At times this season I believed that certain hits, diving stops, or patient walks represented the moment at which Yandy Diaz finally blossomed into a first ballot hall of famer.
What I’m trying to tell you — and this is just in case you’re not already familiar with some of my articles — is that you aren’t likely to get a completely unbiased representation of Yandy’s 2017 season here. For starters, he’s the only player to whom I exclusively refer to by first name. He’s also one of the more interesting “project” players I’ve seen in baseball for a long while, and with his backstory and escape from Cuba, how can you not root for the guy?
At the beginning of the year, many of us debated whether or not Yandy deserved to make the opening day roster. He mashed throughout spring, turning heads and even being heralded as the most advanced young hitter since Victor Martinez by Paul Hoynes. He struggled a bit when making the roster, but that isn’t totally unprecedented for a young guy living away from his mother for the first time, you know?
Because of that, it’s helpful to look at Yandy’s season in parts. He owned multiple slash lines this season as far as I’m concerned.
MLB First Half: .203/.268/.219 (17 game)
Back to AAA: .350/.454/.460 (Too many games)
MLB Second Half: .304/.407/.402 (31 games)
Playoffs: GOD DAMN YOU ALL
Given that Fangraphs likes his defense, Baseball Prospectus rates it relatively neutral, and Baseball Reference is relatively pleased with it (these are all for third base; god forbid anyone ever let him into the outfield again), I don’t think there is any question that we’re looking at a guy who is ready to start everyday at third or possibly second base in the Majors. Remember - second base is the position he played growing up in Cuba. He moved to third partially because of having a cannon that has now swelled to mythical proportions.
When Yandy played in the second half of the year, he was a net positive player. He will continue to be that way. The intriguing thing about Yandy — what makes him a fascinating project and the most interesting “what-if” for me in baseball right now — is if he figures out how to elevate and celebrate. Look: we’re talking about a guy with a .336 BABIP who hits everything on the ground.
If you read the Yandy Watch, this is well-trod ground, but I paved it, so we’re going over it again. Here are a couple of interesting categories in which His Yanderfulness is a league leader, min 100 PAs:
GB%: 9th, with 59%
FB%: 2nd lowest, with 18.9%
Pull %: 3rd lowest, 24.6%
Average Exit Velocity: 12th, with 91.8 MPH
Average Launch Angle: NOOOOOOOOO
Here we are, with one of the strongest players ever, and his batted ball profile looks like Ben Revere hitting slap shots on the moon.
Looking forward, there’s a lot to like about Yandy, even if he never does break the dreaded 5% launch angle barrier. He’s a competent to excellent fielder with great patience and a knack for putting the ball into play. If the Indians find a spot for him on the roster next season, they will be a better team for it. If the Indians choose to shop him this offseason, they’ll find plenty of buyers.
Just don’t talk to me when they trade him to New York and he hits 70 home runs, all to right field.