CLEVELAND -- The idea was not to have Yandy Diaz overhaul his swing. When the Indians sent the rookie back to Triple-A Columbus in May, they praised his approach despite the results. Diaz's instructions were to continue to refine his offensive style, because Cleveland believed it can be successful."That's what
CLEVELAND -- The idea was not to have Yandy Diaz overhaul his swing. When the Indians sent the rookie back to Triple-A Columbus in May, they praised his approach despite the results. Diaz's instructions were to continue to refine his offensive style, because Cleveland believed it can be successful.
"That's what we told him," Indians assistant hitting coach Matt Quatraro said. "It was, 'Look, we like your approach. You're hitting balls hard the other way. You've got a great eye. You just happen to be catching them deep or you're not swinging at the pitches that you can drive. So don't change anything.'"
In seven games since rejoining the Indians on Aug. 22, Diaz has flashed the swing that Cleveland envisioned when it named him to the Opening Day roster. While the sample of results is small, Diaz, whom MLBPipeline.com ranked as the Indians' No. 6 prospect, has continued to show off his keen eye, while sending pitches to the opposite field with authority. Unlike in April and May, through, the balls rocketing off Diaz's bat are line drives rather than grounders.
One of the buzz phrases of this Statcast™ Era has been "launch angle," and the 26-year-old Diaz was a curious case study when he broke onto the scene in April. In the season's first two months, his minus-3.5-degree launch angle was the lowest among all Major League hitters with at least 40 balls in play, but his 92-mph average exit velocity led the Indians and was the 17th-best mark in baseball.
Back in Triple-A, Diaz did not specifically set out to fix his launch angle with swing changes. That can be a slippery slope for a hitter in the middle of a season. What he did was work with Columbus hitting coach Rouglas Odor on finding some hitting drills to add to his daily routine to reinforce his swing mechanics, while also concentrating on identifying better pitches to shoot the opposite way.
"When I was here before, I was hitting the ball well, but it was liners down," Diaz said through team translator Anna Bolton. "I'm really happy that I'm able to make good contact, but [I wanted to] send the ball higher and out. They just told me to focus on having less ground balls and just stay with my same approach to hit the ball to right field."
One change to Diaz's routine has been introducing new tee drills before every game. He said one includes placing the tee in front of the plate and using a short bat to concentrate on staying through the ball, instead of swinging around it. Quatraro noted that another point of emphasis -- due to Diaz's tendency to let pitches travel deep into the zone -- has been to target offerings higher in the strike zone.
Since returning to the big leagues, Diaz has gone 8-for-20 with three doubles, one triple and twice as many walks (eight) and strikeouts (four). His average launch angle in August has been 6.2 degrees with an average exit velocity of 97.7 mph.
Quatraro has liked the adjustments so far from Diaz, who had a standout showing on Aug. 24, when ace Chris Sale was on the mound for the Red Sox. In that game, Diaz finished 4-for-4 with three extra-base hits -- each putting a dent in the right-field wall in Cleveland.
"It was great to see," Quatraro said. "He didn't say this, but it was that sense of like, 'I can do this.' You should be happy about that. Those are the things that don't happen every day. So when they do, it's something that may be a stepping stone for him."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.