Phillies Prospect #49: Javis Diaz

Javis Diaz has been a bit of a mystery. There is the potential there for him to develop as a power hitter, but there is also a lot of speed that could be used on the basepaths. So, will the Phillies view Diaz as a power-hitter with speed or a speedy hitter who can occasionally go deep?

Acquired: Drafted from the San Diego Padres in the AAA Phase of the 2008 Rule 5 Draft.
Bats: L   Throws: L
Height: 5' 10"  Weight: 170 lbs.
Birth Date: June 25, 1984
2008 Team(s): Lake Elsinore (High-A, 103 G), Portland (AAA, 3 G)
Positions/Games in 2008: LF (74), DH (20), CF (9)
Previous Rankings: First ranking in Phillies organization

The Phillies are interested in seeing just what Javis Diaz can do in their organization. The Padres were actually a little disappointed in him, primarily because of his lack of an ability to judge a ball from a strike. It's easy to fall in love with Diaz, based on his speed and the fact that he was successful in 28 of 35 (80%) stolen base attempts last season in High-A ball. The problem is that hitting just .253 with a .315 on-base percentage isn't going to allow him to be effective enough with his speed and that's why the Padres finally soured on him and left him exposed in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

As for what the Phillies see in Diaz, one theory is that he's generally a replacement for the loss of Greg Golson, who was traded to the Texas Rangers for outfielder John Mayberry Jr., earlier in the off-season. Just like Diaz, Golson had some holes in his plate discipline and didn't get on base enough to take full advantage of his speed and base stealing skills.

Batting and Power: The true issue here is plate discipline. In 2008, Diaz struck out almost three times as many times as he walked and whiffed in 21% of his plate appearances at Lake Elsinore (High-A) last season, compared to a 19% average for the entire league. While it's not a great jump over the league average, for a guy who hit just four home runs and whose game is built around getting on base, he should be below the league average in striking out. MLB scout Bill Byrk believes that Diaz has the potential to become more of a power hitter, although it's not likely that he'll ever be among the league leaders in that area. "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."

Bob Skube, the Padres Arizona League hitting coach has worked with Diaz and believes that there is enough power potential in Diaz that he encouraged him to work on honing his power skills rather than just being a guy who gets on base. "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."

Since Diaz didn't show the increased power in 2008, the Phillies will have to decide on which approach to take with him at the plate.

Baserunning and Speed: This is where Diaz lives and dies. He's been successful in 75% of his stolen base attempts during his minor league career and has become a student of how to swipe bases. His baserunning instincts are very good, but his speed is going to waste since he simply can't get on base enough to take advantage of his biggest asset. Diaz worked with Padres minor league coach Doug Dascenzo to learn the art of stealing bases and he's been a very good student. He had started the 2007 season by getting caught in 10 of 18 attempts. "As a basestealer, we talked to him at the beginning of the year," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo told "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."

Defense: Diaz has never been the strongest defensive outfielder, but he's showing consistent improvement. He doesn't have a gun for an arm, but he's adequate in all areas defensively and working on his balance to improve his baserunning has also helped him defensively and he gets a better first step toward balls hit in the gap, which was an issue for him early in his career. "Diaz' outfield play has improved, and he is a major league prospect," said Byrk.

Projection: Just where the Phillies will start Diaz in 2009 is going to be interesting. The natural progression would put him at Double-A Reading, but they could choose to challenge him with a promotion to Lehigh Valley, where Greg Gross could continue to work with him at the plate. Much of that could also hinge on just how the Phillies view Diaz and whether they'll continue to pursue his power potential as the Padres had been doing or whether they'll look to make him more of a slap hitter. Best case scenario is that he'll be able to build himself in the mold of Jimmy Rollins, but worst case scenario is that he'll stay where he's at offensively and be a slap hitter who strikes out too much.

ETA: It's possible that Diaz could get a September call-up primarily just as a pinch-runner. He's going to need more seasoning in the minors, but sometimes, different coaches can find a different way of getting through to a player and it will make all the difference in the world. He's probably not going to be fighting for any kind of major league job until 2010 at the very earliest and it could likely take another year past that for him to develop to the point where he could be in any serious consideration for a spot with the big league club. Watch how the Phillies handle him this season and how he develops, because this could be somewhat of a make-or-break season for Javis Diaz.

Comparison: The earlier comparison to Greg Golson fits very well for Diaz. Both have a lot of talent, but both have also failed to show as much offense as it was thought they would be able to develop in their minor league careers.

Javis Diaz Career Stats

Rookie 2 24 .358 40 148 24 53 6 7 19 79 21 34 .416 .476
Low-A 0 0 .211 5 19 3 4 0 0 2 100 4 4 .348 .211
A 7 43 .283 144 580 87 164 17 7 39 72 60 137 .354 .372
High-A 4 41 .255 135 470 82 120 11 5 29 76 45 106 .324 .326
Triple-A 0 0 .222 3 9 2 2 0 1 0 - 0 4 .300 .444
TOTALS 13 108 .280 327 1226 198 343 34 20 89 75 126 281 .351 .372

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