On this edition of The Baltimore Battery Prospect Profiles Countdown, we’re going to look at the No. 5 overall prospect in the Orioles organization, outfielder Yusniel Diaz.
In July of 2018, the Baltimore Orioles made a trade that ultimately began a total rebuild for the organization. Manny Machado was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz and four other prospects.
Diaz, a 23-year-old from Cuba, was immediately ranked as the No. 1 prospect in Baltimore’s farm system and was sent to Double-A Bowie.
Through 38 games in the 2018 season, Diaz hit for a mediocre .239 average and struck out 28 times through 134 at-bats. It was a bad start for the prospect that topped off a miserable season for Orioles fans, but what should we make of the outfielder following the 2019 season in our farm season?
Diaz was shuffled between Frederick, Aberdeen, and Bowie this season, but still struggled to put up numbers expected of a top prospect.
In 76 games with Bowie, Diaz averaged .262/.335/.472 and scored 53 RBI and 45 runs through 286 at-bats. The right fielder hit 11 home runs and 19 doubles, a sign of his promising power at the plate.
Injuries cut Diaz’s season short, causing him to miss about two months of action throughout the season. Although the quad injury is not considered to be a career-impacting injury, it is still a concern for a player not known for his speed.
Following the 2019 MLB Draft this past summer, Diaz’s stock on Baltimore’s prospect rankings dropped significantly. The former No. 1 prospect dropped to fifth on the Orioles’ rankings, below Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, and Ryan Mountcastle.
In addition, right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer was overlooked by most fans in the Machado trade, but he has jumped up from Baltimore’s No. 16 prospect to No. 8 in 2019. Kremer is only three spots behind Diaz and could potentially be the best player for the Orioles out of that trade.
As far as space on the current Orioles roster, Baltimore has a number of promising outfielders, which makes it difficult to fit Diaz in the lineup.
Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, and DJ Stewart are all outfielders 25 years old or younger that currently have a spot on the major league roster. Not to mention Stevie Wilkerson and Trey Mancini being regulars in the lineup, Diaz has a ways to go in order to have a solid role at Camden Yards.
It can be very easy for a fan base to lose faith in a prospect, especially when he was involved in a trade for one of the best third basemen in the team’s history. That being said, I think it is too soon to give up on Diaz.
With Mike Elias’s reputation of not rushing young players to the majors, I expect to see Diaz in Triple-A Norfolk for the majority of the 2020 season. Triple-A will allow the young outfielder time to develop his bat at a higher level of competition.
In what may be a make-or-break season, 2020 could be the year Diaz’s bat explodes or that the organization starts to lose faith in the Cuban prospect.
Diaz is still yet to play a full season in Baltimore’s farm system, following the injuries this past year. I think if Diaz is given a regular starting role in Norfolk next season, we could see his bat explode similar to Ryan Mountcastle’s 2019 MVP season.
If Diaz can make the best of his raw power at the plate, he could someday be a starting outfielder for the O’s. That being said, the 23-year-old still has a long way to go in his career.
How do you feel about Diaz? Let us know in the comments, and make sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!