Unlike several of his predecessors, Dodgers‘ boss Andrew Friedman is developing a reputation for giving his younger players opportunities to show their value on the highest stages. This spring, for example, the Los Angeles management crew invited a whopping 22 players who were not on the 40-man to take part in major league workouts at Camelback Ranch, elevating the number of participants on the big league side of camp to well over 60 players.
One of those youngsters who is beginning to stand out is outfielder Yusniel Diaz. He’s already hit his first-career Cactus League home run, but perhaps more importantly, he’s been showing off the multiple tools he possesses. He’s currently ranked among the Top 10 prospects in the Dodgers’ system by several outlets, and was originally signed by Los Angeles as a 19-year-old free agent out of Cuba late in 2015. Last year, after dealing with an early injury bug, he went on to hit .292/.354/..433 with 11 long balls and 52 RBI in 114 combined games for High-A Rancho and Double-A Tulsa. He has the quickness to handle center field with ease, but his pure athleticism gives him the capability of succeeding at all three outfield spots. Additionally, both his arm strength and his speed on the basepaths grade way above average.
The right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing 21-year-old has convincingly proven his worth in terms of four of the key tools; however, he may be gradually building up his power game thanks to a new approach at the dish. This according to MLB Pipeline:
“Diaz shows the potential for solid tools across the board with the exception of his power, and he has begun to show more pop after toning down his setup and incorporating his lower half more in his right-handed swing. He makes consistent contact, uses the whole field and shows decent patience at the plate. While he won’t be a huge home run threat, he has enough bat speed and strength to provide 12-15 per season.”
Last November, Diaz, along with corner utility man Matt Beaty, was selected to represent the Dodgers at the Fall Stars Game, which is the annual mid-season All-Star showcase featuring the brightest prospects of the Arizona Fall League. During 2017 AFL play, the native of La Habana hit an impressive .303/.356/.409 in 66 AB over 17 games. Although he played mostly center field, many scouts see him as a natural right fielder, a spot for which he certainly has both the arm and range to excel.
And while it seems like he’s been around forever, the 2018 season will be just his fourth in the Dodgers’ system. Anybody else of his caliber in a different organization would certainly be showcased among the Triple-A starting outfielders, yet because of the impressive depth of the Los Angeles farm, especially in the outfield, Diaz is likely set to begin the year at Tulsa.
Nevertheless, if Diaz continues to shine on the minor league stage, it really doesn’t matter who is in his way, as a stop at the big league level may not be far off.