Out of the top 100, but not out of the O’s future

With some excitement in the Orioles organization for young talents like catcher Adley Rutschman and pitchers Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, who have made the Baseball America top 47, and with Ryan Mountcastle closing in on the majors, what’s going on with outfielder Yusniel Diaz?

He is far from forgotten, although he did drop out of the Baseball America list of national top 100 prospects that was released this week.

Diaz-Running-White-sidebar.jpgDiaz was the centerpiece of the five-player trade in July 2018 that sent Manny Machado from Baltimore to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 24-year-old, Cuban-born Diaz was signed by the Dodgers for $15.5 million in November 2015. A penalty doubled that and the Dodgers’ expenditure was $31 million for Diaz.

After the 2018 season, Baseball America rated him the Orioles’ No. 1 prospect and No. 37 in the national top 100. As 2019 ended, he ranked as the O’s No. 4 and overall No. 75 in the Baseball America top 100. On MLBPipeline.com he was ranked No. 64 heading into 2019. At the end of the season, Diaz was the O’s No. 5 but was not in the top 100.

In September, Baseball America rated Diaz as the 14th-best prospect in the Double-A Eastern League, one spot ahead of his teammate, pitcher Michael Baumann.

In 2019, Diaz was limited to 76 regular-season games with Bowie. He dealt with a hamstring issue in April and a quad injury in August. But late in the season he began to make up for lost time. In 28 games after the All-Star break, Diaz hit .299/.356/.486 with two homers, 15 RBIs and an .842 OPS. For the year, he hit .262/.335/.472 for the Baysox and his wRC+ of 135 was 35 percent above league average.

With an .807 OPS, Diaz would have ranked fourth in the Eastern League had he had enough plate appearances to qualify for league leaders. They used the minor league ball at Double-A but the major league ball at Triple-A in 2019, so the stats were not as robust at the lower level and Diaz’s season is probably better than he gets credit for.

At the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds Hot Stove Banquet on Thursday, O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias told reporters he wouldn’t rule out Diaz making the majors at some point this year. So he’s still very much on the club’s radar.

A more improved contact rate could be a goal for him this season, when he will likely get a good look in spring training before starting at Triple-A with Norfolk. In 2018 before the trade at Double-A with the Dodgers he had a walk rate of 15.5 and strikeout rate of 14.8. Last season with Bowie his walk rate was 9.9 and his K rate 20.8.

Top 100 notes: Here is a note on the Baseball America top 100 rankings that came out this week that I haven’t mentioned in previous blog entries: The Orioles put three players in the top half of that list with Rutschman (No. 5), Rodriguez (No. 35) and Hall (No. 47).

This was the first time since 2009 that the O’s put three players in the top 50. Then it was Matt Wieters (No. 1), Chris Tillman (No. 22) and Brian Matusz (No. 25). That was also the one and only time the Orioles have ever had the No. 1 player on the winter list from Baseball America, which has published these lists since 1990. That year the Orioles had Ben McDonald (No. 2), Manny Alexander (No. 59) and David Segui (No. 93) rated.

Today at 3 p.m., MLBPipeline.com will release its new top 100 in a live telecast on MLB Network. The O’s got three players onto the MLBPipeline.com top 100 last year at this time. Diaz was No. 64 with Mountcastle No. 71 and Hall No. 90.

At the end of 2019, here is how the O’s fared on that list: Rutschman (No. 6), Rodriguez (No. 44), Hall (No. 60) and Mountcastle (No. 64). I think the O’s get those same four on the list later today.

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