Jump on The Flyball Bandwagon

A sneaky look at a Cleveland surprise package, by Estevão Maximo. Check out Estevão’s blog at maximustake23.blogspot.co.uk or get him on twitter – @E_Max27.

I am going to throw a name at you, a name that unless you’re an Indians fan or spend a lot of time on Baseball Savant, you will not know.  He is 3B/Leftfielder for the Cleveland Indians, and his name is Yandy Díaz.

What makes Díaz so special that I am writing a piece about him? He signed as an amateur free agent out of Cuba in 2013 for $300k, you could always find him among Cleveland’s top 20-30 prospects but he only went as high as 7th, and because his debut in the majors came as a 25-year-old, no one ever paid too much attention to him. Here’s how he was graded by FanGraphs as a prospect:
Hit: 40/45
Game Power: 30/40
Raw Power: 50/50
Speed: 50/50
Field: 55/60
Throws: 70/70
Future Value: 45
(Scale: 20/80     Right Now/Potential)

No one’s going to think too much of that, strong arm, some raw power, but other than that, very meh. Because of my Baseball Savant mention earlier you probably have figured it out that he stood out in some StatCast area, and it actually is very simple. Díaz hits the ball very hard.

Check out some examples:
RBI Double off Chris Sale with a 101.1mph  exit velocity
Double play ground ball off Zack Greinke with a 105.9mph exit velocity

He also had 2 Batted Balls against Yu Darvish with exit velocities of 101mph and 107mph respectively, 99mph off Archie Bradley and a 108mph off David Robertson. Even someone very sceptical will admit this is an impressive feat, but with so many ground balls you`ll get results like the Greinke double play on very well hit balls. Dude, you`re not Dee Gordon, launch that ball up!
Among all qualified hitters in the majors this year his Avg Exit Velocity of 91.5 ranks as the 8th highest, sandwiched in between Stanton and Goldschmidt. His problem is very simple – he makes Eric Hosmer look like Ryan Schimpf, someone in that Cleveland organization should put him aside and say “Son, STOP HITTING THE BALL ON THE GROUND! 59.0 GB%, are you kidding me!”
Among all hitters with at least 30 Batted Ball Events he was the only one in MLB to average more than 90mph on balls on the ground, 90.8mph to be exact and lastly he was one of 6 players to have at least half of their batted balls at 95mph+, 50.8% to be exact.

You might say well, this is all small sample size, but take a look at his minor league play. In AAA this year on 85 games he managed a 350/454/460 slash line on a .412 BABIP. 163 wRC+ on a 63.5 GB%? Are you kidding me? A 163 wRC+ on a 63.5 GB% is insane. He had seasons along the same stat line the year before, split between AA and AAA, 2015 in AA, and 14 in A+.

His success alone at hitting the ball hard, with nothing pointing towards an adjustment in his launch angle, led Steamer to give him the following projection for 2018:

288/373/400 Slash Line
11.5 BB%   18.9 K%
.112 ISO   .350 BABIP
.339 wOBA   109 wRC+
105 Games   422 PA   2.1 WAR

What this shows you, is that he is so good and has so much potential that he is projected to be an above-average hitter all while completely pounding the ball on the ground. Even dismissing all the power that resides in that bat, his raw power grade and his exit velocity numbers are irrefutable evidence he has the power, but it is just physically impossible to hit for power with this GB%.

I know fixing such issues is a tough task, but with so many hitters adjusting for higher launch angles and the so-called “Flyball Revolution” with all the  juiced tball discussion,  Yandy is literally the perfect candidate and with a small adjustment could truly become a great hitter.

@E_Max27


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