When the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Yandy Diaz during the 2018 Winter Meetings, most Rays fans mourned the end of the budding bromance between Jake Bauers and Willy Adames but didn’t know much about Yandy Diaz, the returning player.
What we did learn very quickly was that the Rays had acquired the man with the largest biceps in baseball, who, shockingly, could not hit homeruns.
The Rays, however, were confident in their acquisition and praised his plate discipline, approach, and ability to hit the ball hard to all fields. By that point, baseball fans and commentators across the league had learned to respect the Rays front office and could only assume that now with the Rays science lab at his disposal, Diaz would mash 40 homeruns a year. All we had to do was wait, and eventually we could brag about our front office once again pulling off yet another heist.
In his two seasons with Cleveland prior to the trade, Diaz amassed 265 at-bats and hit only 1 homerun. In his first season with the Rays, Diaz had 307 at-bats, and hit 14 homeruns! Once again the Rays front office worked their magic. He split time at first and third base, while also DH’ing.
That first season with the Rays Diaz slashed .267/.340/.476 with an OPS north of 800 and an OPS+ of 117. It was a career year for the third year player out of Cuba and he was everything the Rays could have asked for.
What they didn’t necessarily expect was that nearly four seasons later, he would be the centerpiece of their offense and a mainstay on teams that won back-to-back division titles and appeared in a World Series. The Rays knew they were getting a good hitter, but they likely reined in their expectations so as to not rely upon Diaz to be the most well-rounded hitter on the team, and one of the best in all of baseball. Yet, that is exactly what he has become.
This season, amongst a plethora of injuries, Diaz has been one of the only constants. He has played in 132 of the team’s 146 games. Across those games Diaz has slashed .292/.399/.419 with an 824 OPS and a 144 OPS+. He leads the team in walks and runs scored, and is second only to Randy in at-bats and runs batted in.
All that and yet, he still doesn’t really hit home runs!
His plate discipline is the best it ever has been and his numbers place him in elite company.
In 2022: (Players with at least 500 PA)
- 5th in MLB behind Juan Soto, Max Muncy, Jesse Winkler, and Aaron Judge.
- 3rd in MLB behind Luis Arraez and Steven Kwan.
- 6th in MLB behind Aaron Judge, Paul Goldschmidt, Yordan Alvarez, Freddie Freeman, and Juan Soto.
Yandy ranks 12th in WRC+, 20th in average exit velocity (91.2 MPH), and only five players in baseball have a lower chase rate than him.
If you just scanned over the names ahead of Diaz with regards to the rankings, take another look... Judge and Goldschmidt are the frontrunners for the MVP awards. Juan Soto is considered the next great hitter of this generation of young stars. Luis Arraez leads the AL in batting average.
Yandy Diaz’s plate discipline and bat to ball skills have placed him in a league with the best hitters on the planet.
Throughout his time with the Rays, he has paired elite plate discipline with above average bat-to-ball skills to become one of the most consistent hitters the Rays have had. Across 379 games, he has slashed .276/.373/.420 with a .793 OPS and a 126 OPS+. He has struck out 219 times and walked 203 times.
Yandy Diaz is the most well-rounded hitter on the Rays, and one of the most disciplined hitters in all of baseball. He has anchored the lineup, and will continue to do so as this team, hopefully, heads to the playoffs.