After a season of failing to commit to one of the more intriguing hitters on the roster, Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti had a simple answer when asked if Yandy Diaz could hack it as a major league third baseman every day:
Last season, while Jason Kipnis tried — and failed — to find his bat at second base, Yandy waited. When Kipnis was mercifully moved to the outfield to allow Jose Ramirez to play his natural position at second, Yandy waited. When the playoffs came around, Yandy waited. He never got a chance to be a consistent third baseman, and instead lingered on the bench.
By the sounds of it, the Indians front office seems like they’re ready to give him a chance. At least in theory.
Reporters at the Winter Meetings pressed Antonetti on the subject of Diaz’s hitting and effectiveness as a third baseman, and he seemed fairly optimistic about both.
“Yandy has a lot of ingredients to be really good,” Antonetti said. “He’s already demonstrated a lot of those. He controls the strike zone exceedingly well. Swings at good pitches. Puts the ball in play really hard. And over time we do think he’ll hit for more extra bases. But he’s got the really good ingredients to hit.”
It’s like he took all the things I’ve been screaming at my TV for the past two years and put them into big boy adult words.
Now, reading between the lines, it sounds like he still believes Yandy has some developing to do — the words “he’s got the really ingredients” linger over the optimism.
To be fair, it’s all completely true.
Yandy has shown that he has trouble elevating the ball, despite whacking the ever loving heck out of it every time he’s up to the plate. His 92.1 average exit velocity ranked 22nd among batters with at least 90 batted balls last season, and the highest of any Indians batter. Despite this, he only had one home run and only eight of his 34 hits went for extra bases with quite a few creating divots a few feet from the batters box. He stayed afloat in limited action with his great eye at the plate — walking 9.2 percent of the time and striking out 15.8 percent — but the desire for him to elevate the ball is clearly there for the Indians.
The Indians have seemed hesitant to come out and say it, though, and the excuse has always been that he isn’t good enough in the field, despite receiving high marks from scouts in the minors and flashy plays in his 331 innings at third base in his career. Instead he found himself as the team’s quasi third designated hitter behind Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso.
Maybe it’s just lip service, but hopefully the Indians are finally ready to give him a shot at the hot corner with a real chance at working through — or overcoming — his launch angle issues. As long as they don’t trade him first.