The Indians, Rays and to everyone’s surprise, Mariners made a trade last week with the following final results:
- Rays get Yandy Diaz and Cole Sulser
- Mariners get Edwin Encarnacion, 77th pick, and $5M
- Indians get Jake Bauers, Carlos Santana, and $6M
For my analysis, I’m going to focus on just Diaz and Bauers. Both have shown great potential but their minor league results have not yet translated to the majors.
Yandy Diaz (NFBC ADP Rank: 475)
An analysis of Diaz begin with a look at his extreme StatCast data. Of the 480 players with at least 50 balls in play last season, Diaz ranked 57th in Hard Hit% (batted balls over 95 mph) at 44%. He can put a little zip on the ball. Just look at those arms:
Yandy Diaz: the most jacked player in baseball who's not hitting home runs. I'm hoping the Rays can change that. pic.twitter.com/e3SLMFhFCU
— Eddy Almaguer (@EddyAlmaguer) December 13, 2018
So how the hell does he have a career .083 ISO?
His problem is that most of his batted balls are on the ground. Of the same 480 players, he ranked 451 with 4.4-degree average launch angle. As Al Melchior just wrote about, the key for a batter’s success is the combination of hitting the ball hard AND in the air.
His results were even more skewed in 2017 with a 0.0-degree launch angle (461st of 466) and 50% HardHit% (5th). He was able to raise his launch angle some but not close to the ideal value of around 20 degrees. He tried to raise it some during the past offseason and got the 4-degree increase. Maybe there can be more improvement and Tampa can get it out of him. Maybe not.
His hard ground balls regularly go for hits with a .351 BABIP in the majors but just a 5% HR/FB%. The lack of homers along and no stolen bases make him a one trick pony.
As for his fantasy value next season, be careful not to pay for any launch angle improvement before it actually happens. Who knows when/if it will come. Besides the needed improvement in airing the ball out, he also doesn’t have a set position and may move around the diamond (OF, 1B, and 3B in 2018) while spending some time on the bench. It’s the Rays. Pay for the projection and enjoy anything beyond.
Jake Bauers (NFBC ADP Rank: 267)
Bauers moving made sense for both clubs with Tampa being set in the outfield (Pham, Kiermaier, and Meadows) and the Indians needing help there with Michael Brantley now a free agent and Bradley Zimmer on the shelf for some time.
He has some prospect pedigree and was ranked in the back half of Baseball America’s top-100 prospects in 2017 and 2018. An issue with Bauers is that he has no carrying trait and an average bat is not going to cut it at first base.
As an outfielder, he has the potential to be a decent contributor. Last season he stole 16 bases and hit the same number of homers between AAA and the majors. While the stolen bases are nice, he was only 16 for 28 between the two levels this season. The Indians may start giving him the red flag if he doesn’t improve.
In the minors, his batting average ranged from .263 to .296 but dropped to .201 in the majors because of a 27% K%. Most of the damage came in the season’s 2nd half with a 31% K%. Additionally, he couldn’t find a way to hit lefties (.176/.276/.319) and had some issue with the shift. He pulled the ball over 50% of the time. Recently, I found hitters who pull the ball over 45% are less likely to meet their projections.
Finally, he may not play full-time depending on who else they bring and if he continues to struggle against lefties. He’s a tough player to get behind with so many question marks and few answers. I’d prefer not to count on him for production at his current price.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.