Lost in all of the excitement of the Indians season-opening sweep of the Rangers was the quietly impressive debut of rookie third baseman Yandy Diaz.
While it’s tough to draw any conclusions based on a three-game sample size, Diaz’s discipline at the plate immediately stood out. And since this was trait he demonstrated in the minors as well, it’s reasonable to hope this is an area in which he’ll continue to excel at the major league level.
Many rookies come up to the big leagues and make silly mistakes—a product of nerves, emotions and just their all around inexperience. But Diaz had a calm demeanor at the plate and consistently laid off pitches that might tempt an ordinary rookie. In total, Diaz offered at just 15 of the 42 pitches he saw from Rangers pitchers—the image to the right shows the location of each swing.
Diaz was particularly patient on pitches outside the zone. He generated a Chase Rate of just 18.2 percent. And while that number will undoubtedly change over the course of a larger sample size, it’s worth noting that during the 2016 season only one full-time player (Dexter Fowler) kept his Chase Rate at lower percentage.
Carlos Santana has the best eye on the Indians roster, and among the best in the majors. But Diaz appears to be capable of challenging him for that title in the near future.
Seeing Diaz’s eye at the plate is particularly exciting because it’s a virtually slump-proof skill.
Last year we saw Tyler Naquin slip into a massive slump once opposing pitchers realized he couldn’t touch high fastballs. And while Diaz will likely have a weakness exposed at some point this season, if he can continue to remain patient at the plate, the odds of him forcing pitchers to throw into his hot zones dramatically increases.