Name: Javis Diaz
DOB: June 25, 1984
Spending time with former base running instructor and current Fort Wayne Wizards manager Doug Dascenzo certainly helped.
After getting caught stealing 10 times in his first 18 attempts, Diaz went on a stolen base tear – successfully swiping 23 in his next 27 attempts.
The speedster was finally using all of the tools available to him. His balance improved, giving him an explosive first step that proved the difference between getting caught and stealing a bag successfully.
And using the speed inherent in his body has made him a better prospect. Always known as a burner, adding this dimension to his game makes him a threat each time he reaches base.
"As a basestealer, we talked to him at the beginning of the year," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo began. "He got off to a horrible start as far as that area of his game. It was basically all in his stance. He didn't have a whole lot of balance in it. His stance never produced any kind of power or thrust, even though he had a lot of speed to do it.
"He got himself into a real nice position in his stance that gave him a lot more power and thrust to break out of the block and started getting a lot better jumps. I thought he really took off after mid-May. When you couple his raw speed with some real good jumps and good technique it is pretty tough to throw him out."
The balance also helped him in the outfield. That first step push off to track a ball headed for the gaps improved, allowing him to cover more ground and get to balls that previously dropped.
"He is a prospect," former Padres minor league field coordinator and current MLB scout Bill Bryk said. "Durango may pass him up if he keeps improving, but Diaz is a prospect. He is a flyer – he may not run as fast as Durango but to first base he does. He is a 3.9 runner, maybe Durango is a little bit faster and in the 60-yard dash, Durango blows everyone away.
"Diaz' outfield play has improved, and he is a major league prospect."
He does not have a very strong arm but can play centerfield adequately. He still needs to work on his route running and reading balls off the bat better, as well as firming up his understanding of the game and which base to throw to.
Nearly doubling his previous games played high for a season, Diaz ranked second on the Wizards club with a .277 average. He showed surprising pop, tying for third on the team with seven homers.
The Dominican Republic native also saw his swing mechanics changed in an effort to give him more power while cutting down on his strikeouts.
Where he previously held his hands in front of his body before the pitch, using it as a trigger to pull back and then move forward through the ball, his hands were brought back and now rest much closer to his backside. The effect is to shorten the trigger and make his swing shorter to the ball, giving him a more compact approach while allowing him more time to recognize the pitch.
He still holds his hands high near his head and has to drop them to get into a natural hitting position. It results in a bit of an uppercut swing, as his bat has an almost circular motion as it comes down from his head and through the zone.
"He does have power," Bryk noted. "Let him fail first before changing his swing too much. I wouldn't change it. He has a short, quick swing. The thing that gives him problems is the off-speed pitches – he gets out in front too soon."
One mark against Diaz has been his propensity for striking out. The outfielder fanned 103 times in 2007, and the hope is his new mechanics will cut that number down in the coming years while adding more power to his game.
Another change was standing him up taller in his stance. What was once a pronounced crouch – where Diaz got down low and tried to explode out, is now more upright, giving his hands more room to roam and do damage into the gaps.
"We had him down in Instructs and were giving him an opportunity to stay up in his stance a little bit more where he can drive the ball in the gap more," former Fort Wayne and current AZL Padres hitting coach Bob Skube said. "He showed us a lot more power than we anticipated this year. He had seven homers, had a lot of doubles and triples.
"He is so fast that you almost put him into a category where you want him to chop the ball and put it on the ground and beat balls out – but he showed us so much power that we have tried to make an adjustment with his swing in Instructs to where he is a little more upright in his stance, getting his hands back a little further, and actually driving the ball into the gaps and out of the park."
Because of the length of his trigger and load, he will open up his front side and reach for balls on the outside corner. If it is an off-speed pitch that has fooled him, it is likely he will go down swinging.
He is not your prototypical leadoff man because of his propensity for striking out but could have an interesting speed/power combo in the coming years. He has the strength in his slight frame to hit double-digit homers and should be an even bigger threat on the bases, as he matures.
ETA: Diaz is an interesting player because of his speed and developing power. If he can use the two in conjunction while hitting for a high average and cutting down on his strikeouts, the outfielder is someone to watch. Melding all of those questions together, however, Diaz profiles more as a fourth outfielder in the Endy Chavez mold that is stronger offensively and weaker defensively.
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