2021 Fantasy Outlook
Diaz failed to see big-league action in 2020, though it's clear the Orioles value his bat, as the team protected him from the Rule 5 draft in November by adding him to the 40-man roster. While nobody in the minors got to play out their usual minor-league season, Diaz was added to the 60-man player pool in July and sent to the club's alternate training site for at-bats. It's worth noting that Diaz slugged 11 homers with Double-A Bowie in 2019, the first time he's reached double digits in his minors career. It appears as though he may be transitioning from a contact hitter to a power hitter, especially when looking at his increase in flyballs and decrease in his LD% in 2019 (41.4 FB% vs. 17.2 LD%). Assuming he enters 2021 healthy, the outfielder figures to begin the year at Triple-A, though there's a chance he could make his major-league debut if he's able to produce at a similar level and avoid the injury list. Read Past Outlooks
$Traded to the Orioles in July of 2018.
Possible 2021 debut
Diaz, who homered in Sunday's spring training opener, will likely get an extended look this spring but will probably begin the season in the minors with a potential midseason promotion, Joe Trezza of MLB.com reports.
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
There was a universe where Diaz could have debuted for the Orioles sometime in the first half and produced like a mixed-league outfielder. After all, he entered his age-22 season with 128 games of well-above-league-average production at Double-A. Baltimore curiously sent him back to that level, where hamstring and quadriceps injuries limited him to 76 games and prevented him from finding a rhythm. His 135 wRC+ was not his best mark at Double-A, but he logged easily his best ISO (.210) in a full-season league. There was a launch-angle adjustment, as his 41.4 FB% was also easily his highest rate above rookie ball, while his LD% plummeted to 17.2% after not having been below 21.0% since 2017 and his Pull% spiked. Once lauded for his hit tool, it seems that Diaz may be trending toward a power-over-hit profile in right field. He will head to Triple-A, and Baltimore is clearly not in a rush to start his clock.
There were other prospects involved in the Manny Machado trade, but Diaz is far and away the best player the Orioles got back in the mid-July deal with the Dodgers. The Cuban outfielder's bat is his calling card. He may never hit 30 homers or steal over 10-to-12 bases in a season, but he could be a steady .300 hitter with 20-homer pop. Diaz had more walks (41) than strikeouts (39) and was 52% better than the average Texas League hitter prior to the trade. He struggled mightily after joining his new organization, but rounded into form, hitting .278/.352/.494 with four home runs and a 13:9 K:BB in his final 88 PA in the Eastern League. While many organizations have a logjam in the outfield (the Dodgers certainly did), the Orioles will have no trouble finding an everyday role and a prominent spot in the lineup for Diaz when he is ready. He will head to Triple-A for his age-22 season, and should get called up to the majors this summer if he is performing.
While Diaz is often lauded for his upside, his top trait is his ability to spray line drives to the outfield gaps, so he may be a bit overrated in some prospect circles. A 6-foot-1, 195-pound high-pedigree Cuban, Diaz looks the part of an athletic, toolsy outfielder. However, he is only an average runner, and doesn’t project to ever steal double-digit bases in an MLB season. His bat speed is impressive, but he doesn’t loft the ball enough to fully capitalize on this strength. A .434 BABIP at Double-A allowed him to finally post a well-above-league-average batting line (149 wRC+), but he also finished with a career-worst 0.34 BB/K against the most advanced pitching he has seen, so it would be misleading to say he unlocked something in the Texas League. Statcast loves the exit velocities he generates with his line-drive approach, but it might be a good time to sell high on a player who may not hit for enough over-the-fence power to project as an everyday corner outfielder.
Diaz's swing and explosiveness out of the box are reminiscent of fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig, but while Puig is a muscle-bound monster of a man, Diaz is a lean 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. He only played 82 games while dealing with recurring shoulder fatigue, but when he was in the lineup he was a slightly above-average hitter (102 wRC+) as the third youngest player in the Cal League. His youth relative to level is a crucial factor in analyzing Diaz's production in his first full season in the United States. He is still growing into what could be average or better power down the road, thanks to plus bat speed. Diaz displayed a quality approach (71:29 K:BB in 348 plate appearances) for someone his age, and is at least an average runner on the bases. All of these tools could add up to a five-category producer when he reaches the major leagues, although he does not project to have any truly plus offensive tools.
Diaz left Cuba last spring after hitting .348/.448/.440 for the Havana Industriales of the Serie Nacional in the 2014-2015 season. The 19-year-old outfielder is considered to have plus speed with a little power, legging out 13 doubles and three triples in 65 games with the Industriales. He'll be a top prospect for the Dodgers after inking a deal that included a $15.5 million signing bonus. Prospective dynasty league owners will get a first look at how his talent translates to the U.S. this summer.
More Fantasy News
Protected from Rule 5 draft
Joins 60-man player pool
Impressive spring training
Diaz hit .300/.417/.500 with two RBI and two stolen bases over 24 plate appearances during spring training.
Starting in left field Saturday