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Keep an eye on Cleveland Indians prospect Yandy Diaz

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The Cuban infielder could sneak up on us in 2017

Yandy Diaz
Joe Sentry

One player I’m watching closely for 2017 is infielder/outfielder Yandy Diaz of the Cleveland Indians.

From the Cleveland Indians Top 20 prospects for 2017 list:

Yandy Diaz, 3B, Grade B-: Age 25, Cuban, hit .318/.408/.446 with nine homers, 71 walks, 86 strikeouts in 444 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; polished hitter with very good feel for hitting, consistently puts bat on ball for hard contact; home run power not strong and given his age you wouldn’t think a lot more would come, but I think it is possible it still may do so; above-average glove at third base. I like him. ETA: 2017.

Let’s flesh that out.

The Indians signed Diaz for $300,000 following his arrival from Cuba in 2013. He debuted in High-A in ‘14, posting a decent-enough .286/.396/.367 line in 283 at-bats for Carolina, followed by a stronger .315/.412/.408 mark in Double-A in ‘15 over 476 at-bats. He split 2016 between Double-A and Triple-A and hit well at both levels, including a .325/.399/.461 mark across 360 at-bats after being promoted to Columbus.

Diaz hasn’t received as much notice as the higher-profile Cubans but there are all kinds of positive markers here, highlighted by impressive strike zone judgment and a swing that produces line drives to all fields. The question has been home run power but his power numbers have been ticking up gradually. He can show pop to all fields: of his nine home runs in 2016, four were hit to left field and five to right.

Here’s some video from Adam Hayes.

And an opposite field home run from Minor League Baseball:

Defensively his range is too limited for shortstop but he draws positive reviews for arm strength and reliability at third base, though he could improve his moves to the left side. He has limited experience at second base. Cleveland got him innings in both left and right field last year to enhance his versatility and he performed decently enough at both positions, nothing spectacular but certainly playable.

Right now Diaz looks like someone who could hit .260-.280 with enough OBP and defensive versatility to be valuable as a role player. If his home run power increases, and it may very well do so when he gets into his late 20s, he could be something more than that.