Featured image courtesy of the Boston Globe
Even though he’s only 17, former international free agent Danny Diaz is already turning heads after half a season in rookie ball. Signed out of Venezuela, Diaz finished his abbreviated 2018 season as the Red Sox 11th-ranked prospect, per MLB.com. Diaz will start the year in A-ball, either with the short-season Lowell Spinners or the Low-A Greenville Drive. Wherever he ends up, the young third baseman should continue to climb up the rankings.
Red Sox Prospects: Danny Diaz
Just like basically every other major Red Sox prospect, Diaz suffered a fairly-serious injury during the 2018 season. The third baseman broke a bone in his hand in July, limiting him to just 26 games and 113 plate appearances during his first year in the minors.
That said, Diaz showed a lot of promise during his limited time on the diamond. Diaz was touted as a well-rounded hitter capable of hitting for power to all parts of the field. Additionally, Diaz was also supposed to be good at getting on base even when the ball doesn’t leave the park.
If 2018 was any indicator, that’s exactly what Diaz will bring as he continues to develop. In his 113 plate appearances, Diaz hit for a .238/.283/.476 slash line with a corresponding 112 wRC+. He showed great power, hitting six home runs and seven doubles in his shortened season.
While his batting average and on-base percentage appear lower than one would like, Diaz was the victim of bad batted ball luck. Diaz had a unsustainably-low .260 BABIP. As he continues to play, that number will continue to improve and his average and on-base percentage should rise a little bit.
What to Work On
While Diaz showed promise at the plate, he’s far from a finished product. Diaz walked just 4.4% of the time in rookie ball, and that number will need to improve as he develops. Diaz faced literally the lowest level of competition in the minors, so the pitching will only improve as he climbs the ranks. If he continues to show an unwillingness to let bad pitches go, opposing arms will give him nothing but bad pitches to swing at.
Additionally, Diaz also has to basically learn how to play third base from scratch. Diaz was a shortstop throughout his time in Venezuela but doesn’t have the range or speed to make it there as a major leaguer. Because of this, the Red Sox started Diaz at third base during rookie ball. He played as well as could be realistically expected, but still has a long way to go before his defense is ready for the majors.
Basically, Diaz has the same issues that most 17-year olds have. He doesn’t have much experience and has to learn a lot on the fly. He’s never faced competition this good before and should iron out his flaws with time and experience.
Diaz’ Path to the Majors
Even though he’s only 17, Diaz could make it to the majors sooner than one would expect. His bat is advanced for his age and, by all reports, he’s picked up third base relatively fast. In many ways, Diaz has the exact same profile as Rafael Devers back when he first joined the Red Sox.
While Diaz may not have quite as high a ceiling as Devers, he could follow a similar development. Granted, the Red Sox rushed Devers through the system because the 2017 Red Sox were desperate for help at the third base position. Had Devers been allowed to naturally develop, the young lefty probably would have made his major league debut after three years in the minors.
Diaz should follow a similar time frame. His bat has the potential to be one of the best in the Sox whole farm system, and as long as you can hit, you’ll have a home in the major leagues. Look for him to climb through single A this year before starting with the AA Portland Sea Dogs in 2020. If all goes right, he could make it into the pros as a September call-up then. However, he’s most likely to make his debut at some point during the 2021 season.