Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Matt Diaz Report

Matt Diaz, OF, Kansas City Royals
Drafted 505th Overall (17th Rd), 1999 Draft, Florida State
Bats R/Throws R
27 YO, 6'1", 206 lbs

Diaz is a hitter, plain and simple. He's not young, and he's not going to be a star, but he's another example of the Royals taking free talent where they can find it, just like with Cal Pickering and Jamie Cerda.

2004 Durham: .332/.377/.571, 47 2B, 5 3B, 21 HR, 26 BB, 96 K, 13 HBP, 15 SB, 4 CS, 503 AB
2004 Tampa: .190/.292/.476, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HBP, 21 AB
mL Career: .309/.357/.475, 190 2B, 16 3B, 68 HR, 136 BB, 407 K, 80 SB, 30 CS, 2556 AB

So let's recount what he can do. He can make contact, drive the ball for extra bases, he leans in and takes one for the team more than most, and he even has some speed to his game, though a dozen or two stolen bases really aren't going to make much of a difference to a team's won/loss record. What it seems like he can't do is post an acceptable walk rate.

As a Royals fan, he really reminds me of Mark Quinn in his style and abilities (and limitations). Baseball Prospectus projects a .281/.331/.458 line through their PECOTA projection system, which sounds pretty reasonable. It also isn't too far off Quinn's .294/.342/.484 line in 2000, which earned him a second place in the AL Rookie of the Year race. It would also be a huge upgrade from what the Royals got out of RF last season. As long as he doesn't have the self-destructive habits of the Mighty Quinn, Diaz should stick around longer as well.

Oh yeah, Diaz is also a decent right fielder. He's nothing special out there, but's no butcher.

All in all Diaz is decent player who, like some of the other late bloomers we've reviewed, will be a competent everyday player or a good bench bat. Because he's breaking in late, he's unlikely to have a long career. But he cost the Royals nothing to acquire, and he's not holding back any elite prospects. Standard operating procedure is to pick them up, give them a chance, hope that they make something of themselves, and flip them for something you need before they get expensive. It's a plan that worked great for the Mariners with Ken Phelps. Even if they fail miserably, you didn't spend millions of dollars on them, and SOMEBODY has to play in Omaha.

Diaz did not play well in spring training and was sent to Omaha's camp this weekend. Emil Brown seems to have won a job, but his performance history tells us that he probably will not live up to the expectations his smoking hot spring has generated. If Diaz continues to pound AAA pitchers, he could find himself with that chance, even if he didn't win the job in spring training.

ETA: Opening Day
3 Stars

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