The Cleveland Indians’ Yandy Diaz appears to be ready for prime time. Since the newly-turned 25-year-old was signed out of Cuba in 2013, he has improved his hitting and plate discipline successfully at every level in which he has a made a stop. Now, it may be big leagues or bust for 2017, and maybe even the rest of this season.
Compared to the sometimes-insanely-high signing bonuses many of Cuba’s biggest stars have gotten over the past few seasons, Diaz came cheap for the Indians. Inking a $300,000 deal in September of 2013, Diaz may prove to be one of the biggest bargains of the international free agent market in recent history.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-handed hitter had a strong debut, skipping over Rookie ball and Low-A to face the advanced pitching of the Carolina League in High-A. There was seemingly little adjustment period as Diaz slashed .286/.396/.367. Tall and wiry, Diaz showed little over-the-fence power, hitting just two home runs, but it was his plate discipline that left people in awe. He walked at a 14.5 percent rate while striking out at a 10 percent rate in 338 plate appearances. To reiterate, Diaz walked more than he struck out, a feat unheard of in today’s baseball, and he did it as a rookie.
His sophomore season was even stronger. Primarily spent in Double-A — minus a late season promotion to Columbus for the playoff run — Diaz did what he does. He led the Eastern League in both walks (78) and on-base percentage while posting a .309/.403/.402 slash line. He found a little pop, hitting seven home runs and 15 doubles, and once again walked more than he struck out, posting a 70-to-78 ratio. He also posted an enormous 143 wRC+ — the sabermetric value of a players worth by the runs he created.
Continuing the trend, Diaz jumped a level and had yet another strong season in 2016, resulting in International League Rookie of the Year honors. This season, spent mostly in Columbus of Triple-A, Diaz slashed .318/.408/.446 on the season. He again added some power to that tall frame, hitting a career-high nine home runs over two levels, while really beefing up in the doubles with a career high 22. His season was highlighted by a 28-game hitting streak that began on July 6th and saw him reel off 10 multi-hit games in the first 15 games of the streak.
Diaz did struggle — for lack of a better word — with the strike zone against the most advanced pitching he has seen, but his numbers are hardly worrisome. He continued to walk at a high rate, while striking out just a bit more than normal, posting an 86-to-71 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 525 at-bats across two levels.
Looking at the information compiled from MLB Farm, you can see that one of Diaz ’s biggest assets may be his ability to go the other way. The bulk of his hits seem to be a collection of the opposite field variety, while his power seems to be spread nicely to all fields, with five going to right and four being pulled over the left field wall.
For more on Diaz, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full feature by clicking on the link below: