Tampa Bay Rays: Yandy Diaz Rated Near Bottom of 3B Rankings
By Seth Carter
While the Tampa Bay Rays and their fans believe Diaz will continue the injury-shortened breakout of 2019, some fantasy analysts are missing the boat…or the Yandy Yacht.
The Tampa Bay Rays are a smart franchise. Sometimes they leave fans scratching their heads and questioning trades. Usually, the fans are able to watch the players perform over the course of a season or two and remove their hands from their head-scratching assignments and use the to applaud the front office on another job well done.
Prior to the 2019 season, the Rays traded Jake Bauers to Cleveland for Yandy Diaz. Yandy was hitting the ball as hard as anyone (8th percentile in avg. exit velocity), he was getting on base and hitting for average, the only problem with Yandy…He had only one homer in 299 plate appearances.
The Rays brought him in for his on-base ability and high batting average. Of course, they didn’t want all of that power to go to waste. Rather than promote a crazy launch angle and revamp his entire swing, they simply worked on following through with his hands. It gave him a little more lift in his swing just by changing the finish.
Yandy’s strength carried line drives over fences. line drives that other mere Major League mortals would have proven to be lesser men with, as theirs would likely result in singles and doubles.
The “sweet spot” for launch angles is between 25-30 degrees. Last season, the Major League average launch angle was 11.2 degrees.
How drastic was the adjustment in Yandy’s swing? Here’s a look at his average launch angle by season:
- 2017: 0.0 degrees (0 HRs in 179 PAs)
- 2018: 4.4 degrees (1 HR in 120 PAs)
- 2019: 5.7 degrees (14 HR in 347 PAs)
That’s right, Yandy’s launch angle increased slightly (for him) but was still WAY below league average. He don’t need no stiinkin’ launch angle!
Yandy also saw his groundball rate reach a career-low in 2019.
The thing is, Yandy is a high-average, on-base hitter who just happens to have incredible strength. Another year of working with the Rays’ coaching staff could help him improve those power numbers even more, but recall, they hit Yandy at leadoff in the AL Wild Card Game against Oakland. They love his ability to get on base, the power is a bonus.
By the way, he hit two opposite-field laser shots off of Sean Manea in that game. Add those to his total last season and you have 16 homers in 351 PAs.
- ESPN has him ranked 35th at 3B
- Fantasy Pros has him ranked 23rd at 3B
- Scott White at CBS has him ranked 25th at 3B
- Fangraphs has him ranked 29th at 3B
- Fantrax has him ranked 30th at 3B
Fangraphs at least has the decency to explain the injury concerns, “Hand, hamstring, and foot injuries curbed breakout; speculate in ’20.”
Last season with the homers Yandy’s OPS+ was 116. 2018 without the homers Yandy’s OPS+ was 116. If he can keep his average an on-base up to his norms and replicate last year’s slugging, Yandy could be a true breakout star. High average/power guys are extremely valuable in both fantasy and real life.
Yandy may be rated low by most major fantasy publications, but he’s number one in our hearts! Jump on board the Yandy Yacht in 2020 and cruise to a fantasy championship!
Third base is a deep position in fantasy this year. Yandy could be a late-round dandy, so keep your eyes peeled for the Rays’ third baseman. He should enter the season with 1B-eligibility in most formats.