What is to become of Yandy Diaz?

At WFNY, with a group of skilled and confident writers, disagreement often burgeons over a few different flash points. In Indians coverage, I suspect that you have found that Michael Bode, Jim Pete, and myself approach topics differently in a stylistic or analytical sense, yet often come to the same conclusions. Indeed, it is often on the periphery, the No. 4 starter1 or a super utility decision which drives our disagreements. Yandy Diaz is one such disagreement, but I expect (as is generally the case) we are not as far apart as it may seem. With the Indians relying on Giovanny Urshela and Erik Gonzalez in front of Diaz, the discussion regarding the Cuban defector has intensified.

In an attempt to summarize Mr. Bode opinion regarding Yandy Diaz it is that he could be a breakout offensive player if he altered his launch angle. Indeed, I do not believe that Bode suggests Diaz current profile is insufficient to contribute at the big league level. Here is his conclusion about Diaz from his article discussing the missing bats of Kipnis and Chisenhall:

His swings have been measured at 63 miles per hour which is best on the team (along with his exit velocity on batted balls) and among the best in the majors. If Diaz can figure out how to find better balance in batted ball types, then he can become an anchor of the Indians moving forward. He does not appear to be there yet.

Diaz has a negative launch angle, with an elevated ground ball rate of roughly 57% in the minor leagues and 62% in a small big league sample. His propensity for ground balls certainly caps his offensive profile in terms of power. However, the larger question is whether Diaz can be a productive big leaguer while carrying such a high ground ball rate. In pursuit of solving this question the Top 10 hitters in ground ball percentage are included for your consideration below:

Courtesy of Fangraphs

Five of the 10 hitters have a wRC+ over 100, which means they are above league average hitters. Seven of the 10 hitters have a BABIP of .308 or above. Of course, Diaz has a better contact percentage than Jonathan Villar, the worst wRC+ performer on the list. As well, Diaz had an enormous hard-hit rate which, while due to regress, reflects that he will likely sit above average in hard-hit balls. Further, his IFFB% is an outlier which should also draw nearer to the mean.

Exit velocity is in many ways impacted by the hitter and swing speed certainly helps, something Yandy Diaz has tons of.

Courtesy of Baseball Savant

Here is a line posted by a player in 2016 with batted ball components which are largely achievable for Yandy Diaz. Ground ball 55.6%, HR/FB 19% and Hard hit 35%. The home run per fly ball rate may be a bit high, but Diaz has far better contact% skills to compensate. Above, is SS/3B Jonathan Villar’s 3.0 WAR season in 2016. Of course, Diaz will be different, better in some ways and worse in others, but the profile is absolutely workable at the big league level to post lines around a .700 OPS and 100-110 wRC+, which is a boon since he can be deployed at multiple positions and used as a platoon killer.

Diaz does not have the profile of a star, though a launch angle change that wields his bat speed for power may change his ceiling. Regardless, Diaz is ready to contribute with a disciplined, all fields approach, which adds depth at the bottom of the lineup.

  1. Editor’s Note: Mike Clevinger looked wonderful on Tuesday night. []

  • mgbode

    Good stuff Mike. I mostly agree. The one other issue with his batting profile I have in MLB (small sample size alert) is that he isn’t using all fields the same way he does in MiLB. If he does keep the profile, but is able to spray the ball around more, then he can be successful. I’ll still be watching that bat speed and wanting more though.

  • scripty

    Is this guy a future DH post EE, or 3B post Kipnis (move JRAM to 2B). He also may need a position swap.

  • mgbode

    His defense looked fine- not great but he handled what came to him- at third base earlier this year.

  • scripty

    I would agree with that but I think that was sample size and that him playing 3B ends the Kipnis era I guess. I think maybe we just need to tell him to fix that launch angle and work at 3B and 1B and come back in 2019?

    He’s tantalizing close but also far away. Maybe he’s the trade piece we use so we can keep Meija

  • mgbode

    I don’t think there’s a team out there that we’d be able to talk down from Mejia to consider Diaz. Well, then again, we could look at what Detroit got for JD Martinez.

    Anyway, I agree that I want him hitting more liners and flies. He has such potential if he can figure that out. It doesn’t appear to be what he’s working on though (as his profile hasn’t changed), so I don’t know. Kipnis talked about potentially moving to the outfield in the CleveScene piece, so that is a possibility too.

  • Natedawg86

    Kip moving back to the spot he originally played? Doesn’t he have a noodle arm though? I don’t know if he has a stong enough arm for 3rd either

  • mgbode

    Kip would move to first or left if anything.

  • tsm

    I really wanted us to get Martinez, and thought he would cost less than another quality pitcher and would help us more. Last night was another example. We can’t ask for more from a SP than we got, and yet we still lost – managing only a run – and terrible with RISP.

  • jpftribe

    Mike, I agree that Yandy can help this club now, but I also appreciate the decision to play Urshela right now. Whose to say whether Urshela’s play Monday would have changed the outcome if he didn’t make it, but it sure was nice to not know. He’s also been better than an automatic out with the bat.

    I made the point yesterday on missing Chis’ defense and RF promptly blows a game. Yandy’s glove has been below average to incredible at times. Urshela is going to give you consistent elite D, and that can be a difference maker. The yield could be lower, but that’s a much higher probability than Yandy hitting.

    Really, really interesting they went after JD. Obviously for the bat, but they were going to make that work in the field somehow.

  • scripty

    maybe Kipnis plays DH.

  • mgbode

    Even on his outs, Urshela has been making solid contact. His profile says it won’t keep up, but I have enjoyed him being on the team thus far.

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