The most improved Tampa Bay Rays of 2019: Willy Adames and Yandy Diaz
Willy Adames had a great second half and Yandy Diaz found his power stroke.
When trying to decide which Rays were the most improved year over year, I couldn’t decide on just one. The highly touted Willy Adames entered his first full season with plenty of question marks, answering them all by the end of the season. Yandy Diaz transformed himself into a true power threat after being labeled a ground ball machine in Cleveland. Both Adames and Diaz made huge strides in 2019 and will play pivotal roles in 2020.
A promising 2018 rookie campaign gave way to a 2019 first half full of defensive miscues and free swinging from Willy Adames. But, the 23-year-old shortstop stuck with it and ended the season on a tear that continued into October.
- 152 G
- .254/.317/.418 // .735 OPS // 95 OPS+
- 20 HR // 52 RBI
- 2.8 fWAR
He began the season as a defensive liability and ended the season as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. The difference between his first and second half was astronomical as he refined his approach at the plate and put on a show with his glove.
The ALDS stage never got too big for young shortstop as he made a handful of big plays, none bigger than the relay to get Jose Altuve at the plate in Game 4. Six pitches later, he led off the bottom of the 4th inning with a blast off of Verlander.
It seemed as though Willy Adames truly arrived as a legitimate big-leaguer in the ALDS.
The Rays gambled away a piece of their future when they sent Jake Bauers to Cleveland in a three team deal that sent Yandy Diaz to Tampa Bay. At the time of the trade, Yandy Diaz was labeled as a ground ball machine, but the Rays saw a potential power surge in Yandy’s future. It turns out, they were right and the results were jaw dropping.
- 79 G
- .267/.340/.476 // .816 OPS // 116 OPS+
- 14 HR // 38 RBI
- 1.5 fWAR
Across two seasons in Cleveland, Diaz only homered once in 265 at-bats. In his first season as a Ray, Diaz slugged 14 bombs in 307 at-bats. Diaz is a perfect example of just how advanced the Rays front office is when finding players with untapped potential.
He battled foot and hand injuries throughout the year and if he can stay healthy in 2020, we could see Yandy put up close to 30 bombs, after hitting 14 in only 79 games.