Miami Marlins

Marlins prospect acquired in Yelich trade thriving since scary moment at the plate

Miami Marlins infielder Isan Diaz throws to first base during defensive drills the spring training baseball workouts at Roger Dean Stadium on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 in Jupiter, FL.
Miami Marlins infielder Isan Diaz throws to first base during defensive drills the spring training baseball workouts at Roger Dean Stadium on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 in Jupiter, FL.

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It could make even the best hitter uneasy at the plate.

A 90-plus mph fastball zooms straight at your head before you can react.

Isan Diaz went through such a scary moment on May 17 when such a pitch drilled him on the head resulting in a mild concussion despite catching him on the helmet.

Diaz didn’t let the incident derail his progression in his first season in the Miami Marlins’ organization.

In fact Diaz, rated the fourth-highest second baseman prospect overall by MLB.com, has been on a tear at the plate ever since.

“It was a long time off from playing so that set me back a lot,” Diaz said. “But when I came back I felt like I had never left so was able to get back into the swing of things and get back on track.”

The Marlins acquired Diaz, their No. 7 overall prospect per MLBPipline, along with starting center fielder Lewis Brinson, center field prospect Monte Harrison (No. 1) and prospect pitcher Jordan Yammamoto (No. 20) in the trade with the Milwaukee Brewers for Christian Yelich.

Diaz, who hit well off big-league pitching in spring training including a home run off Cardinals starter Michael Wacha, missed a week while in concussion protocol.

His first minor-league season with the Marlins began with him hitting only .194 over the first 37 games at Double A Jacksonville.

Since returning to action on May 25, Diaz has hit .307 (19 of 62) with a home run, five doubles and 10 RBI in 18 games.

Diaz’s hot stretch earned him Player of the Week honors and a spot in the upcoming Southern League All-Star game.

Diaz, who already suffered a similar injury to former Marlin Giancarlo Stanton in 2015 when he fractured the hamate bone in his right hand and had to have it removed, can likely relate to getting hit by a fastball at the plate.

Stanton was hit by then-Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers in 2014 and suffered multiple facial fractures forcing him to miss the rest of that season. While Stanton has since said it did not mentally affect him at the plate, he has chosen to wear a protective flap on his helmet which is being used by more players over the past couple of seasons.

Diaz had already been using one even before he was hit.

“I was just happy to get back to it,” Diaz said. “My cage routine has been going really well and I’ve been feeling really good at the plate, seeing the ball well.”

Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill recently told the Miami Herald that he expects Diaz’s ability to hit for power to increase over time.

Diaz has five home runs overall this season and has driven in 23 runs, raising his average to .230.

Diaz spent spring training working with Marlins’ infielders such as current second baseman Starlin Castro and Miguel Rojas. Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly said in March he felt once Diaz developed consistency at the plate he could turn into a dangerous hitter at the major league level due to his ability to hit the ball to all fields.

A regional scout that has watched Diaz play this season in Jacksonville said he has made progress in that area.

“He’s starting to pick up his hitting and he uses left field very well,” the scout said. “That’s the whole thing as a young hitter to be able to use all fields like that sets you up to be successful. What he does at second is very impressive. The play he makes throwing across his body to first base he makes look as routine as you can. I was very impressed with his whole game.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Marlins placed Caleb Smith on the bereavement list as expected on Friday and activated right-hander Brett Graves (oblique) from the 60-day disabled list to which they transferred lefty pitcher Chris O’Grady (left shoulder sprain).

Graves, a Rule 5 draft pick of the Marlins from the Athletics, will likely take a middle relief role coming off a lengthy rehab assignment in which he made seven combined appearances (19 1/3 innings) at both the Single A and Double A levels, going 1-2 with a 5.59 ERA.

Graves wasn’t the only pitching reinforcement the Marlins called up in the wake of their 16-inning loss to the Giants the day before.

The Marlins recalled right-hander Merandy Gonzalez, their No. 13 prospect, from Double A Jacksonville and optioned right-hander Ben Meyer to Triple A New Orleans.

Gonzalez, who went 2-0 with a 4.85 ERA in 13 innings during his first stint with the Marlins in late April, suffered a fingernail injury recently that sidelined him for three weeks. Upon his return, he pitched nine innings for Jacksonville and allowed three earned runs on five hits, three walks and struck out eight.

COMING UP

Saturday: Miami Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (1-3, 6.13 ERA) vs. Baltimore Orioles RHP Alex Cobb (2-8, 7.23), 4:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Sunday: Marlins RHP Trevor Richards (1-3, 4.41) vs. Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy (4-7, 3.66), 1:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

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