Not many players hit .355 one year, then raise their average 100 points the next year.
Meet 20-year-old Yainer Diaz, a certified hitting machine toiling in the lower depths of the Indians’ minor league system, where his hitting statistics are screaming for attention.
Diaz is a righthanded-hitting catcher whom the Indians signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2016. Making his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League the following year, he hit .294 in 42 games.
In 2018 Diaz moved to the Rookie-level Arizona League, where the hits just kept coming. He started the season with an eight-game hitting streak. In July and August he had a 15-game hitting streak. His average peaked at .416 on July 24.
Diaz went 5-for-10 in his last two games to finish with a slash line of .355/.387/.503, which landed him a spot on the AZL all-star team.
That was just a warmup for 2019. Returning to the AZL, Diaz collected a hit in 19 of 20 games and batted .451/.477/.707 with five home runs.
Diaz’s OPS climbed 295 points year over year in the AZL. That’s when the Indians promoted him to short-season Mahoning Valley.
Diaz outhit the next best hitter in the AZL by 24 points. His strikeout rate of 10.3 percent indicates he doesn’t swing and miss much, but his walk rate of 4.5 percent suggests he perhaps swings too much.
Diaz obviously has years of development ahead of him. But his prodigious start to his pro career did not catch the Indians by surprise.
“Yainer has been on our radar for the last two years,” farm director James Harris said. “He has impressed at the plate and continues to develop defensively. Down the road, we hope to get him to a full-season club to continue his development.”