There has been much made of Yandy Diaz and his ability to hit the ball extremely hard but on the ground, which has limited his offensive profile. On Thursday though, the hitting ceiling for Diaz was seen as he went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a triple, a single, and a walk by joining the Elevation Revelation– at least for one night.
Diaz still has an overall MLB batted ball profile with a 60% groundball rate, which is unsustainable for a high level of long-term success. The two other members of the Cleveland Indians with that distinction in 2017 are Erik Gonzalez and Daniel Robertson- not the players you want to model your hitting around.
The MLB ceiling for Diaz has always been higher than those players as his .350/.454/.460 for Triple-A Columbus can attest. Diaz is able to acquire good contact and couples it with a great batting eye as he demonstrated in the 11-pitch at bat against Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel on Wednesday night. The propensity to hit the ball on the ground so much though is why his MLB line of .230/.301/.297 lags his MiLB numbers, and why his slugging percentage (and associated isolated power) is weak in both.
Exit velocity is certainly not an issue for Diaz. He sits as the No. 4 hitter in all of MLB by smashing the ball with an average of 92.9 miles per hour. Taking a look at the names he shares the Top 10 with include a “Who’s Who” of MLB power hitters: Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, Nelson Cruz, Miguel Sano, Khris Davis, Lucas Duda, Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez.
The difference between Diaz and these other hitters is stark as can be seen in both the average distance a batted ball travels (129 for Diaz versus 177 as the next lowest) and amount of barrels per batted ball event (1.8% for Diaz versus 11.6% for the next lowest). Why the difference? You guessed it; launch angle.
A fascinating and exciting development has happened since Diaz has been called back up to the Indians. There have been seven batted balls off the bat of Diaz this week. Three have been on the ground (42%, 1-for-3), two have been fly balls (29%, 1-for-2, double), and two have been line drives (29%, 2-for-2, double and triple). On four-of-seven batted balls, Diaz elevated the ball over the infield and maintained his exit velocity as all of these were above 90 miles per hour (all but one groundball hit harder than 95 miles per hour).
The sample size is miniscule. His overall profile both in MiLB and MLB maintain that he will have some issues breaking through to reach his offensive potential. However, the talent and ability is there. If he can show it off with any regularity, then any talk of even considering Brandon Phillips or Asdrubal Cabrera to be a bat off the bench in the postseason should be scuttled immediately.
The Yandy Diaz era might not be here in Cleveland quite yet, but it was fun to watch the possibility for a night and it is time to watch to see if he can keep it up.