Below are two hits from Altoona right fielder Willy Garcia and one from catcher Elias Diaz. Garcia is the flashier of the two players and younger, but Diaz just might be the better prospect of the two players. Garcia is a toolsy outfielder, with a cannon for an arm, good speed and he can hit for power. He has the one major flaw though, that is usually a deal-breaker when it comes to Major League success, a horrible BB/K rate. Last season, he was the only Pirates minor leaguer that had 100 or more strikeouts than walks and it wasn’t even close.
Garcia is showing the same problems in AA as he did last year for Bradenton. He has 12 walks and 79 strikeouts in 233 at-bats and two of those walks were intentional. The good part is that he is young for the level, but at some point he is going to need for those numbers to go in the opposite directions. You can have all the power in the world, but if you can’t use it, it’s useless in the Majors. The pitchers are just going to get tougher the higher he goes and the scouting reports will get better going into those games. Garcia has four tools(the video below shows his speed, so don’t let the one steal this season fool you). He is just missing the hit tool and in his case, that is the most important one for his future success.
Here is a double by Garcia from Wednesday
Elias Diaz isn’t flashy like Garcia, but as I said above, he could be the better prospect. He is age-appropriate for the league, checking in at 23 years old this season. Most catchers move slower than other position players, so they tend to be a little older at each level. Last year, Diaz was at one point called the best defensive catcher in the FSL. He has thrown out 29% of runners this season which is exactly in line with his career mark. Diaz is hitting well this season, batting .303 with 10 doubles and four homers. He also makes better contact than most players, especially on a free-swinging Altoona team that I predicted before Opening Day would set the Eastern League team strikeout record and they are right on pace for that.
Diaz hit well last year for Bradenton posting a .781 OPS, though he saw limited time behind the plate. He made up for some of that time by playing in the Venezuelan Winter League this off-season and holding his own in a league filled with players with AAA/Major League experience. A strong defensive catcher that can throw, hit for average and show some patience at the plate, should get his chance in the Majors at some point and he profiles as a reliable back-up. Diaz might not flash the tools you can dream on like Garcia(mostly the power numbers), but he could very well have the better big league career when it’s all said and done with. It all depends on whether or not Garcia can change his approach at the plate as he gets older and more mature/experienced.
**I replaced the broken MiLB link for Diaz with this extended look at him on offense and defense from ROTOscouting.com
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
Finally, a report on Diaz – I’ve asked about him 2-3 times and never got a response. Well, its nice to hear that he is a legit prospect and is young enough that he will likely still improve.
Good thing, because next year our catchers may be T. Sanchez and Diaz possibly?? Not a bad thing – actually excited to see the team actually give more and more of their own prospects shots at playing, instead of bringing in old retreads with very limited upside (ex. Stewart).
I’ve answered plenty of questions on Diaz on here, but I don’t see every question. Most were people asking if he was legit early in the season, which really isn’t enough time to answer that question. You like to see guys perform over long periods of time before you make any decisions on them. I talked about him during Winter ball often and pointed out how it was good to see someone from High-A ball holding his own in a league filled with older, more experienced players.
John – please do not take it personally. There are plenty of people who can respond and provide feedback. I did ask, at least twice, in the past 4-6 weeks (most recent, maybe 1-2 weeks ago) if Diaz was considered a legit catching prospect. I noticed how well he was hitting and knew he was considered a very capable catcher. In a season of so many injuries to many of our top prospects, its nice to see guys like Rojas, Diaz, Harlan, etc. stepping up and showing improvement.
Didn’t take it personally, sorry if it came off that way. Diaz will likely be a back-up in the Majors, or at least be a AAAA tweener player. I’ve never heard anyone project him as anything more than a back-up though. Garcia has the much higher upside, but right now there is an even better chance he won’t even see the Majors.
Diaz video was Garcia again.
Not sure how that happened, since the video originally showed Diaz and it is clearly labeled Diaz RBI single. Gotta love MiLB sometimes…