Yusniel Diaz is going to be invited to spring training again and eventually be reassigned to minor league camp. No matter how he hits. No matter how he fields.
The Orioles weren’t tempted by last spring’s statistics, which included 11 hits in 33 at-bats, with three doubles, a home run and seven RBIs in 14 games. The rebuild plan doesn’t permit prospects to be rushed.
Diaz never made it above Double-A last summer due to two leg injuries that limited him to 76 games. He slashed .262/.335/.472 with 19 doubles, four triples, 11 home runs and 53 RBIs and fell off Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list.
He’s no longer the top-rated prospect in the organization, but is highly regarded and viewed by executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias as having a good shot at playing in the majors this season.
Diaz, who lasted in camp until March 10, has to demonstrate that he can stay healthy and smooth out some rough edges in his game. He’s making progress, with some adjustments in his stance bringing better results at the plate. Scouts still view him as being somewhat raw.
It isn’t about defense in this instance, with Diaz more likely to stay in right field than switch positions. But can he rake again against Grapefruit League pitching and does he open the season at Triple-A Norfolk or return to the Bowie Baysox?
And what the heck happens if he’s beating down the door and the Orioles answer it?
A projected opening day outfield of Anthony Santander, Austin Hays and Trey Mancini doesn’t leave room for Diaz. Moving Mancini to first base in order to open up right field for Diaz recreates the Chris Davis question - whether the Orioles would be willing to cut him if he’s batting .160 and striking out at an alarming rate.
Meanwhile, a hot start from Davis could make him a more viable candidate to be traded with two-plus years remaining on his franchise-record contract. The Orioles still would have to absorb a huge chunk of cash in any deal, but it no longer would seem inconceivable.
We’re a long way from that scenario.
Mountcastle is the other complication because being relegated to first base or designated hitter just adds to the surplus. The Orioles are overstocked.
These are pleasant problems for the Orioles. They’d sign up in blood to have prospects like Diaz and Mountcastle force tough roster decisions.
Everyone is talking about Mountcastle doing it at some point over the summer.
Don’t forget about Diaz. Elias and the rest of the organization have not.