Hello, friends, and welcome back to the Yandy Watch. We experienced a serious blow to the cause this week when the Indians optioned Yandy Diaz to Triple-A Columbus. Last season, a strong performance at the plate in spring catapulted Diaz to the major league roster and a starting gig at third. Did injuries to Jason Kipnis help? A little. Sure.
This year, with Kipnis healthy and Ramirez a bona fide all-star at the hot corner, Diaz would likely be relegated to utility infielder status. If, you know, he had made the team. Terry Francona’s actions show that he feels Erik Gonzalez is more up to the task than Diaz.
Here at Yandy Watch I think it’s important that we take a moment to review how we got to this sad state of affairs. Can we identify what it is that made Yandy fall short of the roster?
This spring, Yandy hit .412/.474/.559. I believe that that is an acceptable slash line. This came on the heels of a major league campaign in which he hit .263/.352/.327 in 156 PAs. No, that slugging number is not going to work at the highest level. That being said, he fared much better in Columbus, where he slugged .460. Is that largely on the back of a batting average of .350? Yes. Was his on-base percentage nearly as high as his slugging percentage? Of course.
We arrive, then, at what appears to me to be the real problem: you don’t learn to drive major league pitches by facing Triple-A pitchers and learning from Triple-A batting coaches. There is nothing left for Yandy Diaz to accomplish in the minor leagues, and any additional time spent there inhibits his potential. It is time to #FreeYandy for good. If that means trading him to another franchise, so be it. It hurts. I know. But if the Indians won’t give him the shot he deserves, he should be curling weight and launching balls at velocities in the high nineties somewhere else.
The only reason, then, that the Indians wouldn’t select him is that they are still not comfortable with his fielding skills. We’ve been over this about a dozen times here at the Watch, so I won’t drone on about it again. Selecting Gonzalez suggests that the team is prioritizing fielding ability and the flexibility to play multiple infield positions, as he played second, third, and shortstop well when needed last year. He also hit four home runs, which is an infinitely greater amount than Yandy.
The worst case scenario is that Yandy turns into another Jesus Aguilar. The Indians teased Aguilar with sips of coffee for three years before finally cutting him lose. He landed in Milwaukee, where he accrued a little more than 1 bWAR in 311 PAs. That is competent baseball. Similarly, I don’t expect Yandy to suddenly begin lifting the ball and hitting 30 HRs. What he represents is either a viable option in the infield with an outside shot at becoming a nasty power hitter, or an intriguing trade piece that could land the Indians a key player at the trade deadline.
One way or another the Indians need to find a way to derive value from Yandy, rather than letting him play-act as a homerless Barry Bonds in Columbus.
Will there be future editions of the Yandy Watch? Probably. I just hope they aren’t upsetting meetings with picture after picture of home runs launched into the upper deck of Yankee Stadium, Yandy’s arms looking slightly more massive due to the pinstripes.