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Playing Outfield Opens Doors For Diaz



[caption id="attachment_188508" align="alignnone" width="640"]
Yandy Diaz (Photo by Bill Mitchell)[/caption]

CLEVELAND—The question isn’t whether Yandy Diaz can hit. He can. The question is his future position? Answer: to be determined.

The righthanded-hitting Cuban native signed in September 2013 and began his career in the Indians system in 2014 as a third baseman. In 2016 he also played second base and the corner outfield.

In the Venezuelan League this offseason, Diaz played only outfield.

Wherever he has played, the 25-year-old has hit. In his three minor league seasons he has hit .307/.403/.410 with more walks (198) than strikeouts (191).

"Yandy continues to show that his bat can play at the highest levels,” assistant general manager Carter Hawkins said.

Through 40 games with Caracas this winter, Diaz hit .371 with 20 walks. That came after he hit .318/.408/.446 in a combined 121 games at Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus in 2016.

The move to the outfield could be Diaz’s ticket to the majors. With Jose Ramirez now entrenched at third base in Cleveland, and with the Indians having question marks in the outfield—Michael Brantley’s health being the biggest—developing Diaz as an outfielder makes the most sense.

"The opportunity for him to carry the offensive momentum from a strong 2016 into the winter, while continuing to grow his experience in the outfield, was very appealing to us,” Hawkins said. "He made the most of his time and positioned himself to take advantage of new opportunities in 2017.”

On the big league club, lefthanded-hitting center fielder Tyler Naquin is coming off a positive rookie season, while right field could be a platoon of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer.

Diaz will likely start in Columbus but could be an outfield option at some point in 2017, though the Indians plan to keep him sharp in the infield to maintain his versatility.

"(His position) will depend on a lot of things out of his control,” Hawkins said, "but if he continues to improve on both sides of the ball, he’s bound to be a guy we’re looking to for help at the major league level.”

SMOKE SIGNALS

First baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello signed a minor league contract with an invitation to the big league camp.

Jake-Bauers-2017-cw

Rays, Indians, Mariners Cap Winter Meetings With 3-Team Deal

Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers head to Cleveland, Edwin Encarnacion moves to Seattle, and three teams cash in their trade chips.

The Indians designated lefthander Edwin Escobar for assignment to clear 40-man roster space for Edwin Encarnacion. They later released Escobar so that he could sign with Nippon-Ham in Japan.

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