Dodgers outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz breaks out

Twenty-year-old right-handed hitter Yusniel Diaz had a four-hit game on Tuesday evening with the Tulsa Drillers leading the Dodgers AA affiliate to a 9-3 win over the Northwest Arkansas Travelers. His performance led the way in lifting the Drillers into a first-place tie with the Springfield Cardinals in the Northern Division of the Texas League with six games remaining in the current campaign.

Diaz was signed by the Dodgers as part of an international signing blitz on November 21, 2015. He received the third largest ever international contract at that time, trailing only the Red Sox infielder Yoan Moncada and the Dodgers right-hander pitcher Yadier Alvarez.

As a 17-year-old, the Havana, Cuba native played with the Industriales de La Habana of the Cuban National Series (Serie Nacional de Béisbol) which is the primary domestic amateur baseball league in Cuba. Before defecting to the Dominican Republic, he was in line to be the Rookie of the Year in the senior Cuban League having posted a slash line of .348/.447/.440 in 65 games with 36 walks, 33 strikeouts and seven stolen bases in 15 attempts.

Not projected to be a power hitter, his scouting reports highlight a sharp hand-eye coordination with a line drive, gap-to-gap approach. However, his power output should see a surge as he fills out and he continues to play at higher levels of competition each year. A 20-home run season may well be a reasonable power surge for him.

Diaz played 82 games with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the High-A California League during the 2016 season posting a triple slash of .272/.335/.418 along with eight home runs and 54 runs batted in.

His 2017 season with the Quakes was certainly a model of consistency but really not of progression. This time, in 83 games his slash line of .278/.349/.414 pretty much mirrored his line of the previous year as did his eight home runs. His RBI production fell to 39.

Yusniel Diaz
(Photo credit – Tammy Tucker)

On August 1 Diaz was promoted to the Tulsa Drillers of the Texas League. His promotion to the next level was of interest for two reasons, one obvious and the other a bit subtler. First, it was time to test the 6’1”/195-pound outfielder at the next level since he seemed to have stalled with the Quakes. Secondly, by advancing to the AA level on August 1, he became eligible to participate in the Arizona Fall League starting on October 10 as a Double-A participant. If he had played his first game with the Drillers on August 2, he would have been ineligible to be an Arizona Fall League participant at that level.

With the Drillers Diaz has continued to be a model of consistency. His triple slash over 25 games is .333/.398/.464 along with an impressive OPS of .862. He has but one home run and has driven in eight while hitting early in the batting order. He has had hits in 18 of his 25 games with seven multiple hit games.

His four-hit outburst on Tuesday was his third one of the season. He previously had four hits with the Quakes in a June 18 game against the Lancaster JetHawks and another on June 23 against those same JetHawks. The first of the two was at home at LoanMart Field while the second was at The Hanger in Lancaster.

As good as his stat line appears to be, Diaz was in a bit of a funk and not feeling comfortable at the plate with the Drillers for several games. Before his four-hit game offensive explosion that included to ringing doubles, he had a meeting with Drillers hitting coach Terrmel Sledge.

Coach Sledge explained the nature of the meeting: “He took extra work, and you can tell he loves to get better, but things were off. We went over some video, and he has to feel the way he wants to. We made a little adjustment, and once it clicks in his head, he feels he can hit anything.”

His hitting coach was pleased Diaz took the suggestion to heart and emphasizes there is more work to do, especially with how he complements the use of his talented hands at the dish.

“The key word is aptitude,” Sledge said. “Some guys, you tell things and they won’t get it. Other guys, you tell them to try things, they’ll make adjustments in games. He’s one of those types of guys. He’s got good bat-to-ball skills, very good hands. There’s more in there, more power in there when he learns to use his lower half. Right now, it’s very unique for him to be able to keep his hands back while his hands are not in the [best] position. It’s rare to see that.”

Sledge is also trying to strike a comfortable balance with Diaz by pushing him with as much hitting information as possible but at the same time not creating a pressure cooker situation.

“I don’t want to put the same pressure on him as like a Cody Bellinger, but some guys improve each level they move up,” Sledge said. “Others hit a roadblock, but he’s so hungry for knowledge and information, it seems like he could be one of those guys who will improve at every single level he gets to. If he’s one of those guys, he could go from good to becoming great.”

Diaz is currently the Dodgers fifth-ranked prospect by MLBpipeline.com. It is quite easy to see why he will be playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League and also interesting to see how he will adjust to some high level, even elite pitching.

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(Editor’s Note: Diaz went 3-for-5 at the plate with an RBI in the Drillers 9-3 win over the Northwest Arkansas Naturals on Wednesday to up his average with to .348).

 

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4 Responses to “Dodgers outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz breaks out”

  1. Ron Cervenka says:

    Spent a lot of time watching and waiting for this to happen when Diaz was at Rancho. And even though he had his (brief) moments, I was quite disappointed in what I saw from him. As such, this latest remarkable power surge with the Drillers is GREAT to see!

  2. Snider Fan says:

    Harold, Diaz had some striking splits at RC, feasting on LHP and home cooking while struggling on the road and vs. RHP. Has he done better at Tulsa?

  3. Bluenose Dodger says:

    Small samples but encouraging.

    .370 vs LHP- 27 AB
    .318 vs RHP – 66 AB

    .343 at home – 35 AB
    .328 away – 58 AB

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