How much of an impact will Baltimore Orioles outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz have in 2020? Enough to remain excited about his future in Birdland.
When talking about young and exciting prospects who appear likely to make their major league debuts in 2020, much of the conversation focuses on Ryan Mountcastle, Keegan Akin, and Dean Kremer, for obvious reasons. But what about Baltimore Orioles outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz?
Injuries have limited his playing time since coming over in the 2018 trade of Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but there are still plenty of reasons to remain excited and optimistic about what Diaz can bring to the table in 2020.
Speaking at Thursday’s Delmarva Shorebirds Hot Stove banquet, Orioles general manager Mike Elias had few positive words to say about Diaz, including the possibility of the 23-year-old outfielder reaching the major leagues at some point this season.
Playing in 76 games last season with the Double-A Bowie Baysox, Diaz slashed .262/.335/.472 with 11 home runs and a wRC+ of 135. Solid numbers for the outfielder, when he was on the field. Not to mention his big arm from right field that was able to cut down a few runners and hold even more in check.
Spending approximately two total months on the injured list, Diaz showcased his potential during stretches last season, but leg muscle issues clearly lingered late into the season and into Bowie’s playoff run.
Despite not having a single Triple-A at-bat to his name, Diaz made some noise in spring training, hitting .306 with a .788 OPS and four extra-base hits across 15 games. Many were calling for Diaz to make the Orioles Opening Day roster, but as we have quickly seen, Mike Elias is not one to rush his prospects.
Diaz had another hot stretch in July, leading up to his second stint on the injured list that caused him to miss much of the rest of the season.
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In 28 games, Diaz slashed .299/.353/.514 with three home runs and 12 doubles. Based on the comments from Mike Elias last night, those July numbers could have earned Diaz a trip to Triple-A Norfolk, if it weren’t for another injury.
Diaz will be back in spring training with the Orioles, but even with another impressive spring showing, he won’t make the Opening Day roster. However, solid spring numbers and early success with the Tides could mean a late-season call-up for Diaz, where we finally get to see the centerpiece of the Machado trade in major league action.
There’s some power in his bat and double-digit home runs every year are in his future, but peak Diaz can pile up the doubles and be a reliable option in right field, something the Orioles haven’t had in a long time. Last September, we saw what a healthy Austin Hays is capable of. Can Yusniel Diaz show us the same?
Diaz is not currently on the Baltimore Orioles 40-man roster, but he will be Rule 5 draft-eligible next offseason.