I recieved a simple one-line text as my initial exposure to the Milwaukee Brewers Isan Diaz. It was towards the end of the 2015 season, before the trades that sent Dansby Swanson to Atlanta and Isan Diaz to Milwaukee. Both players were still in the Arizona Diamondbacks system whose Low-A affiliate is my home team. I was doing background work on players to watch for in the coming years and the text I received on Diaz simply said “heard he’s a monster.”
The longer look I get at a player the better my read on his hit tool is. That sounds intuitive but sometimes the initial impressions a good hitter leaves on you can color your opinion too strongly. The first time I saw Isan Diaz he showed off excellent zone command with preternatural bat to ball skills in a solid 2-3 performance that included a walk. He was hitting .227 at the time but the tools didn’t match the performance and a breakout was in the works. Diaz didn’t miss anything in the zone and he was laying off the bad stuff out of it. He was showcasing an innate ability to find the barrel in any quadrant that is both rare and exciting to watch. I came home from my initial exposure to Diaz with the desire to place an extraordinarily high grade on his hit tool.
Some holes popped up in his swing the more I saw him. Diaz keeps his hands low at the outset of his swing, which creates a natural hole up and in that lefty pitchers can exploit. There’s leverage in his swing which creates a thinner contact plane as well. Pair that with the one problem area in his zone coverage and it’s plain to see there’s always going to be some amount of swing and miss to his game. Some other surprising elements propped up as well. Diaz is a shorter player but there’s a real power element to his offensive profile. He has a well developed upper body with some natural strength, and there’s lift to his swing. He shows the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field and his pull-side power is very real. My initial reactions on where his hit tool grade landed had evolved greatly from my first look but so too did my opinion on his power.
The chasm between average and plus as it relates to the hit tool is a wide expanse that sometimes gets underrated in the public. A plus hit tool is more than just a projected batting average, it’s a statement that the player will be an asset offensively, a statement that he will have a major-league future. A lot of things have to align for a player to have a plus hit tool and I have a checklist I go down for hit-tool profiles. Diaz checked a lot of boxes off my list. There is that hole in his swing but he has the zone awareness and the hand-eye coordination to cover the area well enough to allow for a plus hit tool.
I go back to that conversation from 2015 often when it concerns Diaz and what I ultimately put on his grades. A monster has a special kind of connotation. It’s not clearly defined but there’s a strong implication when a scout uses the word to describe a player. Is a plus player a monster? I think so. One of the things that I keep in mind when using the scale is how hard it is to get to the 60-and-above portion when it comes to tools like hit and power, and most definitely when it comes to OFP. If you think about the scale as a bell curve there are just a limited number of plus players in the majors, so using the designation is a serious statement on a player’s ability. Further, it requires a special kind of believe to hang an OFP of 60 on a player in Low-A. Well, I believe in monsters, and I believe in Isan Diaz.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now