He may be an under-the-radar prospect, and he was definitely overshadowed by the AA debuts of Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr, but Lansing Lugnuts RHP Yennsy Diaz was lights out in his first start of the year.
To be honest, it was a mild surprise that Diaz repeated Low A. Diaz came up to Lansing from Extended part way through the 2017 season, and he dazzled, posting a 9.6% K rate in 16 starts. He missed a lot of bats, as his 13.5% whiff rate suggests.
Because of the depth of starters ahead of him, and maybe because of his 4.8 walk rate, however, Diaz was sent back to the Midwest League. He may not be there for long if he repeats the type of performance he had tonight.
Diaz has an electric fastball that when he’s on is commanded to both sides of the plate. He has hit 98, but sits 95-97. Diaz has a curve that is an effective secondary pitch; it will be the development of a third or fourth pitch that dictates how far he advances.
After his offence spotted him a 2-run lead in the top of the 1st, Diaz struck out the side in the bottom half, getting all three batters looking on fastballs on the edge of the plate.
After getting a groundball out to start the home half of the 2nd, Diaz got an additional pair of Ks, again both of them looking.
Diaz retired the first two batters he faced in the 3rd, picking up his 6th strikeout, before hitting the #9 hitter with an inside fastball. A flyout to CF ended the inning.
In the 4th, Diaz struck out the side swinging, getting the final hitter on a biting 12-6 curve.
Even though Lansing’s top of the 5th was a long affair, with 7 hitters sent to the plate and a pitching change, Diaz was sharp, and retired the side in order again in the 5th. LF Ryan Noda made a nice diving catch on a sinking liner, then Diaz got a pop out and a swinging K.
With his pitch count still relatively low, Diaz was back out for the 6th. Diaz gave up a double to RF, the first hit he allowed on the night. A pop out and a swinging strikeout later, Diaz was at his pitch count, and was done for the night.
Lansing Catcher Ridge Smith did a good job handling Diaz. On the odd occasion when Diaz missed his spot, Smith had to move quickly to nab the errant pitch.
5.2IP 1H 0R/ER 0BB 1HBP 10K
3 GB outs: 1 FB out
81 pitches/58 strikes
By my count, at least a dozen swings and misses.