Could Yandy Diaz be the Solution to the Indians Right Field Problem?
Yandy Diaz‘s tenure with the Indians has been interesting, to say the least. He rose to the level of fan favorite last season thanks to his Herculean exit velocity and Incredible Hulk physique. He also performed exceptionally well, albeit in a somewhat limited capacity.
And then the playoffs came.
Yandy, who had been a key piece of the Indians record-setting winning streak while splitting third base responsibilities with Gio Urshela, was left off the roster. Insread they opted for the defensive prowess of Gio Urshela, whose glove failed him at the absolute worst time imaginable. You know the rest. Edwin Encarnacion got hurt, an under-prepared Michael Brantley was thrust into the lineup, and the Indians lost to the Yankees. The Indians could have use Yandy Diaz’s bat while struggling offensively through games 3, 4, and 5. But such is life. You make a decision, you roll with it, and you live with the consequences.
The Yandy Diaz Conundrum
Coming into the 2018 season, one of the big questions surrounding Diaz was whether or not the Indians could find room for him on the 25 man roster. After decisions were made to sign Yonder Alonso and move Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez back to second base and third base, respectively, it was clear there was no spot for Yandy Diaz on the Tribe’s Opening Day roster. These decisions made sense at the time. Alonso was viewed as a serviceable replacement for the loss of Carlos Santana and has performed reasonably well compared to expectations. Returning Kipnis and Ramirez to their previously manned positions while promoting Bradley Zimmer to the role of regular, every day center fielder was considered the surest way to both bolster the Indians lineup while improving overall outfield defense.
Additionally, the decision to have Yandy Diaz begin the year in the minor leagues was also to done to aid his development. While showing potential at the big league level thanks patience at the plate, usage of all fields, and ability to hit the ball hard, Diaz struggled to put the ball in the air. He carried a 59% ground ball rate against an 18.9% fly ball rate. That’s… not great. Clearly, sending Diaz back to the minors to address his swing and the issues of the newfangled black magic known as launch angle was the best decision. The Indians did not need Yandy Diaz struggling to make changes at the big league level while trying to produce for a team with World Series aspirations. It also helped that Yandy Diaz still doesn’t have a position, nor did the Indians have an empty spot for him in the lineup to even experiment with.
And then a funny thing happened. Players started getting hurt. And then they’d get healthy and get hurt again, particularly in the outfield. The Indians roster of outfielders looks more like a MASH unit. Brandon Guyer, Tyler Naquin, Bradley Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall… they’ve all spent significant time this year on the DL, with the latter two still set to miss considerable more time. In their place, the Indians have tried everything from Greg Allen to the ghost of Melky Cabrera, to mixed results. No only that, but the Indians other right-handed hitting outfielder, Rajai Davis, has been downright awful at the plate, slashing .241/.297/.290 with an OPS+ of 54. He’s barely been better than you or me, not including his 16 stolen bases, most of which have come as a pinch runner.
All the while Yandy Diaz has sat in Columbus waiting for an opportunity to contribute. He finally got that chance last night. And I may speak for everyone when I say, “WHAT TOOK SO LONG!?!?”
Now, I know one game should not serve as the rationale for some sort of crazy decision. But, it makes you wonder if perhaps the Indians need to find a spot for him, just to see what they really have. What I think they have is a professional hitter. One that could make a difference for this team.
Ignoring the 4 for 6 result from last night, what impressed me most was Diaz’s patience at the plate. There was no urgency, no sense of, “I have to make something happen!” Yandy worked counts, took pitches, and waited for the best possible pitch, not just flailing away at every pitch thrown to him. You couldn’t tell if this was his first game or 81st game of the season. That’s remarkable to me.
With the previously mentioned issues in the outfield, should the Indians consider trying Yandy Diaz in right field? Rather than using assets to acquire the like of Adam Jones or Shin-Soo Choo, could they instead utilize an internal option? Yes his experience in the outfield is limited, having only played a couple dozen games in the outfield over the past three seasons in the minors. But with the division all but a lock, isn’t now the time to experiment and try different things? Hasn’t Yandy Diaz earned the right to at least give it a shot? What if the right-handed bat it’s been claimed they need has been in the organization the entire time? It’s worth the risk and there’s no better time to find out than right now.
So what do you think? Should the Indians try Yandy Diaz in right field? Would you prefer the make a move for a more veteran player with a proven track record? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.