The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.
Yandy Diaz, 3B/OF
Throws: Right -- Bats: Right -- Entering his age-25 season -- Contract: Fourth minor league season
2016 In Review: In just three seasons, Yandy Diaz has transformed himself from an obscure international free agent signing into one of baseball's top prospects. After defecting from Cuba where he had played professionally since 2008, Diaz was signed by the Tribe and immediately began to showcase his top tools and skills, including his knack for consistency and getting on base as his career batting average is over .300 and OBP is over .400. Last season was by far his best as he posted a .318/.408/.446 slash line in 121 games between Double-A and Triple-A. His impressive performance earned him a trip to San Diego to participate in the Futures Game. He also played winter ball in Venezuela where he continued to put up gaudy numbers batting .371 with a .451 OBP in 40 games for Caracas. He has little to prove in the minors at this point, so the countdown to his Indians debut is now underway.
Versus Right-handers: The funny thing about Diaz's splits is that while they are a bit extreme, the lesser of them is still better than a lot of hitters' overall numbers. This is the case for the Cuban native's splits against right-handed pitchers as despite his slash line being significantly lower than against southpaws last year, he still batted .292 with a .384 OBP and .388 slugging percentage. The only thing that really takes a hit when hitting against righties is his power, although that has not yet fully come around anyway.
Versus Left-handers: So if a .292/.384/.388 slash line against right-handers is lower by a large margin, exactly how much success has Diaz had against left-handed pitching? Well, going by last year's splits, the 25-year-old batted whopping .387 with a .475 on-base percentage and .605 slugging percentage as six of his nine homers came against southpaws. He also had 21 walks versus just 16 strikeouts as he clearly saw the ball much better coming from the left side. If anything else, Diaz can be a very effective platoon player at the very least.
Defense: Finding a long term home for Diaz on the field is going to be one of the tasks that the Indians will be saddled with when he makes his eventual big league debut. Since signing with Cleveland, he has played primarily at third base and done well earning Baseball America's top defensive third baseman honors for the Eastern League in 2015 when he was with the RubberDucks. Last year, however, after moving up to Columbus, the Cuban native has seen more time in the outfield as well as second base. With the Indians' long term outfield situation currently in question, particularly in left field with Michael Brantley's recent injuries, the outfield may prove to be a better home and more closely aligned with the team's needs. In winter ball, Diaz has also had a fair amount of time in center field. Reports are mixed as to the quality of his defense, but the majority of his games for Caracas were spent at that position. Who knows, maybe Diaz won't need a home position and he can become the Tribe's new super utility player assuming the role once occupied by third baseman Jose Ramirez.
Fantasy Impact: While the projections don't see Diaz even logging more than one at-bat in 2017, make no mistake that his advanced eye at the plate and consistent approach can play at any level. He will hit for average, he will get on base and he will draw walks. What we're not quite sure he can do is hit for power as he has not yet eclipsed double digit home runs in a season. He may never be a 30-40 home run guy or maybe not even a 20 homer guy, although at 6' 2" and 185 lbs., which could be selling him short, you'd hope to see that, he can provide gap-to-gap power and still rack up extra base hits while providing his undeniable value in the aforementioned areas of his game. If he does tap into a power stroke, however, without compromising his approach, he would have a meteoric rise to superstar status.
Summary: With Yandy Diaz, the question is not if he'll make it to the big leagues in 2017. The question should be when. The great thing about Diaz as a prospect is that while his ceiling may be sky high, his floor could still be tolerable and keep him at a serviceable status. Even if his power doesn't pan out like many are hoping, his elite hitting instincts can still provide substantial value. Defensively, he's still yet to truly excel at any one position, but his athleticism and arm strength can buy him a lot of leeway as he figures out where he fits best. The Indians have included the 25-year-old among the non-roster invites to big league camp this spring, so they are obviously intrigued by his development potentially to the point of considering him for an imminent call-up. Barring injury or a significant developmental road block, there's a pretty good chance fans will get their first glimpse of Yandy Diaz before the All-Star break.
Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:
- 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion
- LHP Andrew Miller
- RHP Corey Kluber
- 3B Jose Ramirez
- INF Erik Gonzalez
- RHP Cody Allen
- OF Abraham Almonte
- 2B Jason Kipnis
- RHP Carlos Carrasco
- OF Bradley Zimmer
- C Roberto Perez
- 1B/DH Carlos Santana
- RHP Adam Plutko
- OF Brandon Guyer
- SS Francisco Lindor
- RHP Joe Colon