Prospect Spotlight: Yainer Diaz, C Houston Astros
Looking at the landscape of prospects coming up the ranks in MLB, I am excited for the future and reminded of the reality of the situation: only some make the final successful jump into regular productive playing time in the majors. Going over the third base position I found so many stories and statlines to get excited about. Catchers are no different. The position seems to be experiencing a rebirth of talent throughout the levels of competition. Last year I discovered Jeferson Quero and was happy to see him perform well last year. He is still a target of mine in deep dynasty. This year had me reading about a prospect I personally hadn’t paid much attention to last year when maybe I should have been listening closer to the chatter at large. Playing in a top tier organization with a clear path to playing time if his bat continues to grow with him, I want to talk about Yainer Diaz of the Houston Astros.
Signed in 2018 by the Guardians out of the Dominican Republic, Yainer Diaz was traded to the Astros with P Phil Maton for Myles Straw OF in the middle of 2021. Diaz was still in the low minors and so his value was still suppressed. 2022 was where Yainer showed out. He started the year at AA (the highest level he had been at) and hit .316/.367/.504 with 9 home runs in 57 games. Houston had seen enough and brought him up to AAA Sugarland. Diaz hit even better. His stat line was .294/.342/.587 with 16 home runs in 48 games. The Astros brought him up for a September cup of coffee. Diaz got 9 plate appearances and didn’t do a whole lot with them. What he did do by the end of the year was play at three levels. Yainer has established himself firmly in the next wave of prospects to break in. For me the next question is what’s the situation at the major league club?
OK, but right now?
The Astros have a fan favorite on the last year of a contract in Martin Maldonado. He is probably playing the large side of the platoon at catcher. They also have Korey Lee, a strong candidate to replace Maldonado because of his defensive skills, and currently the small side platoon with Maldonado. Where does Diaz fit in here? Well he has the strongest hit tool between the three of them and Houston seems to be open to finding playing time at different positions (1B and UT were two I saw as a possibility) while getting some time still at catcher. If he doesn’t make the big league club he definitely will get all the playing time at AAA Sugarland. If he does make the club there is going to have to be some patience for players that roster him in dynasty leagues.
So looking forward?
As for me, I think that the window of major league playing time is wide open in 2024. Yainer either makes a huge jump on prospect lists or loses his prospect status by the end of 2023. I think he hits and they can’t keep him down by the last two months of the season. I am looking to acquire him in any 15 team league or 12 team with 2 catchers that rosters prospects pick him up while the price is affordable.