With some aggressive promotions and a strong Double-A debut, it’s time to start talking about Blue Jays Prospect Yennsy Diaz.
As the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, opened up their season this weekend, many eyes were on the club’s up-and-coming position prospects, including Kevin Smith, Santiago Espinal, Brock Lundquist and Joshua Palacios, among others. The team also features potential impact pitchers as well, with Patrick Murphy highlighting a group including Jackson McClelland, Hector Perez, Kirby Snead, and part of the return for Russell Martin: Andrew Sopko.
Essentially, the Fisher Cats will be a fun team this year, but we haven’t even mentioned the under-the-radar prospect primed for a Double-A breakout in 2019: Yennsy Diaz.
On Sunday, Diaz made his Double-A debut. When I first saw he was slated to begin 2019 in New Hampshire, I thought the promotion was pretty aggressive. Diaz, however, quelled those thoughts right away, twirling a gem in his debut. Over six innings against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (and playing as a Mountain Man), Diaz blanked his opponents on just one hit and striking out five.
Diaz was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014 by the Blue Jays at 17 for $1.6 Million, making his debut in 2015 and cruising through the Dominican Summer League with a 1.93 ERA over 37+ innings. He’s struggled a bit at each step along the way, but after repeating Low-A Lansing to start 2018, he was advanced to High-A Dunedin, where the struggles seem to have normalized. He started 16 games with Dunedin to finish out 2018, and ended up with a 3.52 ERA in just under 100 innings, striking out 83 and walking 28. That ratio isn’t perfect by any means, and may be contributing to his status as a low-end prospect, though the Blue Jays believed in him enough to add him to the 40-man roster after last season. Still, he’s ranked just 27th by MLB Pipeline and isn’t in Baseball America’s Top 30 at all (he was 30th last year.)
|A (2||A (2||A (2||Minors||3.75||3.97||25||25||0||0||0||0||124.2||93||55||52||14||66||124||523||1.275||6.7||1.0||4.8||9.0||1.88|
|Rk (||Rk (||Rk (||Minors||5.52||6.00||17||13||2||0||0||1||75.0||83||50||46||9||34||67||340||1.560||10.0||1.1||4.1||8.0||1.97|
So why so little attention paid to a prospect, playing young for his levels (see above) with overall good numbers, if not underwhelming?
For one, scouts don’t grade any of Diaz’s secondary pitches as well above-average, and he throws just three consistently (55 curve, 45 change-up.) Scouts do tend to like his fastball, though, which can sit in the mid-90’s and grades out around 60 with life. A bit of deception from his “crossfire” type delivery helps, and sets up his secondary pitches – but that fastball has been and should continue to carry him through Double-A and beyond.
The main knock on Diaz has been his lack of control in the minors. His career rate in the minor is a mediocre, but not totally unsightly 3.8 BB/9. However, he did improve upon a rather nasty 4.7 in the Midwest league to svelte 2.5 in the Florida State League later in the season, and didn’t allow a free pass in his Double-A debut on Sunday.
New Hampshire’s 2019 season will be important for many reasons, but one of the biggest story lines will be Yennsy Diaz. At just 22 years old, Diaz has plenty of time to develop into a starter, and the Jays should keep him in that role until his performance convinces them not to. However, with a slim bullpen at the MLB level and Diaz’s offseason addition to the 40-man roster, it might not be unrealistic to see the righty threaten to move up to Buffalo by mid-season and position himself for a bullpen job by September.
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.