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From Starlin the Marlin to Isan the Don

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The next man up in The Peanut Gallery series is second baseman Isan Díaz. Here’s why he should be in the Marlins lineup as soon as possible.

Photo by Getty Images

#MakeStarlinAMarlin was a 2015 campaign that brought Marlins Twitter together almost as much as the 2017 Civil War tore us apart. That dream finally became reality when the Marlins acquired Starlin Castro as part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Yankees at the 2017 Winter Meetings. There was always the idea that Castro would be a guy that the Marlins could flip for some value if he performed well, and that this was just a temporary placeholder.

The Marlins stayed put at the deadline last summer with Castro. They went into 2019—the final guaranteed year of his contract—hoping good production could help increase his value even more.

That has not worked.

So far this year, Castro is really struggling at the plate and hasn’t helped himself on the defensive side of the ball. He’s depleted almost all of his value. Through 325 plate appearances, Castro is slashing a meager .235/.265/.317/.582, which if he finished the season now would be good for career low totals in each category. He has a 55 wRC+ (weighted runs created +, 100 is average), a -0.9 WAR and only 14 extra-base hits. He’s also committed seven errors—his career high is 12—and we’re not yet at the All-Star break.

The Marlins are not going to get anything for Castro. There is a chance of salary relief, but the pipe dream of getting a Top 100 prospect for him is gone.

It’s time to move on.

But fear not, Marlins fans: help is on the way. Help in the form of...“peanuts.”

Joining rookie right-hander Jordan Yamamoto in The Peanut Gallery, the next man up is Isan Diaz.

The sweet-swinging, slick-fielding, high-socks-wearing second baseman who was the “third piece” in the Christian Yelich trade has developed into a guy who I consider the most surefire prospect the Marlins have in their farm system. Not only do I feel confident about him making the major league roster, but expect Díaz to have a legitimate impact on this team.

Since being drafted by the Diamondbacks in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft (that was the Tyler Kolek year), Díaz has always been a guy who could always get on base and slug at a very high level. That has compensated for an ordinary batting average. His slash line in 83 games (356 PA) at Double-A last year reflects his profile pretty well: .245/.365/.418/.784.

However, Isan has made a leap in 2019. He is still walking a bunch, although his 10.4 BB% rate is slightly lower than what we’re used to. Meanwhile, he’s making way more contact and is slugging at his highest clip at any full-season level of the minors.

Díaz really struggled out of the gates for New Orleans. It wasn’t until he went on a run where he had a hit in 12 of 13 games, including five straight games with a homer, that he looked like he was going to justify the hype that I gave him.

On May 14, Díaz’s slash line sat at .220/.318/.356/.674 with a not so nice 69 wRC+ (31% worse than the average player in the Pacific Coast League). Remember that Castro’s is 55, so apply the same logic.

While things looked bleak, there were signs that this wasn’t going to be the type of year Isan was going to have. His BB% was still pretty high at 11.2, his K% was lower than his usual average at 22.4%, he was still hitting for some power (.136 ISO) and his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was a mere .266, suggesting that he was just having some bad luck with where he was putting the ball.

As hoped, since May 16, he’s been a beast: .359/.440/.725/1.165 with a 179 wRC+. Díaz’s ISO is .366, his BABIP has gone up to .402, his walks are down a little at 9.9%, but you will obviously take that when he’s hitting the way he is. His strikeout rate has held pretty steady at 21.2%.

Add all that up and his year looks like pretty damn good: .289/.379/.540/.919, 124 wRC+ .251 ISO, 10.6 BB%, 21.8 K%. Díaz has achieved his highest average, OBP, SLG, OPS and ISO at any full-season level. It’s also good for his 2nd highest wRC+ and his lowest K%. It’s safe to say that Isan Díaz is having far and away the best year of his minor league career. He’s on pace to destroy his career-high home run total—he has 16 through 73 games (which leads the entire Marlins organization) and his personal best is 20 in 135 games in 2016.

The most impressive thing about Isan to me this year has been his ability to adjust. He’s shown that ability throughout his career. He started slow in Jacksonville last year, but turned into one of the best hitters in the Southern League after coming off an injury in June. He’s adjusted just as well this year and has been the best hitter in the Marlins system in 2019.

This success is very important to the rebuild because it has been well documented that the Marlins system is really lacking in the bats department. With Monte Harrison’s resurgence, Isan’s monstrous year and help on the way in the form of JJ Bleday and other draft picks, the future at the plate for the Marlins looks a lot brighter than it did at the beginning of the 2019 season.

There is no doubt in my mind that Isan is ready to slot right into the Marlins lineup and start hitting. He sounded like it when we talked to him on Earning Their Stripes, and he’s proving it on the field every time he steps out there.

I’ve been a believer in letting guys that are producing in Triple-A marinate to get their confidence up (Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, etc.), but I think the story is very different when it comes to Isan. There are still things that Brinson and Monte need to straighten out in the minors; there’s really not much left for Isan to straighten out. His walk rate is good, his strikeouts are down, he’s making the contact that we asked for out of him and he’s slugging at an all time level for him.

He is 100% ready to be in the lineup at Marlins Park. Now is the time for the Marlins to make that happen.

As I said earlier, the Marlins are not going to get a ton of value in a Starlin Castro trade. At this point, they should be focused on making any available deal to open the roster spot that will get Isan to The Show where he belongs. It is time to pair the excitement the Marlins young pitching has created around the team with a young bat who can inject some much-needed run production.

Some evaluators have compared Isan to Robinson Canó because of his gorgeous left-handed swing. I think his ceiling is somewhere around that, though perhaps a player one tier below that like Ian Kinsler is a more realistic comparison.

I have been excited for a long time about what Isan can bring to this organization; this season has done nothing except increase that excitement ten-fold.

He told us on ETS that he’d ask to wear my favorite number, No. 1, when he gets to Marlins Park. You’ll probably see somebody else rocking the same No. 1 with his name on the back...

It’ll be me. And I’ll be eating a bag of peanuts with a giant smile on my face.

Or maybe doing this...