Rays’ Yandy Diaz a 2020 breakout candidate?

By Seth Carter
Yandy Diaz (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Yandy Diaz (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Yandy Diaz (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
Yandy Diaz (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /

Through his first 156 at-bats with the Rays, Diaz had already blasted nine homers. Yes, the guy that had one homer in 256 at-bats with the Indians, the guy that slugged his on-base percentage with the Indians, was about to head back into to Cleveland in late-May with nine homers.

The Rays left fans scratching their heads in December of 2019 when they traded Jake Bauers for Diaz. Oftentimes fans will scratch their heads when the Rays make a trade and think “they finally screwed this one up!” Then, by May, they see that the Rays are smarter than us normal folk. 

Kevin Cash said of Diaz’s swing in spring training,

"“We’re not messing with his hitting. We think he’s going to hit. Regardless of [if] it’s on the ground, in the air, a line drive. he’ll hit.”"

Diaz noted in the same article at MLB.com,

"“I used to hit a lot of hard ground balls,” Diaz said. “But instead of keeping my top wrist down, I want to keep my swing through and not cut down my swing as much.”"

He went on to say,

"“It’s not hard. The swing stays the same, but it’s more about the hands.”"

For Diaz, it was a simple tweak. The Rays weren’t asking him to change the angle of his swing or fundamentally change what had been a very successful contact-hitting swing. They just asked him to finish through with his hands. Was it really that simple?

While his groundball rate was still high at 50.8%, as mentioned before, his flyball rate increased nearly nine points.

In 307 at-bats with the Rays, Yandy hit 14 home runs. Then, after missing two months he showed up in the AL Wild Card game and blasted two more homers.

After his spectacular American League Wild Card game against the A’s in 2019, Diaz said he was looking to take the high-and-away fastball to right field in both at-bats against Sean Manaea, and if you recall he put them both in the nearly the same spot beyond the right-field wall.

Give them a watch in the video below. Things of beauty they are. The power he possesses was on full display in those opposite-field drives. He was looking for the ball away and looking to drive it that same direction.

So how does Yandy stack up against the game’s best hitters? Could 2020 be a breakout season for the 27-year-old? In the next slide, we’ll compare him to some of the game’s best sluggers and see where he can continue to improve.