Miami Marlins

This prospect could make the Marlins deeper at second base even without Dee Gordon. Here’s why.

For now, they are only snapshots.

An opposite-field home run off Michael Wacha; a well-struck single off Matt Harvey; the well-executed catch, turn and throw to first on a double play ball hit by Todd Frazier.

But they could all be glimpses of the Marlins’ future at second base.

Isan Diaz, one of the prized pieces in the trade the Marlins made in January sending outfielder Christian Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers will open the season in the minors.

With a four-time All-Star, Starlin Castro, manning the position primarily held by Dee Gordon the past three seasons, the Marlins can afford to be patient with Diaz, rated the No. 4 second baseman prospect in the majors according to MLB Pipeline.com.

So with both those layers in addition to versatile infielders like Miguel Rojas available, the Marlins seemingly have built more long-term depth at second base even after trading away Gordon, a two-time All-Star, stolen bases and batting champion.

"There’s a reason this kid was a part of that trade for a guy like [Christian] Yelich," said outfielder Lewis Brinson, who also came to the Marlins as part of the Yelich trade. "He can swing it. He’s got pop from left side of the plate. He works hard and is very humble. He’s a really genuine dude and wants to be a top guy in the big leagues one day."

Manager Don Mattingly thinks Diaz could turn into a power-hitting second baseman that could shore up that position for the Marlins for years to come if he can develop consistency in his approach at the plate and hit to all fields.

"To me there’s no doubt this kid is going to hit, if he will continue not to try to pull the ball out of every ball park," Mattingly said. "If he takes the right approach to hitting and uses the whole field he’s going to be a really good hitter.

Diaz, 21, showed some of that opposite field potential when he belted his first homer of the spring off Wacha. After initially striking out against Harvey in a spring game Thursday, Diaz adjusted his swing and pulled a single off the Mets’ starter.

Diaz said he’s cherishing the experience he’s getting against veteran pitching.

"It’s an honor to face these guys and see what it’s like," Diaz said. "I’ve just been trying to stick to an approach and take it day by day and keep working hard especially in the [batting] cage. It’s about work and preparation."

Diaz has something in common with former Marlin Giancarlo Stanton.

Diaz fractured the hamate bone in his right hand and had to have it removed last summer. But while Stanton hurt his in 2015 on a swing and miss, Diaz hurt himself while hitting a home run.

Diaz said teammate Monte Harrison, his teammate last year in the minors in Single-A ball, suffered the same injury a year earlier and identified the problem for him.

"I didn’t even feel it until I got in the dugout," Diaz said. "Harrison had it the year before so as soon as he saw it he said, ‘That’s your hamate bone.’"

Diaz, whose father played junior college baseball in Alabama, was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and later moved to Springfield, Massachusetts as a child. He was drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2014 and played primarily as a shortstop early in his career.

A lefty-hitter and right-handed thrower, Diaz took home Pioneer League MVP honors the following season in rookie ball, hitting .360 with 13 home runs. Diaz was later traded to Milwaukee where he’d play his first full season in the minors in Single-A in 2016. He hit 20 home runs, which led the Midwest League that season and was the Brewers’ minor league player of the year.

Diaz hit .222 with 13 homers and 54 RBI last year and has hit 13 or more home runs in each of the past three minor league seasons advancing from rookie ball to low-A to high-A level. Diaz figures to start this season either at Single-A Jupiter or Double-A Jacksonville.

Diaz said he has been working closely with Castro, Rojas and Martin Prado and trying to learn from his mistakes as he goes through the growing pains of being in major league camp.

“I’ve just playing my game and not being afraid of making mistakes,” Diaz said. “Mistakes happen and the only way you learn from them is by making them. So it’s been a learning process and it’s been better day-by-day so I’ve been pleased from spring training till now the way things have been going.”

Mattingly believes if Diaz can continue to learn and develop every aspect of his game, he has the potential to be elite.

“Isan would probably make it [to the majors] on his own even by not doing one thing differently,” Mattingly said. “But if he picks up all the details of playing and the smaller stuff and the thought process of it, then he has a chance to become a star instead of a guy that just gets here.”

THIS AND THAT

▪ Pitcher Elieser Hernandez, a Rule 5 draft pick in December, is still recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction he underwent earlier this week. Hernandez, who has not pitched since Sunday, said he is still at least five days away from throwing a baseball again.

▪ Shortstop JT Riddle played defense in a minor league game for the first time this spring on Saturday. On Thursday Riddle had two hits including a home run in one of those games. It’s still uncertain if Riddle would be ready for Opening Day.

▪ Reliever Nick Wittgren threw an inning in that game Thursday. Wittgren underwent surgery on his right elbow in September to remove a bone spur.

COMING UP

Sunday: Marlins LHP Caleb Smith vs. New York Yankees RHP Luis Severino, 1:05 p.m., Tampa.

Monday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily vs. Washington Nationals TBA, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.

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