For the Miami Marlins to eventually return to World Series glory, they must develop impactful players at several different positions. That includes a rock-solid double play combination. The 4-6-3 is one of the most common double plays in the game, and also the name of this brand new profile series. Over the next few weeks, I will be covering the top middle infield prospects in the Marlins farm system.
You’ll learn who these young players are, but also what to expect from them moving forward. The 4-6-3 will discuss their potential, where they fit in the future of the franchise, and draw some MLB comparisons.
Middle Infielders on Fish Stripes Top 25 Prospects List
At the beginning of the this offseason I debuted a new segment called The 4-6-3, highlighting the best middle infield prospects in the Marlins organization. From Osiris Johnson to Bryson Brigman, they have exciting players at every level.
It’s a series that I find enjoyment doing, so I’m disappointed I’ve gotten away from it the past few weeks with my mind so washed with Realmuto rumors. Well, today we change that with a player who’s on everyone’s radar right now: Isan Díaz.
Fresh off a strong showing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, the P.R. native is a second baseman acquired last offseason in the Christian Yelich deal. Díaz is quite possibly the best power prospect in the middle infield in the Marlins organization since Dan Uggla.
Originally a second-round competitive balance pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014 by way of Springfield Central High School in Massachusetts, Isan instantly showed his power potential with 16 home runs—56 total extra-base hits—and an OBP of .362 in 117 games in rookie ball. He was then dealt to Milwaukee, with established major leaguer Jean Segura going the other way. That all happened prior to turning 20 years old.
The change of scenery seemed to ignite a flame in Díaz with 2016 being the best season he’s had in the minors to date. Playing in 135 games for the Low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Isan slashed .264/.358/.469 along with 20 home runs and 11 stolen bases. A high strikeout rate was slightly worrisome, but the many other positives caught the eye of talent evaluators across baseball with his name starting to show up on top 2B lists. His second season in the Brewers system proved to be more of the same with double-digit home runs and an OBP north of .330; the strikeout numbers continued to be an issue with a 26.6 K% in 110 games.
One year ago, Isan was on the move again along with Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, and Jordan Yamamoto for soon-to-be NL MVP Christian Yelich. At the highest level of competition in his career thus far, Díaz fared well with the Double-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp: 10/10 HR/SB, .365 OBP, career-high 14.9 BB% in 83 games. Doing so led to a promotion to New Orleans in July, though that may have been a tad bit too early.
Early struggles indicated the level was overwhelming at times with career-low numbers for Díaz across the board in 136 at-bats to close out the season. However, he found redemption in the Puerto Rican Winter League for Gigantes de Carolina. The 22-year-old was a critical player for the postseason-bound squad, slashing .272/.348/.368 in 33 games while picking up experience at third base for the first time in his pro career.
Tools: Hit 40 | Power 55 | Speed 40 | Field 45 | Arm 55 | Overall 50
Taking one look at Isan Díaz and you instantly see a kid who’s a gamer. A stocky 5-foot-10, 190 pounds with a hit tool that scouts have underestimated, in my eyes. A future 45-50 hit tool doesn’t seem too outlandish. A left-handed hitter with a compact swing from an open, back loaded stance showcasing pull power and ability to terrorize the gaps. The only minor league player in the organization with at least 13 home runs the past 4 seasons, the power tool could eventually be 60+.
On the defensive side of the diamond, Díaz shows limited range in the infield, which has lead to primarily playing second base. Just this offseason, though, he was able to showcase his plus arm at third base, playing 99 innings and only committing one error. It was his first time playing the position.
Overall, I see his greatest potential as an everyday second baseman with 15-20 homer potential in the .265/.330/.405 range, possibly by late 2019.
Fit Within the System
In a recent update of the top Marlins prospects, Fangraphs named Isan Díaz as the No. 1 prospect in the system, praising his plate patience and plus raw power.
I can make the argument they’re not wrong. Díaz currently is clear cut the best infield prospect the Marlins have in their system, and also the most likely prospect to make an impact with the big league club in 2019. Being that he’s only 22 and already starting the year in Triple-A, Miami seems convinced in the capabilities of Díaz going into the season.
With his future hit and power tools being greater than the likes of José Devers and Osiris Johnson, along with possible defensive versatility going forward, it’s becoming easier to see Isan Díaz as the best prospect is the system currently.
This is where I get to have the most fun in this segment—trying to project the futures of kids who haven’t even scratched the surface of their prime. Who wouldn’t love that? I know it’s easy to look at the likes of Starlin Castro and Yoán Moncada for comparisons for Isan Díaz, but we are going to dig a bit deeper.
Low-End Projection: Kolten Wong
The current starting second baseman of the St. Louis Cardinals is a great place to begin. Looking at film on both Díaz and Wong and you see the similarities in their stances. When it comes to the swings, take out Wong’s leg kick and they’re identical. While Wong offers the higher batting average, Isan Díaz presents a much greater power threat.
Kolten Wong has offered position flexibility throughout his career, but second base seems to be his best fit six seasons in. Mediocre range has been his downfall so far, one of the question marks behind Díaz thus far in his career. Wongs career line of .255/.325/.380 isn’t breaking the walls down, but is still a serviceable MLB starter. If Díaz’s development stops today then I believe that’s the career he’s destined for.
Best Bet Projection: José Valentín
I think Díaz’s career is on the path of a former great Puerto Rican second baseman. Valentín had an illustrious career that spanned 16 seasons with four teams, slashing a career .243/.321/.448 with 31.8 career WAR. A switch hitter who put together six seasons of 20+ home runs distinguished him from most other middle infielders of that generation.
Let’s look at what I can compare here with both players’ minor league stats through their age-22 seasons...
Minor league stats
Valentín: .241/.324/.348, 40 HR, 45 SB
Díaz: .254/.353/.444, 62 HR, 52 SB
Isan has had the better start to his career and in 133(!) fewer games. Jose Valentín possessed some of the best raw power from the left side of the plate at such a small stature, and Díaz could be built in that same way. An effortless swing with his already advanced plate discipline could lead to a long, productive career.
Shoot for the Moon: Ian Kinsler
Kinsler is an all-world second baseman, top-25 at the position in MLB history with an interesting Hall of Fame case (depending on how long he continues to play). A career WAR of 57.3 with three 20/20 seasons, four All-Star selections and 2 Gold Gloves to go with it. It’s a career anyone who be proud of.
Literally everything has to go right for Isan Díaz to approximate his success. Starting in 2019, I’d love to see a season with big numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League and the peripherals to back them up.
For the Marlins’ rebuild to eventually culminate in a World Series title(s), somebody needs to overachieve. Why not Díaz?
Another edition of The 4-6-3 is in the books! Thank you for taking the time to read about Isan Díaz today. This young man is special, and has a real chance to make waves in 2019.