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Revisiting Yandy Watch 2017

What has our dear friend been up to in Columbus?

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back, friends.

You may recall that these meetings were weekly in the beginning of the year, at the peak of the #FreeYandy movement. Our dear friend earned a spot on the opening day roster by destroying spring training pitching. Did those returns translate to a stellar beginning to his MLB career?

Not quite. Yandy hit .203/.268/.219 during his 18 games with the Cleveland Indians. These are particularly strange numbers when you recall that Yandy floated into the top ten of average exit velocity in the majors. Biceps, it turns out, are very good at generating swing power.

Yandy’s problem is well-documented. He hits pretty much everything on the ground. He also struggled with strikeouts in Cleveland, whiffing in 23.9% of his plate appearances. With him being overmatched, and the return of Jason Kipnis to the fold, the Indians sent Yandy back down I-71 to Columbus. I’ve been keeping tabs on him, hoping to report vast improvement in his swing.

Jim, would you care to show what Yandy has been doing since his return to the International League?

Season Team G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2017 Indians (AAA) 81 357 5 55 30 0 16.5 % 14.8 % .113 .405 .345 .454 .457 .413 162

HEY. CALM DOWN. EVERYONE SIT DOWN AND STOP YELLING.

Yes, Yandy’s numbers are phenomenal. He is leading the International league in batting average by thirty-one points. He leads in OBP by fifty-nine points. He is the only player in the league with more walks than strikeouts.

Normally I would point to a BABIP of .400 and start to hem and haw. In his case, because he hits the ball at the speed of sound, I wouldn’t consider it to be nearly as elevated as, say, Michael Martinez with a BABIP of .400.

Also encouraging is that his walk rate is up from 2016 AAA, and his strikeout rate is down. He’s walking 16.5% of the time versus 11.3% last season, and whiffing 14.8% versus 16.8%.

Those numbers are fantastic, yes. But what we need to really know is whether or not Yandy is elevating the ball more consistently. As we saw in the first month of this season, smashed balls are not going to turn into hits if they are on the ground at the Major League level. The talent, positioning, and speed of the average defender is simply too good in the modern game for it to be a viable approach.

Now, let’s review his batted ball profile. Jim?

Name Team Age PA BABIP GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB Pull% Cent% Oppo% SwStr% Balls Strikes Pitches
Yandy Diaz Indians (AAA) 25 357 .405 3.63 19.5 % 63.1 % 17.4 % 14.6 % 12.2 % 34.0 % 18.9 % 47.1 % 5.4 % 627 839 1466

I TOLD YOU TO SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP, OKAY?

Thank you. No, things do not look particularly good for Yandy. There are only six players in the International League with a GB/FB ratio above two. Yandy’s 3.63 is the highest in the league by more than a one full geebee over effbee. 63% of his hits are grounders, which is actually a little bit higher than it’s been in the past. He’s also continuing to hit more balls the other way. If there is any good news in this chart, it’s that he’s swinging and missing only 5.4% of the time. That’s fantastic at any level, but less so when everything is on the ground to the opposite field.

Is it a swing plane issue? Is it a timing issue? Is it a selectivity issue? It’s probably a little bit of all three. If Yandy is waiting until a ball is deeper in the zone to swing, then yes, he’s going to drive more balls the other way. If he isn’t swinging up on the ball — and with a negative launch angle, I’m going to say that he isn’t — then they’re going to go on the ground. If he’s not swinging at balls he can pull and lift, that certainly doesn’t help matters, either. A combination of all those things is really the only way I can build a profile for such a massive man that makes him look like the slappiest hitter since Ichiro.

It’s up to the development staff of the Indians at this point. Swing changes late in a career aren’t unprecedented, and they’re happening more and more frequently. Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Yonder Alonso all immediately come to mind, as does Sabermetric Swinging Yoda Joey Votto. It is clear to me that for Yandy to even approach the kind of potential he represents as an offensive prospect, he needs to tear the whole thing down and rebuild it. That’s not simple, and it might not be something a player who is hitting .345 would buy into. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

I’ll be watching Yandy tonight at the Clipper’s game and will add any additional thoughts I have after the game. I expect we’ll all see Yandy in an Indians uniform again for September call-ups. In the meantime, we must be patient. The winter is long, and players often emerge in the springtime with fancy new swings and impressive beards. Perhaps next season will be the year of reckoning for Yandy. For now, we can only hope that he continues to work to earn his ticket to freedom: a positive launch angle.