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Astros View Yainer Diaz As More Than A Throw-In



Catcher Yainer Diaz arrived to the Astros as a footnote in an intriguing trade.

The Astros’ decision to trade Myles Straw to the Indians took many by surprise. Straw did nothing to lose his starting center field job. He played premier defense, stole 17 bases and recorded a .339 on-base percentage in 98 games.

Still, Houston shipped him to Cleveland for Phil Maton to strengthen their bullpen. Though farther away from Houston, Diaz has fans in his new organization. The 22-year-old joins a farm system suddenly full of well-performing catchers with perhaps the best hit tool among them.

“Obviously we think he’s going to stick behind the plate,” Astros assistant general manager Pete Putila said. “We love his bat—(he makes) a lot of contact—and his power has started to come on more the last couple weeks. I think the main thing with him is just being a little bit more patient with his approach.”

Cleveland signed Diaz out of the Dominican Republic for $25,000 during the 2016 international signing period. His career .328/.359/.461 slash line, contact rate and high exit velocities intrigued the Astros.

Catchers often display power over hitting ability. Putila believes Diaz can have both but needs to improve his selectivity at the plate. With High-A Lynchburg this year he hit .314/.357/.464 in 61 games, drawing 15 walks and striking out 42 times.

Putila said Diaz’s exit velocities are approaching major league average, and the hope exists it can translate into a tad more power. He had 25 extra-base hits in 61 games prior to the trade.

The Astros view Diaz’s throwing arm as a “tick above average” and enjoy his calm receiving skills and presence.

“With catchers, like they say, when you don’t notice them, that’s a good thing,” Putila said. “I think that’s a big thing with him. He’s quiet back there.”

SPACE SHOTS

— Myles Straw’s departure allowed the Astros to give Jake Meyers a shot in the major leagues. A 13th-round pick in 2017 who went unheralded for most of his early career, Meyers authored a breakout at Triple-A Sugar Land this season, slugging .598 with 35 extra-base hits. Meyers possesses power Straw cannot provide, and he’ll split time in center field with Chas McCormick in Houston.

— Triple-A Sugar Land righthander Tyler Ivey was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. He plans to rehab the injury without surgery

— Triple-A Sugar Land outfielder Pedro Leon will miss approximately six weeks after fracturing his pinkie finger on a slide into second base.

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Meet Yainer Diaz, Hitting Prodigy

The 20-year-old Dominican catcher earned a promotion out of the Arizona League by hitting .451 through 20 games.

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