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Rays’ Yandy Diaz a 2020 breakout candidate?

Yandy Diaz (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Yandy Diaz (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Yandy Diaz (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

After hitting only one home run in his first two seasons, Yandy Diaz hit 14 in just 307 at-bats with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019. We take a look at what changed and what to expect in 2020.

Fangraphs Paul Sporer has Diaz pegged as the 29th ranked third baseman heading into 2020. He does note that injuries impeded a potential breakout in 2019, and acknowledges it may be in the cards for 2020.

Diaz has long been noted for his Herculean-stature. Stack.com called him the “most jacked player in baseball.” However, a player’s size or build doesn’t necessarily dictate how they hit.

Ask Jose Altuve or Curtis Granderson. All 185 pounds of Curtis Granderson has 344 career home runs to his credit.

Yandy Diaz has been an enigma to many around baseball for years. He is routinely among the league leaders in exit velocity. Last year, baseballs averaged 91.7 mph when turned around by his mighty bat, which was tied for 23rd best in the league. Despite having the build of a professional wrestler, Diaz’s signature move has never been the home run.

Over five seasons in the minor leagues, Diaz played in 516 games, had 2,247 plate appearances, and 1,879 at-bats. During that time he hit only 26 home runs. That’s a home run approximately every 72 at-bats.

Prior to last season, Diaz had logged 88 Major League games with the Indians. In 265 at-bats he hit exactly one home run.  As an Indian, Diaz had a stellar on-base percentage with a .361 but his slugging percentage was only .366.

How does a guy that big, who hits the ball that hard, have an inability to hit the ball over the fence even occasionally?

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