Yandy Díaz is Ready to Silence the Critics… Again

Diaz found a way to celebrate without needing to elevate.

Every year since his debut in 2017,  Yandy Díaz appeared on sleeper lists throughout the offseason. For as much as baseball analysis is done deep in analytics, the hope for Díaz was almost entirely the eye test.

You’re telling me a guy with biceps like this couldn’t hit home runs?

Yes, actually. From 2017-2022, Díaz hit 39 HRs in 472 games, which equates to a 13 HR pace per 162 games. In the middle of the “launch angle revolution,” it seemed simple that making Díaz elevate the ball would turn him into an elite hitter. He had strong exit velocities for HR power, but he hit the ball on the ground too often. In two years with the Guardians, He only hit one HR from 2017-2018 across 199 plate appearances. Díaz’s power ticked up slightly once he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays, where he was able to post a career-high 14 HR in 2019. It wasn’t as much as many had hoped, but it was progress.

In 2023, it finally seemed like elevating the ball clicked for Díaz. He hit seven HRs in April, his most in a month since 2019, and continued to hit for more average than we’ve seen. Despite battling an injury all season, Díaz hit his way to an AL batting title with a .330 average and hit 22 HR too, surpassing his previous career-high by eight.

Heading into 2024, the changes we saw in 2023 are not getting the respect they deserve. It’s easy to cite a high BABIP, but Díaz functionally changed parts of his game to mold himself into a more complete hitter.


Approach Changes


Díaz took his approach to another level in 2023 by effectively attacking high pitches more frequently in more favorable counts. In May, Jake Mailhot of Fangraphs highlighted his approach changes and the results. While the high-flying power of April didn’t stick, the overall plan of attack did.

Mailhot’s article talks about how Díaz is more patient early in the count, making sure that he gets his pitch. When he does get his pitch, especially early in the count, Díaz is doing damage in the air.

An exaggerated use case for this approach was Díaz in 2-1 counts this year. In 2-1 counts, Díaz is almost always swinging and very rarely misses.

Now looking at overall swing and barrel rates by pitch location shows a significant change from 2022.

Yandy Díaz Swing Rates and Barrel Rates by Location: 2023 vs. 2022

Díaz started swinging more on pitches in the upper and middle thirds of the zone. He also did significantly more damage on those swings: he increased his Barrel rate by 5% and 6% in the upper and middle thirds of the zone, respectively.

Adjusting his approach to be geared toward the upper half of the zone allowed Díaz to have a better chance of a hard-hit batted ball becoming a 2B or HR, rather than a single.

Batted Ball Quality


On the surface level, finding batted ball regression for Díaz is also simple in that his flyball rate actually went below 30% for this first time as a Ray (excluding a 34-game season in 2020). However, his new approach is allowing him to improve his quality of contact and skew his batted ball profile more to the pull side.

But comparing his batted ball profile in 2023 to 2022, rather than the league, shows that there was an improvement. The first image is Díaz compared to the league in 2023, and the second is compared to himself from the previous season.

Díaz improved on pulling batted balls more batted balls, or at least hitting them to center. In an ideal world, Díaz would be able to access his pull power more, but after seven seasons, it’s clear that isn’t happening. But the approach adjustment puts him in better situations to damage, not just in the batted ball profile but also in the exit velocity (EV) profile.

Putting the approach and batted ball profile brings us to Díaz’s biggest step forward in 2023, which is his consistency in hard-hit batted ball events (BBE). While Díaz did set a new max EV at 114.5 mph, just 0.2 mph more than his previous high, he’s seen massive improvements in 90% EV, HardHit%, and EV ≥ 110.


Yandy Diaz Batted Ball Metrics, 2021-2023

Everything went up across the board, but he nearly doubled the rate at which he got to exit velocities of 110mph. He’s tapping into the upper echelon of his power more frequently, an encouraging sign for the 32-year-old. His 90% EV and HardHit% ranked in the 97th percentile and his ≥110 EV% ranked in the 94th percentile.

With a stronger batted ball profile and exceptional exit velocity metrics, it makes perfect sense why Díaz had the year that he did in 2023.

In the future, it’s straightforward to expect that his average will come down to around .300, but the 20+ HR power is here to stay. Projections systems have Díaz going for 17-19 HRs and a .290 average, but he’s created the framework to continue to hit for more power.

Especially if he can have a healthy 2024, I wouldn’t be surprised by 25 HRs. Díaz has shown there’s a clear path to repeatable home run power in better spray locations, something we haven’t seen yet from Díaz until last year.


Feature image by Michael Packard (@artbymikep on Twitter) / Photo by Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire

Nate Schwartz

Nate is currently writing for the Going Deep team at Pitcher List. He is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals, devil magic, and Matt Carpenter salsa supporter. You can follow him on Twitter/X/whatever @_nateschwartz. Left-handed pitchers make him happy.

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