It may just be for a short stay, but the Marlins presumptive first baseman of the future, Lewin Díaz, has been called up to the majors. The Marlins acquired Diaz for Sergio Romo and Chris Vallimont in the midst of a massive 2019 season that caused his stock to shoot through the roof, pushing him into the Marlins organizational top 10 and some top 100s by season’s end. It’s another feather in the cap for the Derek Jeter-era front office, as from the looks of it, they came away with a potential everyday slugger in exchange for relatively low value assets.
Díaz had been on the prospect radar for some time thanks to his loud offensive tools, but his path up the ladder was a bit of a roller coaster. It took him 3 years after signing to crack full-season ball, as it took him some time to get his sea legs at the plate, but once he did make the leap he managed an outstanding campaign in 2017 for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Twins organization, hitting .292/.329/.444 in 122 games with 12 bombs and a tidy 15.7% strikeout rate. Unlike many corner sluggers, Díaz was very aggressive at the plate and seldom walked, a trait he’s continued to display throughout his career. The strong offensive season put him back on the radar, with evaluators being impressed by his feel for contact at his size.
Unfortunately for Díaz, his momentum was slowed in the 2018 season. Injury limited him to just 79 games, and in them his offensive numbers slid to .224/.255/.344, which had some leaving him for dead. This led the Twins to assign him back to the High-A level to start 2019, and he immediately put the struggles in the rear view mirror. His slash line rebounded in a big way, surging to .290/.333/.533 with 13 home runs in just 57 games, earning him a swift promotion to Double-A. Facing down the hardest transition on the minor league ladder, Díaz didn’t miss a beat, improving his slash to .302/.341/.587 to .302/.341/.587 in his first 33 games at the level. It was at this point that Minnesota decided to sell, as they were in the midst of a pennant chase and felt they needed bullpen reinforcements to get over the line.
The Marlins were happy to help out, and Díaz entered the fold in late July. From that point through the rest of the season (roughly a month), Díaz cooled off a bit at the plate. The 31 game sample he put together in the Miami organization is a bit too small to be statistically significant, but it’s worth noting that his slash line did slip to .200/.279/.461 with Jacksonville. You may notice, however, that in those games his walk rate jumped by nearly 3% to 8.5%, the highest mark he has ever posted with any full season club, which indicates that the Marlins may have been working on some approach adjustments with him that could explain the the lower contact rate. That said, his power numbers held firm and evaluators came away with very strong impressions of his 2019 campaign on the whole.
Lewin Díaz...DEEEEEEEP to straightaway center field...in a rainstorm pic.twitter.com/EDywctgRRL— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) June 16, 2020
Had there been a normal pro baseball calendar this year, Díaz would’ve been assigned to the inaugural Wichita Wind Surge roster, but as we all know that did not happen. Instead, he has been sharpening his skills at the Jupiter site, and apparently has impressed enough to earn himself a call-up. Additionally, an interesting wrinkle in his profile has emerged, as skipper Don Mattingly has noted that he’s handled himself well in outfield work, and it’s possible we’ll see him out there in his stay with the big club.
Unfortunately, this stay may be a short one, as the impetus for the move was Corey Dickerson’s absence, which figures to be a short one, but there’s always a chance for another spot to open up or for Díaz to hit his way into a permanent role in the meantime.
Whenever Díaz is in the big leagues to stay, fans can expect him to seize a spot in the heart of the order. Despite his hulking size at 6’4”, 225 lbs., Díaz handles the bat like a much smaller man. His contact rates up and down the minor league ladder have been outstanding, and it’s hard to watch him hit without coming away impressed by his hands and plate coverage—this is not your classic power over hit first base prospect. Rather, Díaz is what evaluators often refer to as a hitter with power, and there’s potential for him to hit for high average at the big league level. His defense at first also projects as above average, as he also bucks expectations in the field, displaying impressive range in addition to long arms which give him more range than the typical first baseman. Even Miguel Rojas raves about his potential in that department.
It may be just a taste for now, but Díaz’s presence will add a dash of excitement to the team’s weekend tilts—don’t be surprised if he makes an impact right away.