Background: A Cuban defector, Diaz signed for a modest $300,000 back in 2013. Diaz logged full seasons at High-A in 2014, then Double-A, with a brief, four-game cameo at Triple-A in 2015. Though he he hit well, he was assigned back to Akron to open the 2016 season, but earned a promotion to Columbus after 26 games. He’s done nothing but hit his entire pro career, though he’s also been a touch old for his level the entire time.
Scouting Report: Stat-line scouters have always liked Diaz because of precocious bat-to-ball skills paired with a patient approach at the plate, and a track record of production. Others point to a lack of game power as a disqualifier for everyday play, given his defensive positions.
They say when you hold a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Diaz is quite the carpenter in that regard, employing a compact swing and all fields approach to make consistent contact, but there’s little to no loft to speak of. He’s not the free-swinger that saying implies, consistently producing double-digit walk rates in the minors. The question yet to be answered is whether Diaz’s lack of pop will allow major-league pitchers to attack the zone more consistently, converting his patience from a virtue to an exploitable flaw.
Diaz plays a good third base, showcasing athleticism, first-step quickness, and a plus arm. Those all play well in the outfield corners, as well, though the further he moves down the defensive spectrum, the tougher the profile becomes. There’s a chance he could be a second-division starter, albeit at the bottom of that spectrum. On a first-division team like Cleveland, though, he slots in particularly well as a utility man who can provide contact off the bench.
Immediate Big-League Future: How long his cup of coffee lasts will depend on how quickly Kipnis mends, and he’s likely to ride the shuttle from Columbus to Cleveland all year long. —Craig Goldstein
Fantasy Impact: Diaz is about as yoked as a human being can get. Aside from spending time lifting enormous objects, he's hit pretty much everywhere. Diaz pairs a good idea at the plate (11.3 percent walk rate last season in Triple-A) with strong contact skills (has never struck out in more than 20 percent of plate appearances in any full season). Despite his build, he doesn't hit for a ton of power, but has been above .290 TAv in each professional season.
His stint with Cleveland could be temporary, however. An injury to Jason Kipnis will push Jose Ramirez to the keystone, allowing Diaz to man the hot corner on an interim basis. That said, if Diaz produces, he could hit his way into a more permanent role. An everyday spot for the Cuban slugger could be created thanks to the positional flexibility of Ramirez, who can play left field in a pinch. —Mark Barry
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