Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #10 Yandy Diaz

Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Indians 2016 Top Prospects: #10 Yandy Diaz

One of the few Cuban players in the system, third baseman Yandy Diaz comes in at Number 10 on our 2016 Cleveland Indians Top Prospect countdown.

Who is Yandy Diaz?

Diaz joined the Indians after signing as an amateur free agent out of Cuba in 2013. He signed for $300,000, making him one of the biggest Cuban signings for the Tribe since Danys Baez got $4.5 million back in 1999. The 24-year-old right-handed hitter stands 6’2” and weighs 185 pounds. He’s played exclusively at third base with the Tribe since making his debut in 2014. He spent almost all of 2015 with the Double-A Akron Rubberducks though did get a few games at Triple-A late I the season.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Diaz is a very advanced hitter. He’s got some of the best strike-zone discipline in the Tribe’s system (Baseball America rates him as the best in this category).   He actually walked more times than he struck out in nearly 500 ab-bats in 2015 (78 BB to 70 K).  Not only were his 78 walks tops in the Eastern League, but he led the league in on-base percentage in 2015 as well with a .412 mark.

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He compliments that great discipline with a nice line-drive swing that has helped him hit .301 in his two seasons with the Tribe. He’s a very good contact hitter though that contact isn’t always the hardest contact. He hasn’t shown a lot of power to date as 82.5% of his hits have been singles (193 of 234).  Diaz did finally start to show some pop later in 2015 though as all seven of his home runs came after June 6th. He sports a mere .088 ISO (isolated power); however, in the second half of 2015 with the Rubberducks, he had a .153 ISO, which is much better for a guy at third base. He’ll need that trend to continue if he wants to make the jump to the next level.

As mentioned, Diaz has played exclusively third base with the Indians since joining them for the 2014 season; however, he played mostly second base when in Cuba.  He’s very athletic and many feel he could also handle the outfield if given a chance and even first base. That said, he has developed into a solid defensive third baseman over the last two years. He has a good arm some decent speed (though it’s not a huge part of his game).

Where Does He Go From Here?

Diaz wasn’t one of the older players to leave Cuba to come to America, but he did had more experience than your typical prospect. That experience has allowed the Tribe to move him quickly, starting him at Advanced-A Carolina in 2014 and Double-A Akron in 2015. He was called up to Triple-A Columbus during the final week of the season and played in the playoffs for the Clippers. Given how well he played in Double-A (he was an All-Star) and his advanced feel at the plate, starting the season at Triple-A Columbus seemed like a lock about six weeks ago. However, things have got a little bit cloudier since then.

With the addition of Juan Uribe, fellow third baseman Giovanny Urshela most likely will begin the season at Triple-A Columbus and take up much of the playing time at third base. This presents a problem for Diaz as the Tribe wants him to keep playing third base and to continue to improve defensively, so a return trip to Double-A Akron isn’t completely off the table.

However, as I discussed last month, the Indians could also try and get both Diaz and Urshela work at third base and another position(s) with the Clippers.  Personally, this would be the route I’d take. Diaz has nothing left to prove at Double-A, and he’s actually a bit older than Urshela. Diaz is also a guy I see as the future at third base in Cleveland. I like his bat better than Urshela’s, and his defense is good enough to start there without issue. I’m not completely writing off Urhsela, but I wouldn’t want Diaz to be forced back a level to accommodate him.

Next: Indians Top Prospects: #11 Tyler Naquin

Regardless of where Diaz starts, he’s one of my favorite prospects in the Tribe’s system. I love the approach at the plate and am excited to see if he can continue to develop that power (which scouts tend to be optimistic on). His athleticism and potential for versatility in the field makes him a guy I could see playing a huge role in Cleveland as early as 2017, and I wouldn’t completely rule out seeing him get a look by September of this season.