Diaz outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk (with Silver Slugger note)

Outfielder Yusniel Diaz, formerly a top prospect in the Orioles’ farm system and the centerpiece of the Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers, has been removed from the 40-man roster.

The Orioles assigned Diaz to Triple-A Norfolk today after he cleared outright waivers.

The number of players on the 40-man remained at 34 after left-hander John Means was reinstated from the 60-day injured list, a procedural move due today. Means is continuing his rehab from Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready to pitch on opening day.

Diaz, 26, finally made his major league debut Aug. 2 in Texas after the Orioles traded Trey Mancini, and he struck out in his only at-bat. He was optioned the next day to make room for outfielder Brett Phillips and didn’t return to the active roster, though he served as the 27th man in the Little League Classic.

An assortment of injuries, both in the minors and the Arizona Fall League, have wrecked Diaz’s career after he’s impressed in spring training. He appeared in 70 games at Triple-A Norfolk this summer and batted .251/.346/.360 with nine doubles, six home runs and 66 strikeouts in 286 plate appearances.

Diaz hit .157/.225/.251 in 54 games with Norfolk in 2021.

The Orioles were hopeful that Diaz had turned the corner after he went 11-for-36 with three doubles, a home run and seven RBIs in 2019 spring training, and after he was 6-for-16 with three doubles and a home run in this year’s camp.

Diaz was optioned on March 28, and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias cited the outfielder’s lackluster numbers the previous season. Diaz hadn’t earned a spot on the roster.

“Between the injuries and the stats he put up, it just wasn’t a step forward for him in any regard,” Elias said. “It’s important that you have demonstrated some success in Triple-A, hopefully, before coming up.”

A decline in power, coupled with the health issues – hip, quadriceps, hamstring, shoulder, to name a batch – made Diaz vulnerable to removal from the 40-man.

The Dodgers signed Diaz as a high-profile prospect out of Cuba in November 2015 and traded him to the Orioles with pitchers Dean Kremer and Zach Pop and infielders Rylan Bannon and Breyvic Valera on July 18, 2018. Diaz homered twice in the All Star Futures Game a few days before the deal.

Bannon also made his major league debut this year, ahead of Diaz, before the Dodgers selected him off waivers Aug. 8 and the Braves selected him on Aug. 16.

Diaz, added to the 40-man roster in November 2020, is eligible for free agency based on his seven years of minor league experience. The only news today is that he was outrighted.

* Voting started today for the All-MLB team, and four Orioles appear on the ballot: catcher Adley Rutschman, outfielder Anthony Santander and relievers Félix Bautista and Cionel Pérez.

Fans can submit their votes here.

Voting ends on Nov. 22 at 5 p.m., with the winners announced Dec. 5 on MLB Network.

* Outfielder Johnny Rizer, a seventh-round draft pick in 2019, has retired.

Rizer underwent hip surgery in June and appeared in only 22 games with Norfolk, batting .194/.284/.403.

* Rutschman and Santander were finalists for the Silver Slugger Award but didn't win. Toronto's Alejandro Kirk won it among AL catchers, and the Yankees' Aaron Judge, the Angels' Mike Trout and Seattle rookie Julio Rodriguez were honored among the outfielders.

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