It was a hot month of May for Beloit Snappers infielder Edwin Diaz, but new challenges have presented themselves in recent weeks for Oakland’s 15th-round selection in the 2013 draft.
The Puerto Rican high school selection put together the best month of his professional career at the plate in May, slashing .303/.380/.438 and driving in 14 runs in 89 at-bats. However, Diaz has slumped during nine June games with just five hits in 25 at-bats. That has brought his season slash line down to .253/.335/.340.
“I think I’m off to a good beginning here,” Diaz said through interpreter and Beloit catcher Jose Chavez. “I got off to a tough start, but got some rhythm after that.
“However, I’ve started struggling a little bit lately. I’m missing too many of my pitches and swinging at too many breaking balls that I can’t do anything with. We’ve played against these guys through the years, so they know what we can do damage with and that’s what they work on.”
Snappers' manager Fran Riordan has taken notice of the changes Diaz must make in order to have more success in the balance of the Midwest League season.
“We’ve gone through the first part of the season and he’s hurt some teams and done some damage against teams,” Riordan said. “The next part of his development is going to be making the adjustments that are going to keep him having success in the second half.
“They’re starting to throw breaking balls away in fastball counts. They’re pounding fastballs away and coming back in when he has two strikes. He’s going to need to make those adjustments to have more success.”
Riordan first started noticing the advancements in Diaz’s game in March down in Arizona.
“I threw to him a lot during spring training this year,” Riordan said. “Because I had him last year, I immediately noticed the increased bat speed. I noticed a much better path. His barrel stayed in the strike zone a lot longer and he had a lot more strength and leverage in his speed. Anytime that happens you’re going to have better results.”
If there’s one thing the 20-year-old Diaz is this summer, it’s determined. He doesn’t want to take a step backwards in his development like he did in 2015, when he hit just .100 in 45 games opening the season with Beloit.
Diaz ended up back in Arizona and didn’t fare much better, slashing just .171/.259/.276 in 24 games with the AZL A’s.
“I’ve got a pretty good opportunity up here,” he said. “I started off here last year, but I couldn’t complete it. This time I’m trying to complete the season here and improve on my game. I want to hit over .250 and not make too many errors because defense has been my strength. I’m also striving to be more consistent.”
Even with his recent struggles, Diaz is light years ahead of the hitter he was early in 2015.
“I had him last year and he was very undisciplined on the offensive side of the ball,” Riordan said. “He would just go up there and swing wildly with no approach. He didn’t really know what he wanted to do and didn’t hit to the situation.
“A couple things happened this year that turned things around: he got physically stronger and gained some bat speed, and [Snappers' hitting coach] Juan Dilone has done a great job of giving him a plan and approach to go into each at-bat with. He’s done a great job of executing that plan.”
If Diaz can make the necessary adjustments and produce the results he did during the month of May, he’ll have an excellent opportunity to make the move to a friendlier hitter’s atmosphere in the California League.