Carrying on with our early Top 30 prospects list, today we look at a pitcher who came in at #23 in our staff’s rankings, 23-year-old Yennsy Diaz.
Name: Yennsy Diaz
Position: Pitcher Age: 23
Height: 6’1” Weight: 202 lbs
Acquired: Signed as an International free agent in 2014
2019 Level: AA, MLB ETA: 2019
The Blue Jays used a boatload of different pitchers to get through the 2019 season, so you’ll be forgiven if you missed the MLB debut of Yennsy Diaz. He made his first appearance at 22-years-old and unfortunately it didn’t go very well, as he walked four of the seven batters he faced, giving him up two earned runs and recording just two outs. He was quickly sent back to the minor leagues, and we didn’t see him again.
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
That said, Diaz is just 23 years old, and he should have a bright career ahead of him, even if his first big league appearance was a bit of a disaster.
He was brought into the Blue Jays organization back in 2014 when he was signed as an international free agent at 18 years old, and he’s slowly worked his way through the minor league system. After splitting the 2018 season between Low and High-A, Diaz made 26 appearances (24 starts) in Double-A last season, and was mostly successful in New Hampshire. At that level, the right-hander ended up with a 3.74 ERA and a 1.233 WHIP over 144.1 innings.
Diaz is a hard thrower, and if he is able to harness the full potential of his fastball then he should be able to carve out a solid MLB career at some point. According to Baseball Savant, Diaz averaged 96.4 miles per hour on his fastball during his one appearance with the Blue Jays, and used it two thirds of the time at 66.7%. That’s certainly an encouraging number even if things didn’t go well, and Baseball Savant likes his fastball potential as well, giving it a rating of 60.
Surprisingly though, Diaz didn’t strike out as many hitters as you might expect from a pitcher of this description. Over his 144.1 innings in Double-A last year, he struck out 116 against 53 walks. Neither of those numbers are terribly encouraging, and he’ll want to ramp up the strikeout total, while also significantly widening the gap from that number of walks.
Diaz likes to rely on his fastball as his primary weapon, but he has two other offerings as well. His curveball is already seen as a potentially above average pitch according to several scouting reports, and Baseball Savant has it rated as a 55. He’s also been developing a change-up over the last couple of seasons, and while it’s behind his other two pitches, it’s starting to become a more feasible option for the native of the Dominican Republic. It’s still a work in progress, but it received a rating of 45.
As I’ve already mentioned, Diaz has struggled to reach his full potential so far in large part because of a lack of control. His 116-53 ratio last season was actually quite an improvement from 125-53 in 2018, and 82-41 in 2017 while he was in Lansing.
Baseball Savant gives his Control the same rating as his change-up at a 45, and it’ll likely be the determining factor in whether or not he can make the jump from the minor leagues to the highest level. He has the raw talent, but control gets more important the higher up the ladder you rise, and Diaz will have a tough time going much further without it.
It’s hard to say what’s ahead for Diaz’s future with the Blue Jays, and the 2020 campaign could be a big year for answering that question. For the time being he has a spot on the 40-man roster, and while I expect the Blue Jays won’t remove him this year, another season could certainly change his standing in the organization. He’s viewed as a starter for the time being, but the Blue Jays could also get him to focus on a two-pitch arsenal of his fastball and curveball, and that could be plenty to make him a viable reliever.
Chances are he’ll return to Double-A to start the year, largely because the Blue Jays could have a lot of starting pitchers to fit between Toronto and Buffalo if everyone is healthy. He’ll look to make the jump to Triple-A at some point, if he doesn’t start the year there, and hopefully will get a chance to redeem himself in the big leagues in 2020.