Welcome to part two of an unusually sporadic series, Better Know a Cleveland Indians prospect! In our last episode, we learned about the wonderfully named Sicnarf Loopstok, native of Aruba. Our old friend boasts a line of .259/.357/.415 in Lynchburg, and also spent a couple of weeks with Lake County.
Today, I'd like to discuss Cuban-born Triple-A third baseman and outfielder Yandy Diaz. You're certainly already familiar with the name; Let's Go Tribe members (Users? Visitors? Or maybe Lukehart just ran the poll using his botnet) ranked Yandy Diaz as the 12th-best prospect in the entire system before the start of the 2016 season. This came after Diaz mashed .315/.412/.408 in 2015. So, what is Diaz up to this season?
Put it this way: while Jose Ramirez continues his torrid 2016, his spot at the hot corner isn't exactly guaranteed. It's also likely that Giovanny Urshela is fully eclipsed in the Indians' system now thanks to Diaz's bat. At the moment, Diaz is riding a 25 game hitting streak. A bat that's shown so much consistency cannot be kept in the minor league system for long. In fact, many people were surprised to see the Indians claim Michael Martinez off of waivers precisely because of how well Diaz is performing. If we don't see him in an Indians uniform when rosters expand, then expect to see him break camp on at least the 40-man roster next year.
Yes, Diaz shows promise at the plate with excellent contact and a patient approach, but what about his glove work? I'll defer to the professionals here. In its 2016 annual Baseball Prospectus wrote, "[Diaz] has another calling card that the stat line doesn't show: he's one of the best defensive third basemen in the minor leagues."
In June, former MLB scout Bernie Pleskoff wrote, "Diaz is an outstanding defensive infielder. While his normal position was second base in Cuba, he has played most of his games at third base in the Indians organization. He has shown good range with quick reactions, excellent instincts, and solid agility. His first step quickness to both directions and coming in on balls is an asset."
A picture is starting to emerge: While Diaz did not come out of Cuba as a heralded prospect, he appears to be above average in all facets of the game other than hitting for power. When his entire game is considered, it is clear that the Indians got a steal by signing Yandy Diaz for $300,000 in 2013.
Now that we know more about Diaz on the field, what can we learn about the rest of his life? He played for Naranjas de Villa Clara in Cuba, as well as the Cuban youth national team. In a 2015 interview with Stephanie Storm Lariccia, Diaz said, "I left Cuba so I could play every day. Now, I am close to fulfilling [my father Jorge's] dream of playing at a high level of competition in the Major Leagues."
This came by translation through then-teammate Rony Rodriguez, as Diaz does not speak fluent English. Diaz would not be the first athlete hoping to fulfill the dreams of his father, who defected when he was six years old but only played one year of affiliated ball in the Ranger's system. There's a slight wrinkle to this version of the story, however: Yandy Diaz has not seen or spoken to his father since the day his father defected.
"He doesn’t want to talk about his father. He looks like he is going to cry right now. It is too much," Rony Rodriguez relayed to Lariccia. Neither Jorge nor Yandy has seen the other play professionally.
This is the extent of what is known about Diaz's past.
It is difficult to know exactly what the Indians can expect from Yandy Diaz. He flashes potential to be a long-term solution to the Indians' woes at third base or a valuable asset in the outfield, but lacks the pedigree of other top prospects. Regardless of how he performs, it would be foolish to think that Diaz won't make the Indians' roster soon.
When he does, I expect that one Diaz will finally see the other play major league baseball.