skill, but looking at the Triple-A numbers it’s easy to envision a solid player:
7 Home Runs
5 Stolen Bases
There was a bit of luck (.381 BABIP), but he also showed a strong approach with a 16.8% strikeout rate and 11.3% walk rate. A career .307 hitter in the minors, it’s possible that it could prove to be his standout skill.
He’s not a speedster and his approach may be better suited for extra base hits as opposed to home runs. Here’s how Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 recently described his swing:
“He has natural bat-to-ball skills with the ability to drive pitches to all fields. He doesn’t have a lot of loft in his swing, so home runs have not yet surfaced. However, he has good bat speed and natural strength that should allow him to hit low double-digit home runs in the future.”
Diaz did add 22 doubles and 3 triples while at Triple-A, so the 10-15 HR range isn’t unthinkable (and there are some who think that he could develop into a little bit more than that). That’s exactly what Ramirez is (he hit 11 HR last season), who also showed an ability to make consistent contact (10.0% strikeout rate in the Majors). The difference may be Diaz’ ability to draw a walk, while Ramirez offers more speed (though Diaz appears to be an 8-12 SB threat routinely).
When Diaz arrived in the U.S. from Cuba he was viewed as a second baseman, but he’s primarily played third base and has seen time in the outfield. That versatility is what could get him to the Majors, but there are going to be opportunities to earn playing time. The Indians are not a team rich in outfielders, with Lonnie Chisenhall penciled in as a starter, and with Ramirez potentially the backup middle infielder any injury could clear time at 3B.
While Diaz’ numbers may not be sexy, does a .280+ hitter with 10/10 potential sound appealing? The fact that he could exceed all of those numbers, with .300/15/15 not unthinkable, tells you the appeal. He’s the type of prospect that often gets overlooked, because he’s solid yet unspectacular in terms of power and speed, but he’s someone who could ultimately emerge and make an impact.
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs, Prospect 361, Baseball Reference
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: