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Isan Diaz and the elephant in the room

by | Jul 18, 2019 | Infielders, Marlins

Well…this is a topic I’ve been waiting to voice my opinion on for quite some time. It’s possibly the hottest topic in Marlins baseball at any level right now. The question is: What does Miami do with Isan Diaz?

The 23-year-old second baseman is setting the world on fire right now for the New Orleans Baby Cakes in AAA and is coming off an appearance in the MLB futures game at All Star weekend.

  • Diaz’s stats are as follows: .306/.398/.591 / 22 HR / 73 R / 61 RBI / .279 ISO / 11.6 BB% / 21.6 K%

I couldn’t care less about AAA using MLB balls in 2019, and the “juiced ball” claim that’s everywhere — these numbers are damn near elite. The sweet-swinging lefty is producing at the highest clip of his career, and he’s coming off possibly his worst. 2018 was a struggle in most offensive aspects of Diaz’ game. His K% was at an all-time high which caused the “plus power” to disappear to finish the season. He only hit 3 home runs in 137 plate appearances after getting his first taste of New Orleans to close the year.

Coming into the season, it was clear Diaz would be returning to AAA hoping to find what once had him as a consensus Top 100, and it started slowly. Isan was one of the worst hitters on the team the first month; a month he wouldn’t see again.

One thing you always hope to see is a steady increase as the year goes on. Personally, knowing he’s a player who presents an extremely advanced plate discipline every game and a plus hit tool, these results don’t surprise me. He’s showing the makings of star potential.

Now you might ask, “Ok he’s dominating AAA. Why isn’t he in Miami already??? This team needs bats!”

Short answer. Starlin Castro.

Starlin is currently red hot and will be playing everyday second base for the Marlins until he isn’t on this roster anymore. There’s been talk if the Marlins wanted Diaz in the majors, he’d be up playing anywhere he could.

I find that hard to imagine.

Yes, Miami has put a J.T Riddle in CF and Brian Anderson in RF, but this isn’t the same. Riddle is past prospect who is looking to find value for himself at a big league level, and BA could possibly be a Gold Glove right fielder someday.

Isan Diaz is a 2B through and through. He has limited arm strength that he makes up for with extremely quick feet and strong paths to the ball. There’s no reason to play a player with those skills at 3B. It’s worth adding the only time Isan Diaz has *not* played second base over the past 2 plus seasons is 14 games in the Puerto Rican Winter league.

Names like Austin Riley and Josh Naylor get brought up in arguments for why you get the bat in the lineup anywhere you can, but even then those situations are different than Diaz. Both players went through an entire spring and the beginning of the year knowing they would be playing different positions should they make the jump to the MLB. Plus, both offer profiles to make that switch. That explanation doesn’t include the different stages those organizations are in compared to the Marlins either. Isan Diaz is being groomed to be the 2B in Miami for years to come, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s on that roster the second that second Castro isn’t, and it’s simple as that.

This leads me to two weeks from now — August 1st.

In the style of our Swings and Mishes leader, Craig Mish, I’ll give it a 20% chance that Starlin Castro is on this roster by August. Either he parlays his hot streak into a trade to a contender, or Miami can fully commit to the future and buy out the rest of his contract for around 6 mil.

Nonetheless, “Isan Time” looks inevitable next month, and that’s something Marlins fan should rejoice in. Watch any highlight of this future superstar, and you can see why I’m so high on him. He brings a power left-handed bat with the plate discipline to impact this Marlins lineup.

In 2019, Diaz is hitting .398 with RISP in 83 ABs — the only Marlins player hitting better than that is Garrett Cooper, who’s hitting an outrageous .436 in those situations. Granted, Diaz is in the minors not facing the same pitching, but you can’t ignore the results.

Let’s say Isan Diaz comes up and looks like an everyday MLB starter from day 1. I think that could prompt Miami to make an extreme move, and this is possibly my hottest take of the year.

I think Miami should buy out Isan Diaz’s arbitration years this offseason.

The ideal contract?

6 years for 25 Million, with 2 Club options.

Wait.. ex..exu…excuse me?

Hear me out.

We are looking at possibly the next second baseman of the future who is currently dominating the top level of the minors. We may have never seen these exact results before, so we know this isn’t a pop up prospect here. He could have the highest ceiling of any Marlins position player at any level. Diaz will still be 23-years-old nearly three months into the 2020 season. This contract would control a possible .285/.350/.550 with 20 HR second baseman through age 31 season at a bargain rate.

“Why not, though?”

It can show this fan-base and prospects coming up that this team is focused on the future. There isn’t a second base prospect anywhere to be found in this system who’s ready to be an impact major leaguer besides Isan Diaz. This team is moving closer and closer to financial flexibility while moving closer to being a competitive team the next few years. Why not show the future can be now? Teams all over Major League Baseball are locking up players they believe to be part of their future way before they hit the open market. Why not Miami?

Tampa Bay and Philadelphia made some deals over the past few seasons locking up pieces that lead us down this road. Brandon Lowe received a 6 year/$24 mil (2 team options) deal in March this year, and Scott Kingery signed a 6 year /$24 mil (3 team options) the previous offseason. Kingery hadn’t played a MLB game yet, and Lowe was coming off a lackluster debut, but the front offices of those teams saw the future, and its paid off already. Lowe made an All-Star game this season, and Kingery is looking like a brand new player in CF. Diaz doesn’t offer the same positional flexibility as those two, but he could possibly have a more impactful bat. Thanks to Statcast, we can see how much impact he has.

Look at this minor league spray chart:

Yup… That will definitely work.

The defense at second base is looking a lot better than scouts previously had stated, as well. He may be limited to the right side of the infield his entire career, but that could be the best thing for him. The thought processes those teams had in making those deals should be the same thoughts this Miami front office has this offseason. When you’re in the midst of having the best offensive year in Marlins history at AAA, you might start speeding up process. For my Zoolander fans, Isan So Hot Right now.

 

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