A swing adjustment to tap into more pull power and elevate the baseball allowed Yusniel Diaz to overcome what first appeared to be a mirror season in the California League and succeed in both the Texas League playoff chase and the Arizona Fall League. Still, Diaz remains a somewhat perplexing prospect as an outfield tweener and a lack of physical projection despite being young for his levels. Though his ceiling is up for debate, Diaz is a high floor prospect that could be ready to contribute at the big league level as early as this season.
Diaz arrived to the Dodgers amidst significant fanfare as one of the top Cuban signees in 2015, and with a $15.5 million signing bonus. Though his athletic exploits may have been over-advertised, Diaz has flashed an above-average hit tool in each professional stop. Lowering his hands and steepening the plane of his swing helped change the batted ball profile in 2018, shaving almost four percent off his ground ball rate, while also helping him tap into some pull power.
Diaz is a disciplined hitter for his age and should post solid walk and strikeout rates at the big league level. He did struggle some with right handed breaking balls, but overall demonstrated a plus hitting tool with the ability to hit to all fields and showed no platoon split. Diaz’s game power made a discernible jump at the double A level by pulling more fastballs down the left field line, and his future power will almost assuredly be predominantly pull side.
Because contact can come too easy at times, Diaz can still fall into the habit of going with pitcher’s pitches too frequently instead of waiting for something to lift. His all fields approach should still give him solid averages even when he’s putting the ball on the ground too frequently, but his offensive profile looks better when he tries to tap into his fringe average pull power.
“I’m trying to satisfy all the expectations on me. I’m trying to work to get those stats up and get my power going,” Diaz said at Dodger Stadium in December. “I’m working out more, trying to get stronger. When I’m in the cage I’m trying to focus on power.”
Despite being a loose, fluid athlete, Diaz is not a burner. He has been caught stealing more than he has stolen successfully, and he has played right primarily more than centerfield. He is a good defender with above average range in right though he is still prone to the misread.
Diaz’s arm strength is plenty strong for right field and would be an easy plus in center. He is accurate and can consistently deliver a catchable throw. Despite his age, Diaz already looks to have filled out his smallish frame, so he’s not likely to lose any of his present athleticism as he enters his prime age range.
My hesitancy to push Diaz into the top ten is the atypical profile of a contact-oriented right fielder. Diaz will likely have no better than average power, with 10-15 home run seasons being his ceiling, so he would have to overcompensate with defense and on base ability. He’s capable of accomplishing both, but it narrows the margin of error for success. Still, he’s almost assuredly a big leaguer, capable of providing value as a fourth outfielder that can fill in at times in center while providing a solid bat off the bench.
While he’s close to big league ready, finding Diaz’s spot in the outfield hierarchy gets tricky. Andrew Toles is a superior athlete with better speed and power, and has already found success at the big league level. Alex Verdugo has the best hit tool in the organization and might have a better chance of sticking in center. Additionally, Diaz has DJ Peters closing on him from behind, whose power makes him a more attractive long term solution in an outfield corner.
That isn’t to suggest that Diaz doesn’t have a role in the future in the Dodgers’ outfield. With contact issues becoming glaring in the postseason, Diaz’s ability to put the ball in play could make him a nice bench option or situational starter on a diversified roster.
Ultimately, Diaz would need a team to either live with his fringe average range in center or deploy him as an untraditional right fielder for him to be a starter long term in the major leagues. That team could still be the Dodgers should the personnel shake out a certain way while other prospects fail to develop. Diaz still maintains a lofty reputation and ranking with other prospect services, so he’s likely to hold a high trade value for the Dodgers if they need to augment the roster in 2018. To Diaz’s credit, his swing improvements prove a willingness to address his shortcomings, though his lack of physicality and plus foot speed are natural obstacles to a traditional profile in center or right that aren’t easily overcome.
2018 top Dodgers prospects
|11||Yusniel Diaz||CF/RF||21.06||AA||55||50||55||improved swing for pop potential, arm, defensive pot.||in game power lagging, tweener profile|
|12||Cristian Santana||3B||21.01||LoA||55||40||65||excellent build, loose athlete, chance for + power||long swing, chance for swing and miss, raw|
|13||Edwin Rios||3B/1B||23.11||AAA||55||45||60||big raw power, strong, productive hitter, arm strength||avg bat speed, fringy at 3rd, mistake hitter|
|14||Starling Heredia||LF/RF||19.02||LoA||55||35||70||man-child physique, huge raw power, upside||still raw at the plate, serious swing and miss|
|15||Morgan Cooper||RHSP||23.06||NA||55||50||55||good frame, + BB with BB manipulation, production||injury history, longer arm action, ceiling more #3|
|16||Gavin Lux||SS||20.04||LoA||55||50||55||should stick at SS, athletic, plate discipline at age||overall offensive ceiling, some hit struggles early|
|17||Jordan Sheffield||RHSP/RP||22.10||HiA||55||45||60||electric arm, + present fastball and CV, athletic||production doesn't match stuff, likely reliever|
|18||Imani Abdullah||RHSP||20.11||LoA||55||45||60||excellent frame, upside, feel for spin on CB||17 a redshirt year, limited exposure, little stiff|
|19||Kyle Farmer||C/3B||27.07||MLB||50||50||45||good feel for hit, offensive profile at C, utility||more productive bench bat then starter, age|
|20||Caleb Ferguson||LHSP||21.09||HiA||50||45||50||K production, 3 pitch mix, command, feel for spin||upside more mid rotation, maxed out frame|
|21||Connor Wong||C/2B||21.10||LoA||50||45||50||versatile talent, good athlete for a C, solid power prod||some swing and miss, build not projectable|
|22||Josh Sborz||RHSP/RP||24.03||AA||50||45||50||high floor, command of three pitches, competitive||stuff has backed up this season, likely reliever|
|23||James Marinan||RHSP||19.06||ROK||50||40||55||projectable frame, flashes + SNK, chance for +CH||slurvy BB, more middle than upper rotation upside|
|24||Devin Smeltzer||LHSP||22.08||HiA||50||45||50||high pitchability, 3 pitch mix, throws nothing straight||fringe avg velo, 4th or 5th starter ceiling|
|25||Matt Beaty||1B/LF||24.11||AA||50||45||50||excellent feel for hit, career production, game pop||limited ceiling, future defensive home|
|26||Andrew Sopko||RHSP||23.08||AA||50||50||45||3 pitch mix, pitchability, command, deceptive||velo can be fringy, bottom rotation upside|
|27||Ariel Sandoval||CF/RF||22.05||HiA||50||35||60||livey athlete, raw power, arm, 2nd half production||too raw at plate, noisey set-up, high swing and miss|
|28||Tim Locastro||SS/2B/CF||25.09||AAA||50||45||45||good bat to ball skills, high steal rate, versatile||fringe pop, stretched at SS and CF, upside|
|29||JT Chargois||RHRP||27.04||AAA||50||40||55||heavy life on SNK, GB ability, arm strength||limited track record, long injury history, age|
|30||Jake Peter||2B/SS||24.11||AAA||50||45||45||fluid LH swing, arm strength, versatile||utility/bench upside, ? on overall pop|
|31||Yaisel Sierra||RHRP||27.01||AAA||50||40||50||good velo, SL will flash +, quick arm||command, incon. release, FB can be straight|
|32||Wilmer Font||RHSP/RP||27.10||MLB||50||40||50||excellent K production, rise on FB, + SL||age, previous command issues, upside|
|33||Ibandel Isabel||1B||22.09||HiA||50||30||60||++ raw power, physical build, strength||huge swing and miss, poor defender, raw|
|34||Mitchell Hansen||CF/RF||21.11||SS||45||40||55||chance for 5 tools, upside, projectable frame||struggling to break full season, swing and miss|
|35||Errol Robinson||SS||23.06||AA||45||45||50||smooth infield actions, throwing arm, solid athlete||better long speed than SB threat, off. ceiling|
|36||Johan Mieses||RF/CF||22.09||AA||45||40||55||impressive arm, defensive ceiling, raw power||serious swing and miss concerns|
|37||Omar Estevez||2B/SS||20.01||HiA||45||40||55||added defensive versatility, some feel for hit||production stagnated at Hi A, power potential|
|38||Donovan Casey||CF/RF||22.01||SS||45||45||50||twitchy athlete, production, solid bat to ball skills||ceiling more 4th OF than starter, power ceiling|
|39||Edward Paredes||LHRP||31.06||MLB||45||45||45||K production, tough on LHH, + SL||age, one pitch reliever, LOOGY upside|
|40||Rob Segedin||3B/LF||29.05||MLB||45||45||45||hit vs lefties, gets most of tools, avg pop||bench bat upside, limited defender, upside|
|41||Drew Jackson||SS/2B||24.09||AA||45||40||50||elite athlete, + to ++ speed and arm strength||offense improving but limited ceiling, utility upside|
|42||Wills Montgomerie||RHSP/RP||22.10||LoA||45||40||50||spin rate, durable build, flashes + velo and CV||uneven production, command wavers|
|43||Cody Thomas||RF||23.06||LoA||45||35||55||great build, good athlete, chance for above avg pop||still raw, swing and miss concerns|
|44||Jesen Therrien||RHRP||25.00||AAA||45||45||45||SL flashes +, good command and K production||TJ wipes out '18. middle relief/ROOGY upside|
|45||Carlos Rincon||RF||20.06||SS||45||35||55||big raw power, physical upside, bat speed||pretty raw offensively, serious swing and miss|
|46||Kyle Garlick||CF/RF/LF||26.02||AA||45||45||45||productive, feel for hitting, avg pop||4th outfielder profile, age, fringe speed|
|47||Luke Raley||LF/RF||23.06||HiA||45||40||50||muscular build, chance for above avg pop||just avg bat speed, possible swing and miss|
|48||Luis Paz||1B/C||21.09||SS||45||40||50||power production, bat speed, strong build||? on ultimate defensive home, avg athlete|
|49||Riley Ottesen||RHRP||23.05||LoA||45||40||50||good velo, will flash + SL, arm speed||poor college production, likely reliever only|
|50||Rylan Bannon||3B||21.11||SS||45||45||45||college/pro production, good feel for hit, game pop||skills over tools, ceiling, possible utility upside|
|51||Leo Crawford||LHSP||21.01||LoA||45||40||50||solid production, command of 3 pitch mix||fringe velo, not as projectable, likely back end|
|52||Zach Reks||LF/RF||24.05||HiA||45||45||45||feel for hit, on base skills, productive||- power, age, 4th OF profile|
|53||Romer Cuadrado||LF/RF||20.08||SS||45||35||55||excellent frame, chance for + raw power||development lagging behind age, swing and miss|
|54||Ryan Moseley||RHRP||23.06||LoA||45||40||50||chance for ++ snk, big groundball potential||struggles with command, results don't match stuff|
|55||Jared Walker||3B/RF||22.02||LoA||45||40||50||+ size/athleticism combo, chance for hit/power, + arm||raw, buggy whip swing, error prone in IF|
|56||Zach Pop||RHRP||21.06||NA||45||40||50||good life/velo combo on FB, solid build, poss. CH||mid relief profile, SL loses shape in low slot|
|57||Corey Copping||RHRP||24.03||AA||45||45||45||good SL, bulldog mentality, decent production||FB velo avg to fringe, middle relief ceiling|
|58||Shea Spitzbarth||RHRP||23.06||AA||45||45||45||agressive mound demeanor, arm strength, CV||middle relief upside, maxed out frame, size|
|59||Layne Somsen||RHRP||28.10||AA||45||45||45||tough overhead BB, production, athletic||limited mid relief ceiling, age, avg FB velo|
|60||Tony Gonsolin||RHRP||23.11||HiA||45||40||50||arm speed, flashes + SL, solid K production||lithe build, not quite late relief upside|
|61||Alfredo Tavarez||RHSP/RP||20.04||LoA||45||35||50||king sized frame, arm strength, K production||still raw mechanically, repeating arm slot, command|
|62||Aneurys Zabala||RHRP||21.03||LoA||45||40||50||will flash ++ arm strength, some feel for spin||relief profile, command, limited physical upside|
|63||Michael Boyle||LHSP||23.11||HiA||45||40||45||pitch movement, pitchability, 3 pitches||no plus pitch, fringy velo, #5 starter/swingman|
|64||Jefrey Souffront||2B/3B||20.11||ROK||45||35||50||some feel for hit, quick bat, mature plate approach||distance from the majors, build not projectable|
|65||Jacob Amaya||SS/2B||19.02||ROK||45||35||50||chance to stick at SS, good athlete, some feel for hit||distance from majors, offensive ceiling|
|66||Ronny Brito||SS||19.00||SS||45||35||50||infield actions, long athlete, chance to hit||? on overall offensive potential, far from majors|
|67||Logan Crouse||RHRP||21.04||LoA||45||35||50||size, projectability, athleticism in delivery, arm action||Fringy present velo, lots of projection left|
|68||Chris Mathewson||RHSP/RP||21.10||HiA||45||40||45||SNK/SL mix, solid production, command||back of rotation, middle relief upside, fringe velo|
|69||Adam Bray||RHSP||24.11||HiA||45||40||45||durability, feel for spin, good command||fringe starter upside, upside, avg K potential|
|70||Brian Moran||LHRP||29.06||AA||40||40||45||funk in delivery, tough in LHH, K potential||limited ceiling, fringe velo, age|
|71||Nolan Long||RHRP||24.02||HiA||40||40||45||long frame, athletic for size, FB flashes +||long levers to control, command, likely reliever|
|72||Mike Ahmed||1B/3B||26.02||AA||40||40||45||productive in '16, swing plane, avg pop||bat speed, age, limited upside|
|73||Nathan Witt||RHRP||21.11||ROK||40||35||50||good build, projectable, arm strength||project arm, distance from majors, relief upside|
|74||Travis Taijeron||LF/RF||29.02||AAA||40||40||45||good career power production, physical build||age, defensive upside, swing and miss concern|
|75||Jacob Scavuzzo||LF||24.02||AAA||40||40||45||solid tool profile, still a chance for upside||game going backward, struggling hit tool|
|76||Max Gamboa||RHRP||22.04||ROK||40||35||50||excellent arm strength, + to ++ velo, good frame||production does not match stuff, incon. SL|
|77||Dean Kremer||RHRP||22.03||HiA||40||40||45||decent athleticism and frame, K production, sink on FB||was hit hard in HiA. Homer prone, no + pitch|
|78||Moises Perez||2B||20.08||LoA||40||40||45||loose athlete, some feel for hit||offensive ceiling, lower on defensive spectrum|
|79||Isaac Anderson||RHSP/RP||24.07||HiA||40||40||45||versatile arm, some SNK on FB, avg SL||no plus or above avg tool, low ceiling, taxi arm|