Miami Marlins

A look at Isan Diaz’s first MLB season and what he needs to do to succeed with the Marlins

Isan Diaz began his Major League Baseball career with a solo home run off Jacob deGrom that made his family viral. He closed his first season with the Miami Marlins with a two-run homer against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday to help Miami close a season to forget with a 4-3 win.

In between? It was two months of growing pains for the Marlins’ second baseman of the future.

Diaz, a key prospect obtained in the Christian Yelich trade in January 2018, hit .173 with five home runs, 23 RBI, 17 runs and had more strikeouts (59) than hits (31) over 49 games. He also committed nine errors.

A learning curve was to be expected — although the Marlins likely would have preferred he played a little closer to his Triple A numbers (.305 average, 26 home runs, 70 RBI, 89 runs in 102 games).

The measuring stick now is how he adapts in 2020 because he left a lot to be desired.

“When he comes into spring, he’s going to have to fight for a job,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Obviously, he’s come here and hasn’t knocked the door down and blew the house up and said, ‘I’m your second baseman.’ He’s done some things that are really good, and he’s had some areas that he’s struggled.”

Some of the early struggles stemmed from Diaz’s nature. The 23-year-old is typically reserved, quiet, laid back. There were nerves early on — expected for a newcomer realizing his dreams — and it took time to shake it off.

He also felt a heightened need to prove himself once he was finally called up, amplified by the expectations bestowed upon him each time he made another highlight at the Triple A level. Sometimes, that resulted in him trying too much to make a routine play, overthinking about the end result before finishing the play.

“A lot of learning,” Diaz said. “I had a blast. This is everything I expected it to be. Now I know what it is that I have to get better at. Next year, I’m going to come into spring training 100 percent better, for sure.”

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Now, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Diaz.

Despite his sub-.175 batting average, he showed a knack for making plays with runners in scoring position (.295 batting average, 19 RBI and 13 runs scored) and showed improved plate discipline down the stretch.

The mission now is to translate that success — and up the overall production — in 2020. The Marlins believe he will be their long-term second baseman. The power potential is there and he has a quick twitch defensively that gives him a chance to make stellar plays.

But consistency is the key.

“Isan has flashed what he can do,” Mattingly said. “I think he would probably admit this two months probably hasn’t gone the way that he’s thought or want them to. I think it’s going to be valuable for him. It’s going to put him in position that he’s got some experience.”

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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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