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2017 Brew Crew Ball Community Top Prospect Review: #5 Isan Diaz

A future middle infielder?

MLB: Spring Training-Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs
Isan Diaz
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Isan Diaz was selected as the Brewers fifth best prospect last offseason (by BCB readers), and came in as a top 100 prospect for Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus (with a 59 spot for BP). But his 2017 season at high-A Carolina was a step back in most hitting categories, and his season ended at the end of August with a broken hamate bone in his right hand. Surgery was required, but he is expected to be fully recovered for the 2018 season. Diaz will turn 22 next May.

Diaz did see his walk rate bump up from 12.3% in 2016 (at low-A with the T-Rats) to 13.6%, but his strikeout rate moved up as well, to 26.6% from 25.2%. His BABIP fell from .332 to .283, and his slugging percentage dipped to .376 from .469. His wRC+ (Fangraphs’ total offensive measure adjusted for league and park) fell to 104, or barely above league average. He had come in at 143 in Appleton the previous season. OPS fell from .827 in 2016 to .710 last season.

Isan came to the Brewers along with Chase Anderson and Aaron Hill in the January 2016 deal that saw Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner go to the Diamondbacks. Many Brew Crew Ball readers are hoping that he will be a major league starter in the future, but he will need a bounce-back season in 2018 to regain momentum in moving towards that goal. Second base is a position of opportunity for the Brewers, both short term and long, but Diaz faces stiffer competition from within the Brewers’ system now, from the likes of Mauricio Dubon and Keston Hiura.

Diaz’ home run production fell from one every 25.4 at bats in 2016 to one every 29.5 at bats in 2017. This isn’t a precipitous drop, but one of the more intriguing aspects of Isan’s future is his power bat at a middle infield position. He generates very good extra base potential with a 5’10”, 185 pound frame, and those frequency numbers for both Appleton and the Mudcats are fine (neither is a hitter’s league), so it isn’t time to dismiss his power potential just yet. Still, you’d like to see improvement in the 2018 season, whatever level he lands at.

Isan has split time pretty evenly over his four minor league seasons between second and short (120 games started at second, 162 games started at short, including Arizona Fall League play). He has yet to appear at third base. His arm rates at a 50 on the 20-80 scale, with defense at a 40/50 level. It is logical to assume his better chance, at least at Milwaukee, will be at second base, as the Brewers have excellent defensive options ahead of him at short with Dubon and a young Orlando Arcia already with the big club. He has posted a .954 fielding percentage at second and a .937 level at short.

2017 wasn’t a major step forward for Isan Diaz. His numbers declined while other prospects produced at a higher level. His combination of power and speed (50 rating on the 20-80 scale for speed, 60 for raw power) still exist, however, and he will remain a solid prospect in the system, as we await his next step up in his development.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-reference