The Marlins continued their youth movement last year when they traded Christian Yelich to the Brewers for four prospects. One of those prospects was Isan Díaz. To date, the second baseman has presented a mixed bag, full of intriguing tools along with maddening inconsistency, to say the least. When you look at his tool set, you automatically think, “This kid could be a useful major league player”. But when you observe his seasonal production, you wonder what is holding him back from being that major league player now.
In this 2019 Fish Stripes preview, we take a look at Isan Díaz and what may be the necessary pieces to him achieving his eventual MLB promise.
How did he get here? Traded from Brewers to Marlins on January 25, 2018
2018 MiLB Stats: .232/.340/.399, 13 HR, 56 RBI, 14 SB in 119 G
2019 ZiPS projection: .200/.293/.328, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 9 SB in 119 G
First let’s look at the man:
Isan checks in at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds. He is relatively compact and flexibility could be a concern with him. He doesn’t look overly bulky or chubby, but he seems to have a tight lower half that will limit his range at second. His swing varies in its fluidity—some swings are smoother than others and he does swing with a significant amount of force. He also has a long swing which creates difficulty with pitches on the inner half. There is a noticeable uppercut in his swing, which tells me that when he is pitched out of his hot zones but still in the strike zone, he will do little or nothing with the pitch. This makes pitch recognition an imperative aspect of the player he could stand to improve in this area. What’s important to keep in mind is that Díaz is only 22, so there is still time for him to make corrections in these areas.
His batting averages have been consistently low, particularly from High-A and beyond (cumulative .224 BA across those levels). Meanwhile, his seasonal strikeout number has never been lower than 128 in that same time span. His GB and FB% have hovered around the 40% range. This leads me to have real concerns about the quality and consistency of his contact.
One thing that is a plus is that Díaz is an extra-base machine. When he does make contact for a hit, it’s usually an extra-base hit. This is a plus as the impact of the contact is elevated when your hits are extra bases. This negates some of the concern over his low average, in my opinion. Furthermore, it is imperative to remember that he is a young talent and there is a ton of room for growth.
Díaz reminds me of a poor man’s Rougned Odor. His plate discipline shows flashes and so does his power potential. Rougned makes more contact, though.
Another positive is the leap he made during the second half of the 2018 Double-A season:
Díaz checked all the boxes that you’d want to see from an above-average MLB second baseman: extra-base power, strike-zone management, RBI production.
It’s similar to his progression at Low-A ball two years prior:
This leads me to believe that Isan is the type of player that needs time to get in comfort zones before you can accurately assess his abilities. Expect streakiness to be attached to his game over his career, another trait that matches the aforementioned Odor.
This season in Triple-A will be critical to his development path. He will need to tighten up his strike-zone management consistency, increase the quality of contact with greater barrel percentages, and he will need to show some ability to hit for average.
To put it plainly, it’s time for Isan to turn potential into production and force the Marlins to call him up at some point in 2019.
Weaknesses: quality of contact, Ks, mobility defensively, streakiness at the plate
Comparison to Date: Rougned Odor
For more Isan Díaz background and career comps, please read Ian Smith’s feature on him from The 4-6-3 series