Miami Marlins

The case of Isan Diaz, why he’s still in the minors and why the Marlins won’t ‘rush’ him

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter: We’re trying to build something that’s special

Miami Marlins Chief Executive Officer Derek Jeter talks to the media before start of the first full-squad spring training workout on Monday, February 18, 2019 in Jupiter, FL.
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Miami Marlins Chief Executive Officer Derek Jeter talks to the media before start of the first full-squad spring training workout on Monday, February 18, 2019 in Jupiter, FL.

The Miami Marlins’ projected second baseman of the future is continuing to make his case to being their second baseman of the present.

Each time Isan Diaz hits a home run — he’s at a career-best 24 this year — or makes a nimble play on defense or strings together another lengthy hitting streak for the Triple A New Orleans Baby Cakes, he’s making a statement that it could be time for his promotion to the big-league club.

But the Marlins are standing firm. They don’t plan to rush the 23-year-old Diaz, ranked as their No. 6 prospect and the No. 7 overall second-baseman prospect by MLBPipeline, to the major leagues just for the sake of bringing him up.

Development is still the main factor at this stage of the rebuild under the Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter ownership group.

“Every at-bat that he gets in Triple A is a valuable one for him,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said Monday at Progressive Rate Field before the Marlins started a three-game road series against the Chicago White Sox. “I think it’s only a matter of time when he gets his opportunity, but we don’t have to rush guys anymore.”

That’s not to say that Diaz, whom the Marlins acquired as part of the Christian Yelich trade in January 2018, won’t make the jump to MLB this season. It’s likely that he could be called up next month. A September call-up would be highly expected otherwise.

And it’s not like it would be unwarranted.

Diaz’s .980 OPS rate (on-base percentage plus slugging) ranks 12th in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He had a run of five consecutive games with a home run from May 22 to May 26. Three days later, he started a 17-game hit streak from May 29 to June 16 during which he hit four more homers. He’s in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak during which he has five multi-hit games. He was one of three Marlins players selected to participate in the MLB Futures Game during the All-Star break.

This comes after a 2018 season, his first with the Marlins’ organization, in which Diaz hit a combined .232 with 13 home runs while striking out 140 times in 511 plate appearances (27.4% of the time) between Double A Jacksonville and New Orleans.

“I mean, it’s great to see,” Hill said. “He’s a tremendously talented young player. It’s great to see him performing at Triple A. If you look at his development arc, this is the first time where you’ve seen that sustained production. That’s really what we search for with all of our young players is to get that consistency. They’re all talented, but they all battle consistency in various areas, be it approach, be it mechanics, whatever it is. We’re starting to see him develop that, and that’s what you need to be successful here.”

There’s also the factor of how much playing time he would get if he is called up. Starlin Castro has started all 98 games for the Marlins at second base this season and has begun to turn the corner offensively this month after a rough start to the season. Miami is listening to trade offers for Castro, who is making $11 million this season and has a club option for $16 million next year if the team doesn’t opt for a $1 million buyout, and other veterans as the July 31 deadline approaches. Trading Castro would seemingly open up the door for Diaz, but that is not the sole factor that the Marlins are using to decide when to promote Diaz.

Yes, the Marlins want to know that the budding second baseman will have regular playing time and will be able to manage the challenge of being an everyday starter at the MLB level once they call him up.

But they also want to limit the learning curve that he will face at the next level. Hill says the team will be patient.

“Sometimes, the circumstance forces guys to the big leagues sooner rather than later. That’s not the case now with Isan,” Hill said. “We can allow him to play and get his regular at-bats and continue to keep himself sharp and ready to go when an opportunity presents itself.”

Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.
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