- May 16, 2023: Two days after injuring his left groin against the Yankees, Díaz said he is feeling much better and hopes to be back in the lineup against the Mets. Díaz was available to pinch-hit against New York in Tampa Bay's 8-5 win.
“He is better today than he was yesterday, which is a good sign,” manager Kevin Cash said. ‘We’ll try to stay away from him and see how he comes in tomorrow and we’ll go from there. He is such a big part of our team, our offense. His presence in our lineup is certainly a strong one. We want to get him healthy as quick as possible.”
On May 14, Díaz led off the game with a double, then appeared to hurt himself when he hustled to third base and slipped on the bag during Wander Franco's groundout to third. Díaz stayed in and scored on a groundout by Brandon Lowe but was replaced by Isaac Paredes at first base in the bottom of the first.
|Birth City:||Sagua la Grande, Cuba|
|Draft:||2013 - Indians - Free agent - Out of Cuba|
In 2013, Diaz signed with the Indians (see Transactions below).
Yandy Diaz is a magician on defense, just like his father. He defected from Cuba, just like his father.
Yet Diaz can’t bring himself to discuss his father.
Despite all of his success, Diaz considers the possibility of a relationship with his father—Jorge Diaz, a former Rangers minor-leaguer—out of the question.
“He doesn’t want to talk about his father,” said Ronny Rodriguez, Diaz’s teammate and translator for this story. “He looks like he is going to cry right now. It is too much.”
Diaz was 6 years old when he last saw his dad in person. Neither has seen the other play professionally.
Yandy is trying to make his way through the Indians' minor league system. After twice trying to escape Cuba, Jorge Diaz played just one season in the minors in the Texas Rangers farm system in 2000 before bouncing around the independent leagues for four seasons.
The estrangement from his father isn’t the only murky area in Diaz’s life. Much of his background is mysterious as well. Stories written about him tend to begin with his defection from Cuba, as if little about him existed beforehand.
“We really didn’t know exactly what we had in Yandy when we signed him,” Akron manager David Wallace said. “There were some question marks. But he looked great physically, and he looked confident. He looked the part of a professional ball player.”
Because Diaz was widely considered less heralded than the majority of his Cuban peers, the Indians were afforded the luxury of signing him as a free agent in 2013.
“I left Cuba so I could play every day,” said Diaz, a 6-2, 185-pound native of Sagua la Grande. “Now I am close to fulfilling his dream of playing at a high level of competition in the major leagues.”
Due to his extensive experience with the Cuban Youth National Team, Diaz began his minor league career at the Advanced Class-A level. (July 3, 2015 - Stephanie Storm Lariccia)
In 2016, Baseball America rated Yandy as the 15th-best prospect in the Indians organization. He was at #11 in the winter before 2017 spring training.
CLOSE TO MOM
May 13, 2017: Yandy would have loved nothing more than to have his mom in the stands for his Major League debut. After all the sacrifices made in order for him to pursue his dream, the person who pushed Diaz to play baseball in the first place could not watch the game.
So, while Diaz took the field for the Indians on Opening Day in Texas, two staff members of the team recorded videos on their phones. Another person on the broadcast crew also pieced together a highlight package. Those clips were later sent to Diaz, who was able to pass them along to his mom, Elsa María Fernández, back home in Cuba. Fernández got to see Diaz make a diving catch to rob Nomar Mazara of a hit, and then watched her son double into the right-field corner against Yu Darvish.
"It was really hard for me to not be there in that moment by his side supporting him," said Fernández, who spoke via phone from Cuba in a conversation with MLB.com and Anna Bolton, the Indians' team translator. "It was really hard for me, because I was always there for all of his baseball career, and to not be there in such a beautiful moment was very difficult. But at the same time, I was really happy. In that moment, I felt that I was the proudest mom in the whole world."
After spending a couple weeks back with Triple-A Columbus, Diaz was called back to the Majors by Cleveland, one day after his mom's birthday. The Indians rookie makes a point to call her about three times each week. He is looking forward to the day they can speak in person again. For now, every call requires a credit card payment that allows 15 minutes to talk for $10. Asked how important his mom is to him, Diaz didn't hesitate.
"Todo. Todo. Todo," he said. "Everything."
For Fernández, her weekly talks with her son bring a mixture of emotions. "It's been almost five years that I haven't seen my boy," said Fernández, fighting back tears. "There are moments that I can't even talk to him and he tells me, 'Mama, don't cry. Don't cry.' But, I feel a lot of excitement and pain at the same time."
Yandy was an only child. When he was young, he would often hang around with older kids. He typically had some sort of ball in tow, though he was mostly drawn to soccer and basketball. As Diaz got older, Fernández steered him toward baseball. His father, Jorge, had been a baseball star in Cuba. Fernández thought Diaz could follow in his footsteps. He listened to his mom, began playing for his school's team when he was around eight years old and quickly fell in love with the sport. "I didn't even like baseball at the beginning," Diaz said with a smile. "She's the one who convinced me to start playing baseball; and it's my whole life now."
As is the case for many Cuban kids, that passion for baseball led to a difficult decision. Diaz knew he would need to leave his country—and his mom—in order to pursue his dream of playing in the big leagues. He tried to flee twice, but was caught and jailed for 21 days each time. In 2013, when Diaz was 21, he attempted a third escape. His mom was supportive. The last time Diaz saw his mom was in a Cuban hospital, at the side of his grandmother, who passed away a couple weeks later following a battle with cancer.
"It was really hard," Diaz said. "At first, she didn't agree with my decision, because I'm the only child and she didn't want to be alone. She said that she was going to miss me. But, over time, she kind of changed her mind and agreed with me and supported me about my decision."
On the third try, the group Diaz joined—including his friend and current Indians Minor Leaguer Leandro Linares— was successful. They used a motorized raft to travel from Cuba's eastern coast to Monte Cristi in the Dominican Republic. After the 12-hour journey, which included sharks appearing near the raft, one of the people who helped Diaz got his mom on the phone.
"He gave me his phone to talk to her," Diaz said. Asked if it was an emotional discussion, Diaz only nodded. That call was a moment Fernández will never forget. "He's my life. My reason for living. Everything I do is for him," she said. "When he got to land in the Dominican, I felt a great relief, because he was alive and he made it. But, the pain. There was pain. There was excitement. I don't have words to explain this moment in Yandy's and my life. I don't have words, because it was all of this combined."
Yandy is looking forward to the day when that pain goes away, a day when he can embrace his mom again. "Little by little, I'm trying to bring her here," he said. "I need her. I need her by my side." (J Bastian - MLB.com - May 14, 2017)
May 12, 2019: When Yandy decided to defect from Cuba in 2013, he understood that there was a chance that he wouldn’t be able to see his mom and his family for a long time, or maybe ever again.
“At first it was really tough, but we both knew that there wasn’t a lot of opportunity in Cuba,” Diaz said in Spanish. “She understood that if I made that decision, it was to help our quality of life and have some money and just live like other people.
“That decision was tough, but at the same time it was easy because I came here to fight for the two of us.”
Diaz says his mother, Elsa Maria Fernandez, worked seven days a week from 5:00 a.m. to approximately 7:00 p.m. in order to be able to have food every day for the family.
“She did everything,” Diaz said. “At that time, there wasn’t a lot of opportunities for us to have a good life. She fought for me and thanks to her I was able to eat meals throughout the day and you know, she’s done everything for me.”
The two talk every single day through WhatsApp or FaceTime, but Diaz hopes to be able to see his mom soon. In the past, it was impossible for defected players to return to Cuba, but with recent law changes between the United States and Cuba, Diaz is optimistic that he’ll be able to return home to see his mother for the first time in six years.
“My mom is the biggest thing that I have in my life,” Diaz said. “I’m hoping to go this year. I have all the paperwork and hopefully they let me back into Cuba so I can see her.” (J Toribio - MLB.com - May 12, 2019)
Sept. 2022: Diaz decided to play for Team Cuba in the 2023 WBC.
2022 Season: .296/.401/.423 with nine home runs, 57 RBIs, 78 walks, .824 OPS, -14 defensive runs saved, -8 outs above average and 3.8 WAR
The Rays leader in overall offensive performance with 3.8 WAR and 146 wRC+ as the primary third baseman, Yandy Diaz appeared in 137 games (second only to Randy Arozarena) and carried the offense. His 14.0% BB-rate was the best on the team, and his 10.0% strikeout rate was only just behind Wander Franco’s 9.6% over 344 PA. On split, his 142 wRC+ in the first half and 154 wRC+ second half prove how vital he was throughout the season.
Diaz ranked above the 90th percentile Avg. Exit Velocity, Max Exit Velocity, HardHit%, xwOBA, xBA, K%, BB%, Whiff%, and Chase Rate. (Daniel Russell@d_russ - Nov 8, 2022)
Yandy Díaz is afraid of ghosts. That didn’t stop him from an overnight raft trip on his fifth attempt to defect from Cuba — he said he saw sharks in the water alongside the raft — but it has led to some hijinks from teammates. The team once stayed at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, which was built on a burial ground and has long been associated with ghost experiences. Carlos Martinez once saw a full-torso floating ghost and decided to sleep with teammates when he stayed there. Ahead of the series in Milwaukee, someone on the Rays taped a cartoon ghost in his locker with the Spanish word ‘cuidado’ (watch out) written on it. You’d think the ghosts would be afraid of Yandy’s biceps, but they’re otherworldly. (Sarris - Apr 25, 2023 - The Athletic)
September 20, 2013: Diaz signed with the Indians for $300,000 after defecting from Cuba. He signed with scouts Ramon Pena, Juan Alvarez, and Felix Nivar.
Dec 13, 2018: The Indians traded DH Edwin Encarnacion and Future Considerations to the Mariners in exchange for 1B Carlos Santana; the Indians traded 3B Yandy Diaz and RHP Cole Sulser to the Rays in exchange for 1B Jake Bauers; and the Rays sent cash to the Mariners.
March 22, 2022: Diaz and the Rays avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $2.8 million.
- Jan 28, 2023: The Rays have a three-year, $24 million deal with infielder Yandy Díaz. Díaz’s contract also includes an option for the 2026 season.
Diaz has a good bat, and his power is developing naturally. As he matures as a hitter, he will likely turn some of those hard singles into hard doubles and home runs. But he really doesn't have the loft in his swing to hit many homers.
Right now, he consistently makes hard contact. His bat should get him to the Majors.
Yandy has a good feel for the barrel, so he makes a lot of contact. He's still learning to drive the ball.
Diaz has a disciplined approach at the plate. He works pitchers for a free pass. That approach takes away from his power, though.
Yandy made the Indians 2017 Opening Day roster as the Indians’ starting third baseman. A shoulder injury that caused second baseman Jason Kipnis to start the year on the disabled list led to some juggling of infield personnel by manager Terry Francona. Jose Ramirez moved from third base to second.
Diaz won the job with an impressive spring training. In 48 spring at-bats, Diaz hit .458/.544/.708 with seven extra-base hits in 20 games.
“I focused on working hard and playing my best, and it turned out to be better than I could have hoped,” said Diaz.
Diaz hit .236 with a double in 15 games before being optioned to Columbus when Kipnis returned. He made a handful of outstanding defensive plays but was never challenged to play the outfield.
Manager Terry Francona liked what he saw.
“He doesn’t look nervous,” Francona said as Diaz got his feet wet at the Major League level for the first time. “He likes playing baseball and is enjoying the opportunity to play here. His at-bats have been really good.”
The hits will likely come. In his three minor league seasons, Diaz hit .307 with more walks than strikeouts. (Jim Ingraham - Baseball America - 5/12/2017)
April 9, 2019: In 1,099 plate appearances in 2017 and 2018, Díaz hit a mere nine home runs, eight coming in the Minors. In 44 plate appearances in 2019, his first season with the Rays, Diaz already has three homers.
Diaz will turn 28 in August 2019, and he's never really hit for power. In parts of five seasons in the Cleveland Minor Leagues, he had an unimpressive .414 slugging percentage and 26 homers.
An older-ish prospect of relatively limited repute hitting a few dingers shouldn't exactly set off any alarm bells, yet this one does. This is the Diaz we've been waiting for, at least if you've been following the oft-frustrating world of talented hitters who crush the ball without actually finding success. If you think the 8-3 Rays have a chance of maintaining their perch atop the AL East, Diaz matters. If you think the weakest-offense-in-the-AL Indians erred in letting Diaz go last winter, he matters. And if you think the ability to hit the ball really, really hard matters, Diaz matters.
He's a big deal—do look at the now-famous 2016 picture of his massive biceps—who just might be on his way to becoming a big deal. This is the story of the most interesting hitter you don't know.
In December 2018, Diaz was traded from the Indians to the Rays in a deal where Tampa Bay had to give up young first baseman Jake Bauers and $5 million. In addition to Tommy Pham and Mike Zunino, the Rays acquired 3 of the top 26 hard-hit leaders from 2017-2018.
"He's a guy we've been on for a while," said Chaim Bloom, the Rays' senior vice president of baseball operations. "We really like his bat. Yandy really hasn't had a chance to establish himself at the Major League level."
That brings us to 2019, where, on the second day of the season, Diaz did this. That ball, hit at 112.2 mph off the bat, was the fourth time in his career he's touched 112 mph. As The Athletic recently delved into, hitting even one ball that hard can have a meaningful impact on your season projections, because it's incredibly difficult to do. It's a skill.
“I haven’t seen a ball ever hit like that at this ballpark,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “That was impressive.”
(Cash wasn't wrong. Since Statcast came online in 2015, only two homers in Tampa Bay have been hit that hard and that low—Diaz's and a Brad Miller blast from 2016.)
“I’m not that type of a home-run hitter, but I’m doing better with my swing, trying to get the ball up in the air,” Diaz said. “And the results are getting there.”
"Diaz has proven to be one of the best and most disciplined hitters in the Indians' system," read the report. "He is a truly disciplined hitter who never ties to do too much and rarely expands his zone. He makes a lot of contact with his compact righthanded swing."
But again, hitting the ball a lot is great, and hitting it hard is great. It just won't help you much if it's on the ground. Ask Eric Hosmer about that. Diaz has long been aware of it. So were the Indians. If the Rays can help him elevate just a little more, not a lot, then the sky is the limit. That being the case, it's not just about raising that launch angle. It's about raising it where it matters, and where it matters is the hard-hit zone, 95 mph of exit velocity or higher. If you want to see where Diaz is truly making changes, just look there.
“I used to hit a lot of hard ground balls,” Diaz said on March 15, 2019. “But instead of keeping my top wrist down, I want to keep my swing through and not cut down my swing as much.” “It’s not hard,” he continued. “The swing stays the same, but it’s more about the hands.” (M Petriello - MLB.com - April 9, 2019)
May 2020: Who has the best eye on the Rays? Yandy Díaz.
It’s hard to argue with Díaz’s ability and the kind of eye he has at the plate. Díaz doesn’t do much pregame work on opposing pitchers, relying strictly on his ability to pick up pitches. That alone is incredibly impressive. In 2019, Díaz drew 35 walks in 79 games and struck out 61 times. He also had an impressive stretch in June, when he struck out just 3 times in 42 plate appearances. –Juan Toribio
2021: Diaz has had a fascinating career. He’s always hit the ball extremely hard, but because he hits the ball on the ground so often, he’s never hit more than 14 home runs in the season. He’s an elite contact hitter, but rarely walks due to his tendency to expand the zone (though he did get better in 2021).
Overall, Diaz is an above-average hitter who mashes lefties and can adequately play both second and third base.
Yandy is a dandy with the glove at the hot corner. He had played multiple positions in Cuba but put together a good plan in 2014 with the Carolina MudCats. (CAR-Indians).
In 2014, Diaz was rated as the Best Defensive Third Baseman in the Carolina League.
Diaz' development at third base impressed the Tribe front office.
"Third base was probably the position he played the least before we signed him, yet he has worked to become one of the better defenders in our system,” Indians farm director Carter Hawkins said in 2015.
He has a 60-grade arm on the scouting scale.
- In 2016, the Indians began moving Diaz around a bit. He played second base, third base, and all three outfield positions.
- When he got to the Rays in 2019, he settled in as a two-position player: first base and third base. (Baseball-Reference.com - April 2023)
April 2-June 5, 2014: Diaz injured a hand sliding into third base on Opening Day.
June 14-26, 2017: A strained right quad put Yandy on the DL.
May 21-June 2, 2019: Díaz exited a game with a left-hand contusion when he was hit by a pitch.
June 19-27, 2019: Diaz was on the IL with right hamstring tightness.
July 23-Sept 29, 2019: Yandy was on the IL with left foot contusion. Díaz left the 9-4 loss to the Red Sox after fouling a pitch off his left foot. The good news for Tampa Bay is that there is no fracture on the foot and it’s just a deep bone bruise. Diaz was on crutches and there was significant swelling on his left foot.
“I’m still in pain,” Diaz said. “That part of the foot really hurts and I’m still in a lot of pain right now. The good news is that it’s not broken, but I’m still in a lot of pain.”
Sept. 1-28, 2020: The Rays placed Díaz on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain.
April 23-24, 2022: Diaz was on the Covid-19 IL. The club announced that Díaz was only experiencing symptoms, with no indication as to whether he tested positive or not.
May 21, 2022: Díaz left the game against the Orioles in the sixth inning with left shoulder strain. He is considered day to day.
March 3, 2023: Díaz hasn’t played since Feb. 27 due to a hip flexor injury. Manager Kevin Cash said Díaz will remain out of the lineup through the team’s off-day on March 8.
March 10, 2023: Díaz left the game against the Braves after getting hit on his left hand by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Manager Kevin Cash said X-rays came back negative. Díaz had missed the previous nine Spring Training games with a hip flexor injury. Diaz was day-to-day.
April 22, 2023: It was a scary scene when Díaz left the field as Jason Adam warmed up to pitch the eighth inning. The infielder put down his glove, walked toward the dugout, and put his arm around hitting coach Chad Mottola for support. Díaz then exited the game, with Isaac Paredes replacing him at first base.
Díaz said through interpreter Manny Navarro he felt “a little tightness in the chest,” as his heart rate was elevated, and felt “a little worried” because he’d never experienced that pain before. But he said his heart rate returned to normal and he felt good after drinking water with some electrolyte powder. The Rays said Díaz will be reevaluated. (Editor's note: He played the next day.)
- April 28, 2023: Díaz left the game against the White Sox in the fifth inning with left shoulder soreness. He slid headfirst into home plate in the first inning, scoring on a Brandon Lowe pop out to shallow center field. Manager Kevin Cash said the play led to Díaz's shoulder issue. Cash said Diaz will get a treatment on it the following day..